• Could Braves be 1st NL team with six 25-HR hitters?
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     | February 22,2013
     

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Braves could have six players with a legitimate chance to hit 25 home runs, something that no National League team has ever done.

    The 2003 Boston Red Sox were the only major league team to have as many as six 25-homer hitters in one season, with Nomar Garciaparra (28), Kevin Millar (25), Trot Nixon (28), David Ortiz (31), Manny Ramirez (37) and Jason Varitek (25).

    The Braves have four players — Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla — who’ve had at least a 27-homer season in the past two years, while Brian McCann hit 24 in 2011 and Freddie Freeman had a career-high 23 in 2012.

    All that power is not the only reason that Braves hitting coach Greg Walker is eager to see what these Braves can do offensively. But it’s one factor that should make things interesting a lot of nights this season with the Braves, who have a lineup that’ll be capable making three or four homers in a game — or 12-15 strikeouts — a routine occurence.

    “There’s a lot of nice young pieces of clay to work with,” Walker said. “I grew up a Braves fan. If I was a Braves fan right now I’d be excited. It’s a talented young team, and for young players they have a lot of experience, a lot of playoff experience.

    “All that said, there’s a lot of hard work that has to be put in. I think we set the tone last year of how we want to play offensively and basically grind out at-bats and compete. Especially the first half last year, we saw the model of how we want the Braves offense to be. Other than that, it comes down to staying healthy. The talent’s there to be a really good team.”

    It’s certainly a team with a lot of guys who can do damage with one swing.

    The team’s big offseason additions, the Uptons, have each surpassed 25 homers. Justin did it twice in the past four seasons and had a career-high 31 in 2011, and B.J. had a career-best 28 in 2012.

    Heyward hit a career-high 27 homers last season, and Freeman hit 23 despite being sidelined or slowed for several weeks with vision problems and a finger injury.

    Uggla had five consecutive seasons with more than 30 homers before hitting a career-low 19 last season. He had a career-high 36 in his first season with the Braves in 2011.

    McCann had his fifth consecutive 20-homer season last year despite a shoulder injury that limited him to 121 games and required October surgery. The six-time former All-Star catcher, who turned 29 Wednesday, is expected to miss the first two or three weeks while completing a six-month surgery rehab. He says his shoulder already feels more stable than it had in years.

    The Braves also have potential big power at third base in Juan Francisco, who averaged 25 homers during three minor league seasons (2007-2009) and had nine homers in a career-high 205 plate appearances for the Braves in 2012. He’s competing with Chris Johnson at third and could end up splitting time with him if neither wins the job outright.

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