Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Boston Red Sox & Atlanta Braves

I did my full preview of the MLB season Here:, but there is much more to it than just the playoffs and awards...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be going through team by team and choosing the player most important to his team's success in 2011. This won't necessarily be the best player on the team, rather the one whose season is most important. This could be for the team's success or their development as a player.

Boston Red Sox: Clay Bucholz:
Last season was his first full year as a starter at the Major League level, he pitched brilliantly. His ERA was 2.33, his batting average against was .226, and he won 17 games while pitching 173+innings. He was a major asset to the Red Sox.

The question is though, can he repeat or even improve on his amazing season? He looks like he could be the Sox' number 2 starter behing Jon Lester, but ahead of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and either Tim Wakefield or Daisuke Matsuzaka...all very good pitchers.

Bucholz gives the Red Sox the potential for a second Ace, but I have doubts that his arm will be able to hold up after such a huge innings increase last season. His 173 innings were more than he has ever pitched before in a season, and was more than his 2 previous years in the minor leagues combined. 

For Boston to make a run for the World Series they will need Clay to repeat last season and then also follow it up in the post-season. His ability to become a top tier pitcher is the difference between Boston having a pretty good rotation and them having a great rotation.

Others considered: There were several different players that are important to the Red Sox, newcomers, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were possibilities, but both seem like safe bets to have very good years for the Red Sox. I also thought about Beckett, Lester or Lackey because they have some question marks, but I think we know what we will get from the three of them. Pedroia and Ellsbury were candidates because they have had injury issues, but because of how good the Red Sox lineup looks like it is going to be, I think they could miss substantial time and still win the East. 

Atlanta Braves: Larry Jones:
He is the staple of the team, he has been a Brave his entire career, beginning way back in 1993. Thats great for him, but what it means is that he is old, which for some players isn't a huge issue, but Chipper has played in 143+ games just once since 2003, that was the 2009 season, where he hit just .264 with 18 home runs and 71 rbis.

Jones is the key to the braves because they have a lot of young talent on their team, but he is the only real veteran in their lineup. They need him to find a way to stay healthy and in the starting lineup everyday. When he is healthy and playing at a high level he could be a major boost to the Braves, but with his history it seems doubtful.

Whats makes him more important is that the third basemen on the depth chart behind him, is the Braves starting Left-fielder Martin Prado, who is also the back-up 2B and 1B for the Braves. If Jones goes down  the likely back up is Brooks Conrad, the 31 year old journeyman that has just 229 career MLB at bats.

Many people thought Jones would retire after last season, he didn't...so really anything the Braves get from him could be considered a bonus to the team, but they may get little to nothing. If Jones is able to regain some of his top form the Braves will likely be able to make a run for the wild-card again this season.

Others Considered: Jason Heyward came onto the scene last year with promise to be a huge power threat, he has some development, but he could come up huge...Tommy Hanson is coming off a stellar year last year and the Braves need the third year pitcher to have another great year to bolster their rotation...Dan Uggla is coming off a career year for Florida, but can he continue his power AND average combo?

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and Orioles.


Post a Comment