Armando Almanza (6.08), Will Cunnane (2.70), Antonio Alfonseca (5.83), Kevin Gryboski (3.86), Trey Hodges (4.66), and Bubba Nelson (1.88 in 14.1 IP at AAA Richmond).
Once thought of as an afterthought in the Kevin Millwood trade, Johnny Estrada (36 at-bats in '03) will take over the catching duties. Eddie Perez (350 AB, 11 HR, 45 RBI, .271) returns as the Braves back-up. Adam LaRoche (264, 8, 35, .295 at Richmond) and ageless Julio Franco (197, 5, 31, .294) will start at first.
Marcus Giles (21, 69, .316, 14 SB) and Rafael Furcal (15, 61, .292, 25) will team up as one of the most dynamic 2B-SS combos in the league. And Mark DeRosa (266, 6, 22, .263) rounds out the infield at third base.
The outfield appears solid with the Jones' "Brothers" in left and center, Chipper (27, 106, .305) and Andruw (36, 116, .277), and J.D. Drew (15, 42, .289) in right.
Drew is a far cry from the departed Gary Sheffield and DeRosa from Vinny Castilla but the Braves offense still matches well with the Phillies and Marlins. It also matches up with other wild card hopefuls, Arizona, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
Atlanta has not had a quality first baseman since Fred McGriff (1997) and has been without a quality third baseman since Chipper headed to the outfield (after 2001). And Braves pitchers haven't had as many what-ifs since the post-1992 season (with Glavine 20-8, Leibrandt 15-7, Smoltz 15-12, and Avery 11-11).
Will Atlanta win the NL East again or will Philadelphia or Florida break the string? I can't say Atlanta will win again in 2004 but I can't say Philly or Florida will either. 13th straight? Could be. It's nice to know that even in the cost-cutting 2000's, the Braves still can field a pennant winning team.