Freddie Freeman: “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

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According to FanGraphs, the only team in the major leagues projected to finish worse than the Braves (71-91) are the division rival Phillies (68-94). Don’t tell Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, though. Despite a new-look team now bereft of productive veterans such as Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis, Freeman still thinks his team will end up being competitive in 2015. He even went as far as to say, “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Via MLB.com’s Mark Bowman:

“It’s going to be different than what I’m used to, but it’s exciting,” Freeman said. “We’ve got a whole different team. Obviously as a person and a friend, it’s tough to see your friends leave — especially with Jason leaving. We’ve got Shelby [Miller] here now and we’ve got a lot of young talent. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Aside from the Nationals, the NL East is not particularly strong, so inter-divisional play against the Phillies, Mets, and Marlins could inflate their win total more than we might expect. But even that’s a generous interpretation of the Braves’ chances.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.