In 2016 the Atlanta Braves hope to bounce back from last years disastrous campaign. But, the near future doesn’t seem to bright for our hometown heroes. After trading away Andrelton Simmons and Cameron Maybin, the Braves’ already lackluster offense seems to be in an even worse state. These trades also leave the loyal fans in a dismay as their favorite players continue to get shipped off. But fear not, John Hart and John Coppolella know exactly what they’re doing, and have success to prove it. With all these trades, one can only begin to wonder what next years team will look like, and here are my predictions. The Positions will go as follows:
- Catcher: Tyler Flowers and AJ Pierzynski
Just like last year, the Braves will implement a platoon system behind the plate with recently signed Tyler Flowers and Veteran AJ Pierzynski. This year Flowers will take on majority of the workload as Pierzynski settles into his new role as mentor. The Braves bring back Tyler Flowers who was traded away in the Javier Vasquez trade back in 2008. Although Flowers has yet to prove himself as the offensive force he was projected to be as a prospect, he can still be a viable piece in the struggling Atlanta offense. Let’s Be honest, AJ is getting old. His prime is long behind him but he can still be effective as both a backup and a mentor to Flowers. He was a pleasant surprise last year with the downfall of Christian Bethancourt, who never seemed to live up to his hype as a future All-Star.
- First Base: Freddie Freeman
Freeman had a down year in 2015 mostly in part to an injured right wrist that plagued him for a good portion of the season. The lack of offense throughout the lineup also put a damper on his season as pitchers were able to pitch around him knowing there was no true offensive danger behind him. Freeman should have a bounce back year as he has a full offseason to allow his wrist to heal and a more seasoned offense behind him.
- Second Base: Jace Peterson and Gordon Beckham
Jace Peterson had a rough year with the Braves in his first full MLB season. Only hitting .239 with 52 RBIs. But, that is a step up from Dan Uggla who brought us to tears with his swing which often reminded me of an out of control helicopter and his T-Ball like defense, all while we were paying him money we honestly didn’t have. But, back to the point. Don’t be surprised if Jace Peterson has another poor season as the Braves offense continues to look for any type of rhythm. Beckham on the other hand is an interesting player. A graduate of UGA, Beckham already have the hearts of about half of Braves Country. A former first round pick, Beckham has yet to develop into the star he was said to become. But, in his home state and without all of the pressure of being a first round pick, it should be interesting to see how he does in this upcoming year.
- Third Base: Kelly Johnson and Adonis Garcia
More than likely this platoon won’t last very long. Kelly Johnson will take the everyday position as Garcia fills in time to time. Which, isn’t a bad thing. Garcia thrived as a Pinch Hitter last year and although he is a decent hitter, I don’t believe that would translate into everyday play. Kelly Johnson on the other hand, has had experience as an everyday back in his first stint with the Braves. And the Braves rarely stick to platoons. (Bethancourt & Pierzynski, C. Johnson & Callaspo, C. Johnson & Francisco)
- Shortstop: Erick Aybar
As a true Braves fan, the front office has repeatedly ripped my heart out in recent years. The Andrelton Simmons trade nearly killed me. But, as hard as it is to watch all of myfavorite players get traded off, John Hart and John Coppolella know what they’re doing.Yes, it was fun to watch Andrelton make even the most difficult plays look easy, there ismore value in young, healthy pitching. And that’s what the Braves got. We also receivedErick Aybar, whose bat is similar to Simmons and also has a couple Gold Gloves in his trophy case. And with Aybar only having a one year left on his contract, there will be an open space for the 2015 #1 overall pick, Dansby Swanson. Because he was drafted out of College rather than High School, he is more likely to reach the majors within the next couple years.
- Left Field: Hector Olivera
I can not even begin to explain how bad of a deal the Olivera trade was. With all of the good trades the Braves have made in the last couple years, this has to be the only one where I sit back and wonder “Are they High?!” They gave away Alex Wood (One of my favorite players at the time) and a couple smaller pieces for an older, overpaid, over rated, unproven player who at that point had not even seen his first MLB at bat. And now they are attempting to transition him to the outfield. So not only is he new to the country, got traded from the team that drafted him, but now he is attempting to change positions. And if history means anything at all, this will not work out for the Braves. But boy, do I hope I’m wrong.
- Center Field: Ender Inciarte
Here is yet another example of a fantastic trade made by the Braves. Ender Inciarte is a very talented, young player. He should be a key piece that the Braves build around. But, then again, what do I know? I thought the same thing about Kris Medlen, Jason Heyward, and Andrelton Simmons. But, unlike the other people I just mentioned, Inciarte is good on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and should be an All-Star in the near future.
- Right Field: Nick Markakis
I didn’t know the Braves kept position players more than a year. But, Nick Markakis was a pleasant surprise for the Braves last year as he lead the team in batting average. Although he did not have much power (Mostly due to a short off season because of neck surgery) he should have improved power this year and be a more rounded player. He is a veteran player who can still contribute on the field.
- Starting Rotation
- Julio Tehran
- Bud Norris
- Matt Wisler
- Mike Foltynewicz
- Sean Newcomb or Manny Banuelos
Honestly, after the first 3 spots, its really hard to predict. Julio Tehran should bounce back and be the starter we all know he can be. He was inefective last year because of the team he was on. Bud Norris, a FA signing, is a low risk high reward signing. After an off year, he could come back to have a solid year with the help of pitching guru Roger McDowell. MAtt Wisler should improve as he enters his second year in the majors. And the rest of the spots are wide open. Folty had a rough year last year, but flashed some signs that he could be a good middle of the rotation pitcher. Manny Banuelos was decent in his time with the Braves last year, but Sean Newomb is killing it in Spring Training this year and would be an interesting piece in the rotation.
- Relief Pitchers
At this point I don’t think anyone knows what the bullpen will look like come Opening Day. The Braves seem to have no clear plan of how the bullpen will be structured. More than likely it will be full of former Minor League starters and a couple true relief pitchers. Man, I miss the days where our pen was one was of our strongest positions…