Pack it up, folks. The 2014 Atlanta Braves are finished, done, nothing to see here.
That is, of course, if you believe that the recent development with Kris Medlen (ligament damage to pitching elbow) and Brandon Beachy (tightness in bicep) is enough to derail this team that won 96 games in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, the injury to Kris Medlen stings, but it isn’t enough to write the Braves off for 2014.
I didn’t mention Beachy for a reason: It has been nearly two years since he’s played a significant role in Atlanta’s pitching plans and, really, he would have been a luxury in 2014 regardless. I like his upside, but at this point depending on him every fifth day would have been pretty foolish. Medlen, on the other hand, has been the best starter in the National League (statistically) not named Clayton Kershaw since the 2012 All-Star break. His loss is going to be felt, but it isn’t going to sink the Braves out of playoff contention.
Note: While official word hasn’t been made on Medlen and his status I suspect that the injury is serious enough for him to miss all of 2014 with another Tommy John Surgery.
Atlanta still features one of the top-3 bullpens in all of baseball; anchored, of course, by Craig Kimbrel. They also don’t have slouches behind Medlen in that rotation with Julio Teheran and Mike Minor more than capable of giving them solid 2014 seasons. Alex Wood is coming into his own as well, and their offense was top-10 in the National League in 2013 in slugging, home runs, runs, and on-base percentage. Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have shown marked improvement this Spring on their way back to above replacement level and that is good news for the offense as well.
Rumors are already circulating that the Braves are making a run at free agent starter Ervin Santana, 31, who bounced back nicely last season in Kansas City (3.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and could give the Braves a nice veteran presence until the likes of David Hale, J.R. Graham, and Lucas Sims develop into guys who can step into the rotation. I also don’t expect the biceps problem Beachy had on Monday to be an issue going forward as he makes his way back to full strength.
The Braves have what it takes to win National League East division or a National League Wild Card spot. With news coming later this week after the scheduled second opinion with James Andrews (boy you hate to hear that name) Braves fans shouldn’t hit the panic button yet.