It's a familiar-looking team the Atlanta Braves will put on the field this season, but there's plenty they'd like to look different.

The Braves are defending National League East champions, but they realize they'd be tempting the odds to go through another season trying to work around disappointing performances from key players.

In a way, manager Fredi Gonzalez thinks — with his glass half full — that's the good news.

"Two guys who didn't produce to their expectations, and we still won 96 games and won our division," Gonzalez said of a team that easily won the division despite career-worst years from center fielder B.J. Upton and second baseman Dan Uggla.

Their prolonged struggles — which eventually included Uggla being benched in the playoffs — were only part of the problems the Braves overcame. Right fielder Jason Heyward missed time because of appendicitis and a broken jaw. Tim Hudson, now departed via free agency, was lost in the second half, thinning a rotation in which Brandon Beachy was rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery.

It was good enough to win a division by 10 games and come within one victory of the best record in the majors. That's because there's plenty to like about the Braves — and the best parts are young.

The Braves have arguably the best closer in the game in Craig Kimbrel. He's 25 and has led the NL in saves in each of the past three seasons, including a career-best 50 in 2013. His 1.21 ERA and 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings would seem absurd if he hadn't posted a 1.01 ERA and 16.7 strikeout ratio in 2012.

Kimbrel anchors a young bullpen that led the majors with a 2.46 ERA, a huge asset because the Braves will put a rotation on the field this year in which all members are younger than 30 — healthy Beachy, Kris Medlen (15 wins), emerging ace Julio Teheran (14 wins) and Mike Minor (13 wins). Add second-half standout David Hale, and the Braves' tradition of pitching is back.

Gonzalez is confident he has the position players to overcome even a dreaded repeat of Uggla's and Upton's struggles. Heyward got a two-year contract extension this winter and first baseman Freddie Freeman an eight-year extension. And Upton's more productive brother, Justin, was already under contract through 2015 when acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks before last season.

"You've got Freeman, who finished in the top five of MVP (voting)," Gonzalez said. "You've got (shortstop Andrelton) Simmons, who won the Gold Glove, and he's a young kid. You've got Heyward, who, for me, if he didn't have the injuries, might have won the Gold Glove and might have put 20-something in the seats. He's still a young guy. Justin Upton, who has been in the league six, seven years, he's a young guy also.

"You feel pretty good about your team. Your rotation is young. The back end of the bullpen with (setup man Luis) Avilan and Kimbrel is really, really young (Avilan is 24, Kimbrel 25) and really, really good."

Gonzalez said there was no doubt Uggla (who is signed through 2015) and B.J. Upton (signed through 2017) would be starters again. Realistically, the Braves have few viable options.