Know Your Enemy: Atlanta Braves

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The Braves made the wild-card game in 2012 and might have lost it due to a bizarre umpiring call. They've got the talent to get back there again in 2013, including a pair of Uptons.

The Braves have cornered the market on Uptons this offseason (except for this one) by signing free agent B.J. Upton and trading several players to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton after he wore out his welcome in Arizona. The Braves will have one of the most powerful offensive outfields in baseball -- if Justin returns to his 2011 form. They also have former hotshot prospect Jordan Schafer on the bench, as well as the popular former Cub Reed Johnson.

(Go ahead. I'll wait while you fawn over Reed for a couple of minutes.)

The Braves acquired Chris Johnson from the Astros to replace the retired Chipper Jones at third base; he'll be adequate there, if no Jones. The rest of the Atlanta infield remains as it did in 2012, except that catcher Brian McCann could miss the first couple of weeks of the season after offseason shoulder surgery; the Braves also hope for a full and healthy season from shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

The pitching staff also returns mostly intact, and the "mostly" might not matter, as the Braves hope that Brandon Beachy might be back from Tommy John surgery by midseason. Top prospect Julio Teheran will get his shot at the rotation.

In yet another example of why MLB should give the scheduling contract back to the two college professors who used to do it on their kitchen table, the Cubs will travel to Atlanta for the second series of the season, April 5-6-7, then not face them again until the third-to-last set of the year, September 20-21-22 at Wrigley Field.

This series will take a break until Monday, as we have the beginning of the 2013 spring-training schedule starting tomorrow; Monday's preview will feature the Miami Marlins.

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