The Atlanta Braves had one of the most talented squads in 2012, but their season was cut short by the phantom infield fly rule call in the wild-card playoff against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 2013 team looks a little different without Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson and others, but with B.J. and Justin Upton and Jordan Walden now doing the tomahawk chop, the team is primed for another postseason run.
Which three stars need to excel in 2013 if the Braves want to make it deep into October?
Since signing a huge contract (five-year, $62 million) with the Braves before the 2011 season, Uggla has, for the most part, been a major disappointment for this team. He has a .227 average with 55 home runs, 160 RBIs and 324 strikeouts in two seasons as a Brave. After hitting .287 with a career-high 33 home runs and 105 RBIs in his last season as a Marlin, those numbers are hard to stomach. Without Jones in the lineup, the pressure will be on Uggla to produce for the Braves or they could be forced to make a move and realize that his signing was a mistake. Justin Upton
It’s obvious to see that Upton has all the talent in the world to become one of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball. Whether he can stay healthy and in the lineup remains to be seen, but one important thing that the Braves need to see out of him is his maturity and ability to be a leader. Many with his former club questioned his ability to lead a team, but with a slew of veterans on the team, Upton won’t need to be the leader and the fact that his brother B.J. will be wearing the same uniform could make the entire process simpler.
If it weren’t for Medlen last season, the Braves may have never reached the playoffs. From the time he made his first start of the season on July 31 until his last start of the regular season, Medlen had gone 9-0 with just nine earned runs allowed in 83 2/3 innings. For the season, he limited the opposition to a .208 batting average. I’ve gone on record already stating that I think Medlen will win 20 games this season and if he can reach that milestone, the Braves will be in tremendous shape.
More from this contributor:
Five Bold Predictions for 2013 Atlanta Braves
Comparing Kimbrel to Great Closers
Chipper Jones’ Favorite MLB Ballparks
Top Moments in the Career of Chipper Jones
Troubled World Series History for Atlanta Braves
Hobson Lopes has been a fan of the Atlanta Braves since he was five-years old and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.