The Atlanta Braves do not look like they're going to win many games this season. They have officially mortgaged their current chances of winning for a chance to win in the future. They made a lot of noise this off-season, but it wasn't signing or trading for big name players, but it was stocking up their farm system to the brim. As far as this season is concerned, Braves fans do get to look forward to watching home grown talent like Freddie Freeman, Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran try and win some games. It could be a long season in Atlanta.
Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Erick Aybar, Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair, Alexei Ogando, Jhoulys Chacin, Bud Norris, Kelly Johnson, Jim Johnson, Reid Brignac, Ian Krol, Casey Kelley, Ricardo Rodriguez, Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio, Evan Rutkyj, Nate Freiman, Williams Astudillo, Jordy Lara, Chase d'Arnaud, Matt Tuiasosopo, Kyle Kendrick, David Holmberg, Chris Volstad, Chris Ellis, Jose Ramirez, Alex Torres, David Carpenter, Rob Wooten, Madison Younginer, Jesse Biddle
Andrelton Simmons, Shelby Miller, Cameron Maybin, Christian Bethancourt, Ross Detwiler, Joey Terdoslavich, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Minor, Todd Cunningham, Eury Perez, Edwin Jackson, Sugar Ray Marimon, Peter Moylan, Ryne Harper, Jose Briceno
Biggest Strength - Farm System
This is clearly a rebuilding year for the Braves. They put the final stamp on that when they decided to load up on prospects while dealing away Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons. In return, they put many new faces in their farm system including but not limited to number 1 overall draft pick in 2015 Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Sean Newcomb and Aaron Blair. Although the majority of their bigger name prospects don't have a ton of reps in the minors yet, the upside appears to be a lot. In a couple of years, guys like Ozzy Albies, Austin Riley, Kolby Allard, Rio Ruiz, Mallex Smith and of course Dansby Swanson could be the faces of a winning franchise.
Biggest Weakness - Starting Pitching
Atlanta doesn't really have a pitching staff. They have thrown together a bunch of prospects and mixed in a few free agent signings and they will see who works out this year and take some of them into next season. The free agent signings that look like they'll have a spot in the rotation include Bud Norris and Jhoulys Chacin. Both of whom have had small amounts of success in the past, but probably aren't good enough to be relied on as top three pitchers on any given MLB team like they might be for the Braves. Julio Teheran will be the guy who gets the opening day start. He was the Braves number 1 prospect for many years, but has struggled mightily in recent seasons in the big leagues. He did have an ok second half, so there could be some hope that he could return to being an ace type pitcher, but the numbers don't support that it would be a good bet. To fill the final two spots, there is a competition between Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, Williams Perez, John Gant and Manny Banuelos. These prospects have somewhat fizzled out on the national prospect scene. Wisler, Banuelos and Foltynewicz have all made appearances on top 100 prospect lists in the past, but they have all managed to fall off of most people's radar. It seems most likely that Wisler takes the number four spot and Foltynewicz takes the 5 spot, but that remains to be seen. Feels like they are using the method of throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Hopefully for the Braves sake, one or more of these guys can prove that they can return to the type of pitcher they were once hyped up to be.
Something to keep an eye on - Closer situation
Although there are injury concerns for Jason Grilli since he ruptured his Achilles last season, it does look like he will be the teams closer to begin the year. On a rebuilding team, a 39-year-old closer is a bit out of place, and there is a very good second option in Arodys Vizcaino who looks like more of the future option. The Braves also have a third option in Jim Johnson, who is less effective in general than the other two previously mention, but has lots of closer experience. Braves fans should be hoping and expecting Arodys to take the roll and keep it so that the team can have a chance to build around a guy in the bullpen while they are building the rest of the team as well.
Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^
- Ender Inciarte* - CF
- Erick Aybar^ - SS
- Freddie Freeman* - 1B
- Hector Olivera - LF
- Nick Markakis* - RF
- Adonis Garcia - 3B
- AJ Pierzynski* - C
- Jace Peterson* - 2B
Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio^, Kelly Johnson*, Michael Bourn*
Projected Rotation… Lefties*
- Julio Teheran
- Matt Wisler
- Bud Norris
- Jhoulys Chacin
- Mike Foltynewicz
Jason Grilli - Closer, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson, Alex Torres*, Jose Ramirez, Eric O'Flaherty*, Dan Winkler
Injured to start the season
Jesse Biddle*, Andrew McKirahan*, Paco Rodriguez*
Fantasy Bargain - Ender Inciarte
This team doesn't offer much for fantasy this season, but Ender Inciarte could be a nice mid-late round pick up. He appears to have the skills to consistently get on base at the big league level, and he has the speed and base running ability to steal a good amount of bases. The 24-year-old is young enough to be a part of this rebuild, but good enough already to play every day and that's a good combination for a guy to get maximum plate appearances. He could approach the 30 steal mark while hitting over .300 over the course of the season.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Julio Teheran
Sometimes people get drafted too high just because people know their name and/or remember their hype when they were coming up. This could be happening with Julio Teheran. Let's face the facts here, he's a below average strike out guy, who is likely to have an ERA around 4 even, who's on a team that isn't going to win him many games. Bad combination. Let someone else draft him.
As mentioned before, this team is likely to lose a lot of games in 2016. Luckily, we're in an age where fans can understand what a rebuild is and root for that over the course of the season. Braves will be in the basement of the National League with other rebuilding teams like the Brewers, Reds, and Phillies and might not see a win total reach the 60's.