Originally posted on BravesWire  |  Last updated 2/1/13
Recently, we pointed out how strong this Atlanta lineup has a chance to be. But how does the Braves lineup compare to that of the defending NL East Champion Washington Nationals? Good question! Let’s have a look. As with our most recent post, we’ll borrow Bill James’ projections. Again no one’s projections ever prove entirely accurate–or even close to it. But James’ prognostications are objective, well reasoned, and they’re as good an educated guess as we’re likely to find. Here again is what James predicts for the Braves lineup this season:   AVG OBP HR RBI 2B/3B SB OPS Simmons .289 .351 10 62 31 18 .767 Heyward .272 .360 26 92 37 20 .843 J.Upton .289 .372 25 86 39 19 .864 Freeman .282 .358 24 85 37 3 .839 B.Upton .248 .329 23 75 37 35 .765 McCann .266 .347 23 58 29 3 .814 Uggla .238 .341 28 92 33 3 .780 **Fransisco/Johnson .276 .316 23 78 39 6 .787 AVERAGE .270 .347 23 79 35 13 .807 TOTAL .270 .347 182 628 282 106 .807 **Juan Fransisco and Chris Johnson’s projected stats each projected to 290 at-bats, and added together (assuming 50/50 playing time).  And here is what he projects for the National’s lineup:    AVG OBP HR RBI 2B/3B SB OPS Span .281 .350 5 50 32 19 .729 Harper .272 .347 24 65 40 20 .823 Zimmerman .287 .359 25 93 41 4 .845 LaRoche .256 .334 26 87 35 1 .805 Werth .267 .367 20 74 34 14 .807 Desmond .279 .326 18 68 36 22 .771 Espinosa .279 .327 21 66 36 22 .771 **Suzuki/Ramos .258 .315 15 69 33 2 .708 AVERAGE .272 .341 19 72 36 13 .782 TOTAL .272 .341 154 572 287 104 .782 **Wilson Ramos’ and Kurt Suzuki’s projected stats each projected to 290 at-bats, and added together (assuming 50/50 playing time).  Of course there are numbers here with which both Braves and Nats fans will take exception. Certainly, it seems to me, that if McCann hits 23 homeruns batting either 4th or 6th, it’s almost inconceivable that he’ll drive in as few as 58 runs. But again, overall, these are well reasoned projections.  While the National’s lineup is strong, I think it’s apparent that, on paper, the Braves batting order is a little more potent. What’s more, Atlanta’s lineup has more upside. That is to say, it has greater potential to exceed expectations. Justin Upton will add  RH presence to the middle of the Braves’ order. We know, given health, that it is reasonable to expect 50 homers between Heyward and Freeman. But these guys are still quite young, 23 to be exact, and I don’t know of anyone who thinks we’ve seen the best they have to offer. Likewise, many feel Justin Upton, 25, has not yet realized his potential, despite finishing 4th in MVP balloting just the year before last. Heyward, Freeman and Justin Upton all have superstar potential. While many are predicting roughly 25 homers from each, would it really surprise you if any of the three turned in a breakout season this year? The Nationals have their own rising star in the person of Bryce Harper. Immensely talented and already quite good, his best years are undoubtedly ahead of him, and nothing he does this year should surprise anyone. But my point is this: The Braves have three hitters, 25 years of age or younger, with superstar potential. The Nationals have one. Please don’t interpret this as disrespect toward the Nat’s lineup. It’s quite good, and they should score plenty of runs to support their exceptional pitching. However, the Braves have the edge in this category. Next week, we will compare the starting rotations of the top two teams in the East. Stay tuned.  
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