Impact on the Nats of Braves Deal for Justin Upton

The NL East is now a coin flip. Think of it this way. The Braves line-up is going to score a lot of runs. In 2012 the Braves scored the seventh most runs in baseball. Before getting to Justin Upton and the impact he is going to have let's review the impact of BJ Upton. What was lost in Bourn was a player who produced most of his value in the field, and what they got in BJ Upton was a player who produced most of his value with power. Bourn for his career is a .272/.339/.365 hitter while BJ Upton is a career .255/.336/.422 hitter. BJ Upton is marginally worse at getting on base but hits with much more power. It doesn't completely replace the value that Bourn was to the 2012 Braves but it helps. 

What is really going to help the Braves is the deal they completed this morning to bring in Justin Upton. Justin Upton is a career .278/.357/.475 hitter who plays amazing defense in right. His defensive value should only improve shifting across the diamond to left field and leaving Jason Heyward in right. Back to the line-up for a minute. While Upton's career numbers aren't that close to Chipper Jones career numbers of .303/.401/.529 he doesn't have to be. Chipper Jones in 2012 was a .287/.377/.455 hitter and only played in 112 games. Justin Upton can replace that level of production and is going to play in more games.    

The Braves are going to score a lot of runs in 2012, and if their starting staff can get the game into the hands of the bullpen the Braves are going to win a lot of games. That is now the problem for the Braves. Tim Hudson is going to be 37 in 2013 and while he has yet to show his age it has to catch up to him at some point. There is no evidence though that that is going to happen at all in 2013 and the Braves top two of Medlen and Hudson are not a concern. What should be troubling to Braves fans is that their number three at the start of the season will be Paul Maholm.  

Maholm is a lefty with a career 4.26 ERA, 5.7 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9. Maholm is a decent back of the rotation starter, but he isn't a number three. After him though the Braves have Mike Minor who did pitch much better in the second half of last season but is still has a career ERA of 4.37, K/9 of 7.9, and BB/9 of 2.9. Minor's biggest flaw as a pitcher though is his propensity to give up the homerun with a career HR/9 of 1.2. The last piece of the Braves rotation is Julio Teheran who has been a much better prospect than a player. He has managed to make only 4 big league starts with a 4.91 ERA. Those numbers are basically meaningless, but with Delgado included in the deal and Beachy still recovering from Tommy Johns the Braves won't have a fall back option until JR Graham is ready.      

The other big piece that the Braves lose in the deal is Martin Prado who had a 5.9 fWAR in 2012 and was going to take over third base from Chipper in 2013. This in some ways limits the impact of acquiring Upton as his career high fWAR was 6.4 in 2011. Like Broun Prado is more of a top of the order hitter and derived a good portion of his value from his sparkling defense in left and Upton is more of a power hitter and it has to be imagined will be just as good a defender in left as he has been in right. Both Uptons will slot into the middle of the Braves order and provide them with more power than they had in 2012. With a full season of Simmons at the top of the order the Braves offense isn't just going to be good, it is going to be great, and could be the best in the National League.    

None of this changes the fact that the NL East is now a coin flip. This deal all but eliminates the Phillies who are now counting on players past their primes in Howard and Utley to not only stay healthy for an entire season, but to once again play like 27 year olds. The Phillies pitching staff is great and better than the Braves, but it won't be enough. The Phillies could finish second in the division if either the Braves or Nats falter, but the likelihood of both faltering enough to open the door for the Phillies to win the division is slim to highly improbable. The Braves deal for Justin Upton gives them a terrific offense and great outfield defense to go along with the best bullpen in baseball and a starting pitching staff that dies after Hudson. That last part might not matter that much as if the Braves can score five, give up four, and get the ball to O'Flaherty, Venters, Kimbrel the game is over.

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