In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
What's a nightmare season for the Atlanta Braves? Well, you could probably simply leave it at "not making the playoffs", but would that be a *true* nightmare, or just a disappointment?
A nightmare for Braves fans would likely be centered around the Upton brothers. If Martin Prado, traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the package for Justin, outproduces Atlanta's new left fielder, Braves fans will likely be driven into a frenzy, especially after Prado signed a pretty favorable extension with Arizona. The same could be said for BJ, who signed the largest contract of any free agent center fielder this winter, including a deal much higher than former Brave Michael Bourn. If Bourn doesn't begin to age like expected in 2013, and BJ puts together another middling offensive season, Braves fans will likely be screaming bloody murder and calling for Frank Wren's head.
Staying with the offense, another step backwards from Dan Uggla isn't something the Braves can afford. Uggla's power dramatically fell off last season, and the only thing that really kept him as a productive player was his 14.9% walk rate. What if that rate falls down to his career norm of 11.1%, and his power numbers don't rebound? Uggla would be a sunk cost (with two years remaining on his contract after 2013), and the Braves would be sick to their stomachs about him. How about behind the plate? Brian McCann dealt with shoulder problems for most of 2012 and was awful, but he had offseason surgery to repair his damaged shoulder. What if McCann;s surgically repaired shoulder isn't 100% at all in 2013, and the team has to live with a banged up McCann and Gerald Laird as their primary options behind the dish? That wouldn't be good for Atlanta's hopes of contending.
The Braves are depending a lot on Kris Medlen to lead their pitching staff after his marvelous 2012 campaign. Well, that campaign was boosted by an 85% strand rate and a .261 BABIP. Skewing those numbers back towards the league average will have an adverse effect on Medlen's overall statline, and could lead to his 1.57 ERA from 2012 tripling with some even worse luck. Rookie Julio Teheran could struggle in the rotation during his first extended trial in the majors, and what if Brandon Beachy isn't ready at midseason to step in and replace the struggling Teheran in the rotation? That would be close to a nightmare for Braves fans, especially if Paul Maholm and Mike Minor also struggle like they have at times in the past.
Finally, there's the bullpen. There's no way that Craig Kimbrel can repeat his historic 2012 season, is there? Well, maybe, but there's an expectation of some regression there. Control has been the biggest red mark on Kimbrel throughout his career, but he's kept it in check over his first two seasons in hte majors. If his control melts down and Kimbrel can't find the plate, he'll be a lot less effective as a pitcher. That doesn't even begin to consider the possibilities of Jordan Walden continuing to disappoint like he did in 2012 and Jonny Venters seeins his velocity take a hit and getting absolutely screwed over with his home run rate spiking.
It would take a series of extraordinary circumstances for 2013 to truly be a nightmare season for the Braves. But it's not as if any of this stuff is completely farfetched. All of it happening at the same time *is* farfetched and extremely unlikely to happen, but that's why we're calling it a nightmare scenario: everything that could go wrong would go wrong. There seems to be one team every year that gets completely snakebit and absolutely nothing goes right by the time the season ends.