There are a lot of people, both media and fans alike who are very down on the prospects of the Atlanta Braves having anything close to resembling a half decent season. They look at the continuation of the tear down and rebuilding this organization is currently under and are bracing for the worst.
Sure the farm system is now rated near the top in the eyes of most people and the plan, as it has been presented, has seemingly been followed and is continuing. There is, however, still ongoing concern on what the actual Major League roster is going to look like in 2016. People are afraid that it is going to be a full season of what they saw over the last 2 months of 2015 where the product, play and record was just a train wreck.
Just remember that people said that same thing about the 2015 team and hop bad they were going to be right out of the gate. They managed a .500 record right up until the All Star Break and were more then a competitive ball club. It was only then when another round of trades were made to gain youth and helpful assets that the team has continued to look for. Between that, injuries and a complete lack of big league arms in the pen and young starters going through some growing pains the Braves struggles.
Since then, the team has made more moves and have added some very high end prospects as well as some proven Major League talent. Not for a second is there any notion of the Braves putting out a Wild Card challenging lineup, but people may be surprised with the quality of play this team may be capable of. There is no denying there are holes but there are still decent players that Fredi Gonzales can trot out there on a daily basis. Sure the progression of guys like Hector Olivia and Jace Peterson will be big factors on just how good the team could be. The rest of the squad is not as bad a everyone seems to think.
A Healthy Freddie Freeman will be the cornerstone. If he can get back to Freddie Freeman ways, that would be a good place to start. Erik Aybar is a proven major league shortstop and offers decent defense and a respectable bat. He is not going to put up gaudy numbers but should be a solid player. 3rd base is an interesting area. There are a few guys that will battle for playing time, guys that are vying for the platoon roles and back up roles. Between Adonis Garcia Gordon Beckham Emilio Bonifacio Daniel Castro.
It will be interesting to see who will rise above and earn more time in the starting lineup.. The combo behind the plate of AJ Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers should both prove to help with the bat but perhaps more importantly help bring along the swell of young pitchers and provide a veteran presence to them and the clubhouse as a hole. The importance they may provide could be more important from a defensive perspective. This should be a formative duo.
Extra time for Nick Markakis to gain more strength after last off season neck surgery will only enhance his production especially his power numbers. He had a solid and productive offensive year last season but just did not have the strength needed to hit more then 3 home runs. Should be in double digits this season. Recently acquired Ender Inciarte should be a bright spot in center for the team and complement Freddie Freeman well. Only time will tell what $19M in Swisher and Bourn will be able to provide. If they can somehow have their contracts cleared from the books and open up some roster spots would be a nice bonus, but very unlikely to happen.
A completely revamped bullpen and plenty of minor league contracts and invites to spring training will provide both major league quality depth in the pen and hopefully avoid the constant implosions that occurred last season. The should be competition as to who will close and who will set up and give the club plenty of options to fill out the rest of the pen. If all goes well there should be some good battles for the open spots and maybe provide more tradable assets that can be moved throughout the year for more building blocks.
The rotation will be young but there are plenty of arms available and ready to fight for the couple of spots that are open to be won. The likely scenario to begin the season is Julio Teheran, Bud Norris and Matt Wisler as the top 3 and then an open contest between Williams Perez, Ryan Weber, Many Banuelos, Tyrell Jenkins and Mike Foltynewicz for the last 2 spots.