Sep. 23, 2016
Atlanta Braves Preview
With the third team in the National League East, I will be doing the one that has gone through the craziest rebuild of the last five years of them all, the Atlanta Braves. There was a time just a decade ago when the Braves were consistently among the best teams in baseball, and over that time since had slowly fallen completely flat, up to a point where their team lost over 100 games. Now, they have slowly rebuilt this team into one that has a bright future ahead of it, led by one of the best farm systems in baseball, and some of the brightest young stars in the game.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, RA Dickey, Mike Foltynewicz
The Braves' rotation is kind of unusual to look at, due to the fact that this is a team trying to rebuild for the future, and yet two of the oldest pitchers in baseball are in the rotation. Bartolo Colon and RA Dickey are definitely win-now players, and I know the Braves want a decent team out their for their new stadium, but you have to realize that these guys are blocking the Sean Newcomb's and Kolby Allard's of the farm system. Meanwhile, Julio Teheran is once again the clear ace of this rotation after a solid bounce back year, and Jaime Garcia was a good, low-risk high-reward pickup. Mike Foltynewicz is the only other pitcher from last year's rotation in this group, but that isn't such a bad thing to be true. Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler are the other contenders for rotation spots at the moment.
BULLPEN: Jim Johnson (CL), Arodys Vizcaino, Ian Krol, Mauricio Cabrera, Jordan Walden, Blaine Boyer, Eric O'Flaherty, Daniel Winkler
After early season struggles for Arodys Vizcaino, the Braves gave the closing job to veteran Jim Johnson and have not looked back since. Vizcaino could very well be the closer of the future in Atlanta, but for now that job rests with the veteran Johnson. Ian Krol and Mauricio Cabrera both had solid seasons for the Braves as well and should have a set spot in the bullpen. Newcomers and non-roster invitees Jordan Walden, Blaine Boyer and Eric O'Flaherty get spots due to big league pitching experience, and because they are all high-reward players. The final spot in the bullpen is going to Daniel Winkler at the moment, but Chaz Roe, Paco Rodriguez, Armando Rivero and Josh Collmenter all are contending to be in the pen too.
CATCHERS: Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Flowers
The Kurt Suzuki acquisition was a smart move by the Braves, since they don't have a ton of catching depth in the farm system right now. Suzuki at times has been a catcher with All-Star capabilities, but he is inconsistent enough that you don't know what you will get. Tyler Flowers is a good backup, but he isn't starter material, just like third string catcher Anthony Recker.
INFIELDERS: Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, Sean Rodriguez, Micah Johnson
The top five infielders here are pretty set, led by All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is the cornerstone of the organization. Top prospect Dansby Swanson also had a taste of the Major Leagues last year, and while he temporarily maintains prospect status, don't expect him to be their for too long. He led the team in batting average last season in his limited appearances. Adonis Garcia and Jace Peterson are quality pieces, but they are mere placeholders until more prospects such as Ozzie Albies and Kevin Maitian make their big league debuts. Sean Rodriguez can play every position baseball has created, which is a reason why they only need four outfielders. Micah Johnson has the best upside of the remaining infielders on the 40-man roster.
OUTFIELDERS: Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, Chase d'Arnaud
They only have three outfielders on the 40-man roster, and two non-roster invitees, but Chase d'Arnaud is a guy who, like Rodriguez, can play all over the diamond. The starting outfield is pretty well set also, with former MVP contender Matt Kemp in left, hometown hero Nick Markakis in right, and speedy centerfielder Ender Inciarte rounding out the outfield. All three of these guys have All-Star potential, and the Braves got a good deal on Matt Kemp after being traded twice, and with those two other teams (Dodgers and Padres) paying some of his salary.
LINEUP: Inciarte (CF), Swanson (SS), Freeman (1B), Markakis (RF), Kemp (LF), Garcia (3B), Suzuki (C), Peterson (2B)
The thing that the Braves lack right now is big league ready depth, hence all of the non-roster invitees rounding out the bullpen and only three outfielders on the 40-man roster. However, this team has controllable talent and will continue to rise in the win column over the next few years. Right now, I'm not as high on the total of wins as some other people are, which is why I will be putting them at 69 wins, but they don't have a lot of potential to go much lower in my opinion.