By Will Carroll
March 01, 2011
The Braves were one of the best in baseball for an era that will undoubtedly be known as the Bobby Cox era. The lack of multiple World Series rings will always be used against them, but an extended period of excellence built on talent and scouting is certainly worthy of the dynasty tag. We give that tag away a bit too easily these days, but Cox earned his over two decades of keeping a team on top, through different personnel, coaches, front offices, and owners. That would be pretty astounding even if he hadn't won his ring, and he'll get his plaque in Cooperstown for it. Now the challenge for manager Fredi Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren is to figure out how to continue it or at least coast on it. The Braves have never been better than mid-pack in terms of health, relying on Cox's talent for finding pitching and putting it in the right places. This is a relatively low risk team, which could give Gonzalez a chance to configure this team in a lot of ways, hoping that Bobby Cox left a little of his magic behind. If it was planned, it was smart, but I think this is more simple luck than the residue of design, aside from a slight step away from acquiring risk.

(HEAD TRAINER: Jeff Porter; FIVE YEAR RANK: 27; 2010 RANK: 17)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
C Brian McCann
McCann's vision problems weren't a problem in 2010. (I love my LASIK, by the way.) He's very durable, still young, and productive.

1B Freddie Freeman
Freeman injured his thumb in the AFL, but it was a minor sprain. It's worth keeping an eye on early in camp, but aside from that, he's been pretty solid in his short pro career. It's an admittedly small sample, but young first basemen tend to be special hitters and protected physically.

SP Tim Hudson
If you want to feel good about Tommy John surgery, look at the Braves. Bringing back Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner from the surgery kept the Braves in the playoff hunt.

SP Derek Lowe
Lowe does a lot of things well, but the underrated skill of his is just taking the ball, going deep into games, and saving the pen. With Tim Hudson a bit of an unknown going into last year and Hanson needing innings protection, Lowe filled a key role. The Nats didn't have a guy like that and see what happened?

RP Jonny Venters
Venters will likely get some closing opportunities and was noted for his workload last year. He's just shy of the yellow band, but seems well-suited to the role. He'd be a great study for recovery time.

Also Green:
2B Dan Uggla
SS Alex Gonzalez
Gonzalez isn't a full time shortstop. He's a starter, but above 400 ABs, he gets a bit exposed and starts seeing the kind of injuries that have held him back for his whole career. He's not young, and the worry here is that there's not an obvious solid backup that can spot him.

LF Martin Prado
Prado's rating assumes he'll get half the starts at third base, which is a safe assumption. He didn't seem to have much trouble bouncing around the field last year, so he's not that risky.

CF Nate McLouth
A concussion derailed what was already a disappointing campaign for McLouth, who's a grown up Tanner from the Bad News Bears. He seemed better at the end of the season, but he doesn't have a lot of margin physically. He's got Matt Young, a speedster, coming behind him, so he'll need to start quickly to hold the starting role.

RF Jason Heyward
Heyward did everything but stay healthy last year. He tried to play through a sprained thumb for much of the season and still put up huge numbers. The thumb injury continued to linger in the offseason, so it will bear watching early in spring training. Aside from this risk, Heyward would be a top-round talent.

S3 Jair Jurrjens
Jurrjens had minor knee surgery at the end of last season and that problem caused him some mechanical issues at the end of the season. Jurrjens blames the problem on conditioning and weight, things he's worked on this season, so it shouldn't be a concern going forward.
3B Chipper Jones
Jones is unable to stay healthy at this stage in his career, but the knee injury that ended his season wasn't the way he wanted to go out. That was a quirk, bad luck, but if it wasn't that, it was likely to be something else. The Braves understand this, but they'll need to manage Jones better if he's going to be useful. He should be ready for the start of the season, though many haven't kept up with the current rehab timelines.

SP Tommy Hanson
On one hand, Hanson was as good as advertised, putting up ace-level numbers in his first season. On the other, he put up 200 innings in his first season, a big increase even if you include his minor league innings in '09. Back on that first hand, he didn't seem to fatigue much and had great stuff all season long. On the other, we'll have to see how he comes back from that workload, avoiding the sophomore slump (and better scouting reports) along the way. Many will look at this red and say I'm predicting doom. I'm just saying that even with great young pitchers, there's always risk and that has to be taken into account. Then again, Stephen Strasburg showed that a young pitcher can blow up at any point. Can you tell I'm really of two minds on Hanson? The kid is so good he deserves this much thought.

SP Mike Minor
Minor rose quickly from the top of the '09 draft, to ending last season in the rotation. The only real concern here is his age and the expected workload if he gets the No. 5 slot at the start of the season. The Braves have enough depth to keep him around 150 innings, but their handling of Hanson last season makes me worry.

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