The Atlanta Braves have the potential to surprise people in 2018. On the surface, their roster may look below average but with a bad division, a few reliable veterans and some top notch prospects, they could be a fun team to watch/follow. They lost 13 prospects due to signing infractions and still have the best farm in the Majors. After winning 72 in 2017, the new look Braves will look to raise that number due to a weak division besides the Nationals, who are the clear cut favorite. With guys like Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Sean Newcomb and Dansby Swanson likely to make the Opening Day Roster, it could be a fun rebuild alongside their vets Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis.
Preston Tucker, OF
Brandon McCarthy, RHP
Scott Kazmir, LHP
Matt Kemp, OF
Jim Johnson, RHP
Why they can win: Let’s face it, the Braves are amidst a rebuild so it’s not likely they make a serious run at the playoffs. However, if their young guys can come in, feel comfortable and get some decent pitching from a veteran staff, it’s not crazy to think they could win 75-82 games and finish 2nd or 3rd in the NL East ahead of the Phillies, Marlins and Mets.
Why they can lose: Youth. This is a team going through a rebuild. They have great prospects but sometimes that doesn’t translate to the Majors right away. If Freddie Freeman gets hurt, they lose any serious power threat in their lineup. Their Rotation is filled with journeymen starters who have never found true consistency and their lineup lacks power.
Bottom Line: Atlanta will face a great amount of challenges this year but it will be really fun to see where this farm system can take them. It will be great to see if Dansby, Acuna, Newcomb, Albies and other young talent can take a leap. Realistically, this is not a playoff team but a WildCard spot is probably their ceiling. If they were in a tougher division, they would struggle mightily, but besides the Nationals, the NL East is perfect for the young Braves to make some noise.
Major4 Numbers Game:
Stud: Freddie Freeman, 1B
When you post a WAR (4.5) that’s 50% higher than the second place finisher on your team, you sir are a stud. He also did this while only playing about 70% of the Braves games due to a wrist fracture. Projecting his productivity out over a full season, he would’ve posted a war around 5.8 (6th for NL position players. This on the heels of his 6.1 (fangraphs war) 2016 campaign, don’t expect him to slow down. Especially with more protection from a top farm system. Hot take: Freeman is named an All-Star for the 3rd time and ends up top-8 in NL MVP voting.
Sinkhole: The Whole Bullpen
It feels like an eternity since Craig Kimbrel was locking down the 9th inning for the Braves. They tried using combination of reclamation projects (Jim Johnson) and prospects to fill out their bullpen, without much success. They were one of 5 teams that didn’t have a relief pitcher post above a WAR 1.0. The outlook this year looks like much of the same. Vizcaino can bring heat (97.8 MPH 4-seamer), but low BABIP (.248) and homer propensity (1.1 per 9 innings) could make for a disaster in the 9th.
Regression Candidate: Kurt Suzuki, C
Catcher was a surprise position of strength for the Tomahawks. Suzuki and Tyler Flowers were both well-above average at the dish and behind the plate. Count on Suzuki’s offensive outburst to regress to natural levels. He hit a career high 19 HRs in only 309 ABs. His previous career high was in 2011 (15 HRs, 614 ABs). His 17.1% HR/Fly-ball rate was more than double his previous career high. His hard-hit rate was at a career high, but his soft-contact rate was at its highest in 6 years. His exit velocity was at league average (87.24 MPH), count on a regression.
Impact Acquisition: Preston Tucker, OF
Consider this a bit of a stretch, but until Acuna arrives in the big leagues, the only thing blocking Tucker from playing time in the corner outfield spots in Atlanta are Lane Adams and Nick Markakis. Not exactly murderer’s row here. Tucker is coming of a season hitting 24 HRs in the hitter friendly PCL. Perhaps he is maturing as a hitter (11.4% BB-rate, cutting his strikeouts by 4%). He was blocked and overlooked in a stacked Astros organization, so he may be one of the offseasons top post-hype prospects after hitting 13 HRs in 300 ABs for the ‘stros in 2015. Quiet offseason and maturing internal prospects made for a tough section here. At least they offloaded Matt Kemp’s atrocity of a contract.
Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):
Ronald Acuna, OF (2)
Kyle Wright, RHP (30)
Mike Soroka, RHP (31)
Luiz Gohara, LHP (49)
4 other in Top 100
Why We Love Them: One thing to love about the Braves is their youth; they boast one of, if not, the best farm systems in Baseball. So, it’s only fitting that we love one of the best players that was once one of those young guns, Chipper Jones. Chicks dig the long ball and Chipper was one of the best switch hitters of all time and will enter the Hall Of Fame this summer. We also love this clown who absolutely eats the warning track while prematurely celebrating beating “The Freeze”.