2012 Atlanta Braves Opening Day Roster - brought to you by BravesFTW
As we get closer to the season, things start to click and see what the possibilities might be of the lineup Fredi Gonzalez delivers to the home plate umpire before the first pitch.
Leadoff - Michael Bourn
--Bourn was the spark the Braves needed after Jordan Schafer got hurt and Jose Constanza was needed elsewhere in the outfield. With a full season in Atlanta, look for Bourn to create havoc on the base paths
Two-hole - Martin Prado
--With the dismal 2011 behind him, Prado hopes he can return to the 2010 form that earned him his first All-Star selection. Prado didn't appear to miss a beat making the transition to LF from 2B, but it appeared his bat didn't follow. Once he began to get hot, he was hit with staph infection, forcing him to stay away from baseball for 3 weeks.
Third - Chipper Jones
--Chipper has hit third for years, and though he never saw much time hitting out of the 3 spot, Fredi Gonzalez used him in numerous lineups without him batting in his traditional three-hole. Look for Chipper to be the same player Braves fans have seen over the years - unselfish when it comes to the good of the team.
Fourth - Dan Uggla
--Barring a horrid start like 2011, Uggla can hopefully relax in a Braves jersey and continue to play efficient defense. For most of the season. His 33-game hitting streak played a key part in the Braves summer (He went yard at Wrigley and someone stood up - right when the pitch was thrown! Braves still won!)
Fifth - Freddie Freeman
--If his rookie year was just a glimpse of what this kid can do, 2012 has endless possibilities for the young man from Fountain Valley, Calif. He nearly went step for step with Uggla's hitting streak, putting together a 22-gamer.
Sixth - Brian McCann
--An oblique injury slowed McCann in the seasons final months, but was a first half MVP for the Braves. His technique behind the plate improved dramatically. His CS numbers were up (little, but they were up).
Seventh - Taylor Pastronicky
--Based on what he does in ST, he might be the SS the Braves wanted when they traded for Alex Gonzalez last summer. Escobar ran himself right out of Atlanta. Now the Braves look to begin a new era at SS.
Eighth - Jason Heyward
-- Said to have lost 20 pounds during the offseason, Heyward has been working with new hitting coach Greg Walker, wanting to fix the hitch in his swing. With what he showed during his rookie year, Heyward can hit anywhere in the lineup.
The best backup catcher in MLB resides in Atlanta with David Ross. Early in 2011, Ross had more HRs (3) than McCann had extra base hits. Matt Diaz returns for another year in his second stint with the Braves, and will more than likely platoon in right or left field and provide a nice spark off the bench. Jose Constanza is another good option. His speed make it hard to keep him out of the rotation, but down the stretch last year, it looked as though he was trying a bit too hard, forcing him to oversewing and ground out weakly.
And one cannot forget Eric Hinkse, who provides a bat with some pop and can backup Freeman, or fill in in the OF when needed. Jack Wilson also provides a viable backup at second base and shortstop, but if Pastornicky drops off, be ready to see Wilson fill in as he did last year.
Look for Walker to have a much more positive impact on the Braves lineup than Larry Parrish had in 2011.