On paper the Phillies are the best team in the division, and, coming off three-straight division titles and two straight pennants, some might say they are turning into the Evil Empire of the National League. But don't count Atlanta out in the NL East just yet. The Braves can overtake Philly if 23-year-old starter
They need big years from Tommy Hanson and
What more is there to say about Jason Heyward? You've heard about the bombs -- how one batting practice home run shattered the sun roof of a Braves exec's car in a parking lot well beyond the right field wall. The kid also hits for average. He also plays above average defense. He also runs well. Veterans in the clubhouse like Chipper Jones rave about his off the charts makeup. What also sets him apart at his age -- he turned 20 last fall -- is his extraordinary plate discipline, according to Wren. Heyward was kept off the bases for the first time all spring on March 20. Last year the Braves kept Tommy Hanson in the minors to start the year, even as it was abundantly clear he was ready for the majors. The move might have cost Atlanta a playoff spot. They won't make the same mistake this year.
After appearing in 14 games last season in St. Louis, here is Troy Glaus in Braves camp, now 33 and beginning the second phase of his career as a fulltime first baseman. If Glaus stays healthy, he has 25-home run potential and would be huge for a club whose biggest question mark is scoring runs. "He's in great shape," says Wren. "Our scouts were telling us that if he was healthy and his shoulder was back, he could help our club and the middle of the lineup. What we've seen so far is that he's healthy. Seeing him make the plays at first -- the off balance throws and awkward throws -- he hasn't hesitated with anything, and that tells me that his shoulder is fine."
Aside from the second coming of
The Braves, of course, would like nothing more than to win a World Series in Bobby Cox's final season. The pieces are in place for the Braves to make one more run with Cox at the helm. "What a great capstone it would be to a marvelous career for him to win another world championship," says team president