Posted by Mack Ade at 12:00 PM
I’m surprised that Tom Brennan didn’t take the Braves when we were deciding which Mack’s Mets writer would preview which team in baseball. Tom has taken over here as the leader of the minor league weenies on MM’s and Baseball America did name the Braves as the top minor league currently in baseball.
No one has a more talented pipeline right now. John Sickles of Minor League Ball has nine Braves guppies ranked a t a B+ of better level. Three, SS Dansby Swanson, 2B Ozzie Albies, and LHP Sean Newcomb are ready to hit Atlanta at some time this season.
First, some housework -
The Braves have been dumping off some dead wood lately… RHP Blaine Boyer, LHP Matt Marksberry, and LHP John Danks were let go this month.
Major League Signings were SP Bartolo Colon (1-yr, $12.5mil), IF Sean Rodriguez (2-yrs, $$11mil), SP R.A. Dickey (1-yr, $8mil), and C Kurt Suzuki (1-yr, $1.5mil). Extensions were given to OF Ender Inciarte (6-yrs, $30.525mil) and RP Jim Johnson (2-yrs, $10mil).
The 25-man looks to be almost complete, but could change if there is a last minute deal LHP Jose Quintana, OF Matt Szczur, or UT Kelly Johnson.
1B – Freddie Freeman –
Freeman has five years left on a $135mil contract that ends at the ends with a team option in 2022. He’s only going to be 27 this season so there’s a good chance he could be around for the length of this contract.
2B – Brandon Phillips (acquired from Reds in exchange for RP Andrew McKirahan, and RP Carlos Portuondo)
The future here is 20-yr. old Ozzie Albies, who John Sickles has graded out at the A- level. He will be ready for the 2018 season. Phillips becomes a free agent at the end of tis season which will make way for Albies.
SS – Dansby Swanson –
Swanson is odds on favorite for National League Rookie Of The Year and should be the Braves shortstop for many years to come, but of course that’s what we said about Andrelton Simmons a few years ago. The Braves do have a way of moving their chess pieces around, but I think Swanson is the real thing and will stick with the Braves.
3B – Adonis Garcia –
The Cuba born, 5-9 Garcia was a pleasant surprise last season (.273, 14-HR) for the Braves, but he will play this season at the age of 32. Austin Riley might be the future here, but he won’t be ready until 2020. For now, 2017, Garcia will do. He will be under team control until he’s 37.
UTIF – Chase d’Arnaud, Jace Peterson
D’Arnaud is your perfect utility player since he plays all outfield and infield positions, but he could be a late scratch if the Braves re-sign Kelly Johnson. Peterson came to the Braves, with pitcher Max Fried, for outfielder Justin Upton, and he was supposed to be the everyday second baseman for a long time, but that was before Phillips was traded for. He was an ex-1st round pick who, like d’Arnaud. Can play a lot of positions. His weakness has turned out to be his bat (2015: .239, 2016: .254).
LF – Matt Kemp –
You have to wonder if the Braves still want this guy around at this point of his career. The 32-year old Kemp has three more years (2017-2019) on his $21.75mil per year contract and, though he is still producing at a competitive level (2016: 35-HR, 108-RBI combined with the Braves and San Diego), this is usually the time the Braves get itchy and start rebuilding for the sixth time this decade.
The future here is probably speedster Ronald Acuna, who has an ETA of 2020.
CF – Ender Inciarte –
Inciarte is one of the guys that the Braves consider as part of the future, which is why they signed him to a 5-year contract through 2021 (plus 2022 team option). He will play 2017 as a 26-year old.
RF – Nick Markakis
Markakis came from the Orioles after the 2014 season and signed a team friendly four year (2015-2018) $44mil deal. Pulled his weight in 2016 (.269, 13-HR, 89-RBI), as I’m sure he will do this season.
Future wise, there really is only one B+ prospect (Acuna) in the outfield and both corner positions will be aging over the next two seasons. No rush here because they have much bigger (pitching) fish to fry.
UTOF – Emilio Bonifacio
C – Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki
The Braves are going to attempt to play a Flowers-Suzuki combo behind the plate this season. All attempts, if any, to bring in a heavy weight like Wilson Ramos or Matt Wieters simply didn’t happen. There’s no one in the pipeline… at all… so, this is a weakness for the team, both presently and in the future.
Rotation - Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz –
The Braves projected rotation is formidable. The future here, Sean Newcomb, will play most of the 2017 season at the AAA level. The wild card is LHP Max Fried, who returned last year from TJS surgery. I don’t expect Fried to be seen in Atlanta until late 2018.
Bullpen – Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, Ian Krol, Paco Rodrigues, Jose Ramirez
Mauricio Cabrera (right elbow discomfort) and Armondo Rivera (right shoulder discomfort) will start the season on the disabled list.
The Braves are still rebuilding, while, at the same time, bringing in short term veterans like Dickey and Colon to fill 2017 needs until the guppies mature. I like the direction this team is going and they could be a real factor in 2018 or 2019, but you always have to be ready for them to trade off half the team each year.
I’ve got them finishing 4th in 2017 in the NL East, ahead of the hapless Phillies.