The Braves are still clearly in rebuilding stages, but have a very strong farm system and topped it off with a few veterans. Their roster looks to be a good mixture of older guys and top prospects ready to take over the majors. The choice of veterans might be a problem though, some because they only have a few years left before retirement, some just don’t have it anymore, some never have had much and some just aren’t the right fit. Here’s a breakdown of how the Braves tackled the off season.
The Braves clearly weren’t going after any big name free agents, but they needed to fill up the patchy spots in their young team, and unfortunately, some of that had to be done by signing veteran free agents. They did as much as they could via trade, but got desperate at times.
They started by quickly resigning their catcher, A.J. Pierzynski. This was mandatory as they didn’t have many other options. Then they hit the trade market.
They started by swapping shortstops with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Basically, they traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels for Erick Aybar. But the full move is a lot more complicated. They additionally traded a prospect of theirs, Jose Briceno, and got Aybar tied to prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis plus cash.
Just one week later, they sold centerfielder Cameron Maybin to the Tigers for relievers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier. They signed some more free agents as the non-tender deadline approached.
Starter Bud Norris, reliever Jim Johnson, and after the deadline, David Holmberg, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio were signed. A couple days later, they got Jose Ramirez from Seattle for a PTBNL and cash. The next week they got D-Backs No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson with outfielder Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.
The next day they traded Christian Bethancourt to the Padres for Casey Kelly and a prospect. On December 16, they signed Tyler Flowers to replace Bethancourt as backup catcher. On January 7th they brought in Alexi Ogando, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Kelly, Alex Torres, Jhoulys Chacin and Ozzie Albies to minor league deals and spring training invites. The next day they signed infielder Kelly Johnson to a major league deal.
Carlos Torres and Jeff Francouer also got later minors deals and invitations towards the end of the off season.
The Braves spent the late off season on a bunch of free agent veterans, most on minors deals, but the trades they made early in the off season will really pay off.
Spring Training Storylines
How will the new rotation be?
The new rotation won’t be great, but if things go right, it can go uphill from last year. Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler need to have good seasons and start emerging into the higher rotation positions they have been put into. Bud Norris and Kyle Kendrick need to have a big bounce back year, unless David Holmberg or Williams Perez can handle a rotation spot. The rotation doing well really depends on the older players looking like they did back when they were younger.
Will the veterans pay off?
Depends on the veteran. Really, this is just going to have to be a prediction. I think Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres have a lot of potential to take good major league relief roles this season. I personally believe in Emilio Bonifacio fitting in nicely. I think Bud Norris can kick some serious butt again. For vets they already had at the trade deadline, I think Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher are underrated and could be in starting positions.
The Braves have some veterans with a lot of potential, but some like Gordon Beckham, Kyle Kendrick and Alex Torres have never had anything that impressed me and need to prove to me that they can fit well into their positions. Otherwise, I have them spending some time in the minors. But they have a good chunk of vets that could boost the team.
The only issue is, when the prospects are ready to hit the majors, will they be better? We won’t know unless they sit quality vets, which could be an issue. We could never know.
When can we expect the prospects in the majors?
Guys like Dansby Swanson and Sean Newcomb could make their debuts by June, especially if the veterans don’t pay off. But in the positions where the Braves have good and developed, but young players, the prospects in those spots might get some more insurance and may not appear till September.
Who are some key non-roster invitees?
Personally, I think this is a similar question to the last one. My list includes relievers Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres along with some other pitchers young and old, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has seen Braves major league time, young infield prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and outfielder Jeff Francouer. There are many more, but these guys highlight my list.
Which trades did they win and which one will pay off most?
Some trades they won, others they didn’t. They clearly won the one with the D-Backs where they acquired Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, despite giving up Shelby Miller.
The one with the Tigers was questionable, Gabe Speier was later traded again, so it was basically Maybin for Krol, which the Tigers clearly win.
The Jose Ramirez trade wasn’t necessary, even though they barely gave up anything, and the shortstop swap was a win because of the additional acquisition of Sean Newcomb. The Christian Bethancourt trade was a win, cause Bethancourt didn’t develop as expected and they got some pitching insurance in their farm system.
The best trade for the Braves was the D-Backs one, it helps both their farm system and their major league roster.
So, I think that’s about all for what to watch for in spring training now for my roster and record projection.
Atlanta Braves Projected Roster
Julio Teheran Jason Grilli (CL)
Bud Norris Williams Perez
Mike Foltynewicz Jim Johnson
Matt Wisler Ian Krol
Kyle Kendrick Jhoulys Chacin
C: A.J. Pierzynski Tyler Flowers
1B: Freddie Freeman Jace Peterson
2B: Gordon Beckham Ender Inciarte
SS: Erick Aybar Emilio Bonifacio
3B: Kelly Johnson Jeff Francouer
LF: Nick Swisher
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: Nick Markakis
Projected Record: 66-96
So that’s all for today. Catch my Orioles scouting report later today!