After a long and anxious wait, SunTrust Park is now officially up and running. The Braves concluded Spring Training with an exhibition game against the New York Yankees and fans were treated to finally experiencing everything the new park has to offer. The exhibition game will serve as a trial run to work out all the kinks before play officially starts at SunTrust on April 14th.
Final roster cuts are being made and the official 25 man roster must be submitted by 12:00 PM on Sunday April 2nd. The roster is almost all but set, excluding a few minor changes that could be made concerning the bench and bullpen. The Braves are still considering their options on whether to carry and 8 man pen or try to acquire another bench piece. Either way, there are obvious upgrades that need to be made to become more competitive, but make no mistake, this is a much improved team from 2016. They will look to carry the momentum from their 2nd half success from 2016 into SunTrust Park. Adding several veterans in free agency in Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, Jamie garcia and adding Brandon Phillips to solidify 2nd base after the loss of Sean Rodriguez will add veteran leadership and allow more time for the upcoming prospects to develop.
There is a lot of optimism surrounding the Braves this year and how much than can improve. With the veteran leadership and depth this team has, there is no reason to believe the Braves won’t take a leap forward. They absolutely have the talent to reach at least .500, but with the right outlook on things, they may make things interesting come September. A much improved lineup should have the team consistently scoring runs every night. The competitiveness of the team will rely on the pitching staff. The added veterans in Colon, Dickey and Garcia must stay healthy and pitch at a high level for the team to be successful. Teheran will once again be expected to be the ace of the staff and be an anchor every 5th day. The development of Foltynewicz will also be a key factor in his future role with the team.
There will be a lot expected out of the bullpen this season. Whether they go with a 7 or 8 man pen is still to be determined, but there is still a lot to question with their ability to consistently close out games. With Johnson and Vizcaino set to share the closer and set-up man role, a player like O’Flaherty will need to carry their spring training success over and prove he can stay healthy. With Cabrera set to begin the season on the DL, Jose Ramirez and Ian Krol’s role will increase. Long man and spot starter Josh Collmenter will also need to carry his Spring success into the regular season.
The Braves vast amount of options leave the team with a positive outlook heading into the season. The optimism that surrounds them will be put to the test early, but if by chance this team begins to click early, it could make for a much more interesting 2017.