Atlanta Braves fans had the chance to experience some memorable moments during the 2012 season. For instance, they had the opportunity to watch Chipper Jones end his storied career with the Braves. And they had a reason to celebrate when the Braves made the postseason. I believe that the 2013 Braves squad will once again provide fans with memories they can cherish for a lifetime.
|Fulton County Stadium (1)|
Here are my five bold predictions for the 2013 Braves:
The Braves Will Win the NL East
In 2012, the Braves came within four games of winning the NL East. I believe the team will take the next step this year and actually win the division. Many of the players who helped the Braves reach the playoffs last year will be back in 2013. While the Braves did lose key members of the 2012 squad, including Martin Prado, Chipper Jones, and Michael Bourn, they replaced them with (potentially) equally good players in the Upton brothers and Jordan Walden. If Braves players like Brian McCann (when he returns from the DL) and Dan Uggla can reignite their bats (which were cold in 2012), and the pitching holds up, the Braves will end the season in first place in the NL East.
The Braves Will Reach the NLCS
As the St. Louis Cardinals so aptly demonstrated in 2012, any team which makes the playoffs can reach the NLCS. The Cardinals barely made the postseason last year, but that did not stop them from upsetting the Braves and Washington Nationals on their way to the NLCS. The Braves are a young team that has been steadily improving over the last couple of years. They have been through adversity and now know what it takes to win. I feel that the team will take the next step in its development and reach the NLCS for the first time since 2001.
Grown Men Will Cry when No. 10 Is Retired
Chipper Jones spent his entire two decade career with the Braves. He was a star athlete on the field and a leader in the clubhouse. He was a favorite of fans and players alike. The Braves organization has decided to retire Jones' no. 10 jersey on June 28. I would not be surprised if some of the people at ceremony, including perhaps Jones himself, become teary eyed.
A Braves Player Will Win the NL MVP
Several Braves players have a chance to win the NL MVP if they have excellent seasons. New Braves outfielder Justin Upton finished fourth in the MVP balloting in 2011. If he steps up his game a bit, he might have a chance of taking home the prize. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel finished eighth in the NL MVP race last year. Voters might be unlikely to select him for MVP (regardless of how well he plays), but it is not out of the realm of possibility. It is also conceivable that some other Braves player steps out of the shadows and has a superb year. Regardless, I get the feeling that the 2013 NL MVP trophy will be taking up residence with a member of the Braves.
Fredi Gonzalez Will Win NL Manager of the Year
The MLB network recently came out with its list of the top 10 MLB managers and Gonzalez ranked seventh. Gonzalez deserves the approbations. He has managed to keep his teams in contention the past two years despite a rash of injuries and a middling payroll. He will come through in a big way in his third year at the helm. I believe that the Braves will make the NLCS and Gonzalez will win the NL Manager of the Year award.
1. Photographer: DB King
Title/Description: Georgia State Capitol Dome and the former Atlanta Stadium in the distance
Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
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The author has followed Major League Baseball for many years and is a fan of the Atlanta Braves.
-- Anthony Hopper