Spring Training has begun and that means the start to the 2017 season is right around the corner. The Braves will enter the season in the new Suntrust Park with a much deeper and veteran filled roster.
The starting rotation is almost all but set. You have Teheran who will more than likely be the Opening Day starter and the “ace” of the staff, followed by Colon, Dickey and Garcia. The only spot open for competition will be the 5 spot. However, from all indications, that spot is Mike Foltynewicz’s to lose. He is not guaranteed the 5th starter spot because you still have Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair and Josh Collmenter proving they deserve to pitch. The increased competition will serve well for all pitchers in camp as they look to carry that momentum into the 2017 season.
With a deeper and more solidified rotation, the bullpen will be the key to Braves success this season. Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino can be penciled in as the closer and set-up man. Then you have Ian Krol and Paco Rodriguez who is coming off of Tommy John and back surgery and hasn’t pitched competitively in nearly 2 years. These two will need to prove they can be reliable lefty specialist’s throughout the season. Jose Ramirez and Mauricio Cabrera are two names who will play a very important role in the Braves success. These are two strong arms who have to prove they can find the strike zone and get batters out consistently . The Braves cannot be successful without these two. Former Braves Blaine Boyer and Kris Medlen are also a couple names to keep your eyes on. The bullpen is the darkhorse of the team and will play an important role this season.
The lineup is much improved from the past 3 seasons. It will be competitive and will cause opposing managers a lot of problems. It includes a veteran outfield with Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis. The acquisition of Brandon Philips gives a nice veteran option at second base and allows more time for Ozzie Albies to develop. With Freddie Freeman finally having protection, he is expected to have another great year. Adonis Garcia will man third for the majority of the season and probably share time with Jace Peterson. The loss of Sean Rodriguez hurts a lot because he was expected to be the super utility man that serves as a poor man’s Ben Zobrist. Jace Peterson and Chase d’Arnaud will be two bench options that will need to step up in the absence of Sean Rodriguez. Then there are two veteran options at catcher with Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki. The biggest name in this lineup for most Braves fans this season will be Dansby Swanson. All eyes will be on him as he enters his second season at shortstop. Luckily, he still has his rookie status for 2017, so he will be an early favorite for Rookie of the Year. While he is still very young and unproven, many are expecting him to be a franchise player along with Freddie Freeman. This is a tall task for someone who has yet to play an entire Major League season but, Dansby is well aware of the hype and expectations surrounding him. Going into this season, all eyes will be on the development of the young shortstop.
The Braves will have a much more competitive team in 2017. However, their ceiling is yet to be determined. If the veteran rotation and promising bullpen can keep up, the lineup should be good enough to win now. Obviously, this team is not expected to win more than 65-75 games, but this team could surprise people and be competing come September.