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Thursday, January 17
Georgia Braves


2001 record:
86-76 (.531); 2nd place in AL East

Major additions:
SS Jose Hernandez, 3B David Bell, OF Bubba Trammell, 2B Todd Walker

Major loses:
RHP Albie Lopez, 3B/1B Olmedo Saenz, C Benito Santiago, SS Deivi Cruz, OF Jeff Conine, OF Jose Canseco, RHP Ruben Quevedo

2001 Review:
For the second consecutive year, the Georgia Braves just missed an AL playoff berth. Much like the season before, in which the team finished four games out of the playoffs, the 2001 edition of the Braves finished just three games behind Santa Barbara for the final AL Wild Card berth.

Georgia's offense was the key to its 2001 success, scoring 947 runs (5th in the AL). Its defense was also among the best in the league, featuring human highlight reels like 2B Pokey Reese, SS Deivi Cruz and OFs Mike Cameron and Mark Kotsay. Unfortunately, its pitching staff's mediocre 5.05 ERA was just shaky enough to keep the Braves out of the postseason.

Key offensive contributors were 3B Travis Fryman (.305, 23 HR, 98 RBI), 1B Dmitri Young (.314, 27 HR, 106 RBI) and injury-plagued OF Rondell White (.350, 16 HR, 60 RBI in 374 ABs). The team's best pitchers were RHP Albie Lopez (15-9, 3.96 ERA), RHP Tim Hudson (15-12, 4.49 ERA, 178 SO) and RHP Keith Foulke (8-2, 28 SV).

2002 Outlook:
After the 2001 season's conclusion, free agency threatened the core of this young team. Many of Georgia's best players (Albie Lopez, Kieth Foulke, Mike Cameron and Deivi Cruz) headed into the off-season as restricted free agents looking to capitalize on their success.

While the team did eventually lose its best pitcher in 2001 (when Albie Lopez signed with Gem City) and its Gold Glove-caliber shortstop (when Deivi Cruz signed with division rival Minnesota), it was able to retain OF Mike Cameron and RHP Keith Foulke. All things considered, the team's management did well with its limited financial resources.

To help mitigate the loss of Cruz (.288, 10 HR, 96 RBI), the Braves signed SS Jose Hernandez (.257, 13 HR, 73 RBI) away from Hessville. Hernandez has power potential and Georgia is hoping he can top 20 HRs in 2002.

With the rest of its lineup largely returning, the Braves offense would appear to be in great shape. However, recent rumors have 3B Travis Fryman missing the season with an injury to his throwing arm. Fryman claims he will be able to play through the injury, but only time will tell. As insurance, Georgia has signed infielder David Bell (.275, 17 HR, 67 RBI). Also on Georgia's bench will be OF Bubba Trammell (.280, 13 HR, 49 RBI) and 2B Todd Walker (.298, 7 HR, 32 RBI). Either should be able to step in if needed.

Key to the 2002 success will be the maturation of Georgia's young starting pitching. RHPs Tim Hudson, Freddie Garcia (7-5, 4.71 ERA) and Russ Ortiz (14-14, 5.60 ERA) all have enormous upside talent. If they can pitch up to their capabilities, Georgia's starting pitching should improve despite the loss of Lopez. Keith Foulke will once again anchor the bullpen.

With young, exciting talent on both sides of the ball, the Braves could finally break through in 2002 for that elusive playoff berth. That makes Georgia a definite team to keep an eye on this season.

Projected lineup
CF Mike Cameron
RF Mark Kotsay
LF Rondell White
3B Travis Fryman
DH Dmitri Young
1B Derrek Lee
SS Jose Hernandez
C A.J. Pierzynski
2B Pokey Reese

Rotation
Tim Hudson
Freddie Garcia
Russ Ortiz
Sidney Ponson
Tim Wakefield/Wade Miller

Closer
Keith Foulke

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