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“Foster Your Roster” – Atlanta Braves 2016 Season Preview

This MLB offseason had a flurry of activity and this week we’ll be looking into how that shapes the Atlanta Braves for upcoming season. The Braves are clearly in rebuilding mode and as a Mets fan that watched them win the division for what seemed like two decades, I’ll never get tired of seeing them lose. However, their heist of the Diamondbacks will likely help them get competitive again fairly quickly. While most of the players in that trade likely won’t significantly contribute this season, bad teams offer lots of opportunity for playing time, so let’s dive into who might get it.

Catcher: There is nothing to see on the MLB roster, both AJ Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers can be ignored. The minor leagues don’t offer much hope either. The only guy in spring camp worth keeping an eye on is former prospect Ryan Lavarnway. He hasn’t performed well in several years, but he’s the only name worth monitoring.

Corner Infield: Freddie Freeman was sidelined with a wrist injury last season and it’s something that may linger this year too. With that already mentioned in spring

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 30: First baseman Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves sits on the ground after a stretch that narrowly missed closing out a double play during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Turner Field on June 30, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

training reports, the power breakout that many have waited for seems unlikely. In spite of that, all of his other skills are still solid and he receives a bump in value in OBP leagues. I’d be hesitant to rely on him as my primary 1B, but would be happy to have him as a CI or Util. While he seems in line to play LF Hector Olivera will qualify at 3B and given his track record, I’m optimistic that he can have some success. Given his age, the Braves have every reason to run him out there on a daily basis and see if they can build his trade value. Olivera’s age and prior production in Cuba are the reasons I think he should be able to produce a good AVG with moderate power while giving you dual position eligibility. Then there’s the reason Olivera is seeing time in the OF, Adonis Garcia. Garcia put up strong numbers in a partial season, but none of what he did last year looks similar to his minor league profile. He puts the ball in play a lot, but with almost a 50% ground ball rate and a 21% HR/fly ball rate last season, I can’t see anyway he hits himself into a meaningful fantasy role.

Middle Infield: Yes, Ozhaino Albies and Dansby Swanson are top tier SS prospects, but ignore them for this season. At this point everyone knows the numbers Erick Aybar puts up and while they’re nothing special, there are leagues deep enough or injuries that occur that make him relevant. Plus, a trade to a SS needy contender (i.e. the Cardinals if Peralta is out longer than expected), could put him in a better lineup and help his counting stats. Then at 2B there is some potential for untapped value. Jace Peterson struggled against lefties in his first round of big league action, but there are reasons for optimism. He’s a former first round pick, who hit for a high AVG throughout the minors and stole plenty of bases along the way. So, if he can figure out lefties or if you can afford to limit his usage to games against rights, he’s about as low cost as it gets and could provide SBs and AVG.

Outfield: I already mentioned Hector Olivera and I think there is some serious potential that he and/or Nick Markakis get traded. At this point in his career, as long as he’s on the Braves, Markakis seems like empty AVG and OBP that is best left as a reserve on your fantasy team. The only exciting option starting the year is Ender Inciarte. Even that line may be overhyping him, which seems likely to happen a lot going into this year’s drafts. He has name recognition thanks to his involvement in the blockbuster trade and stellar defense. However, moving from Arizona to Atlanta will likely put a damper on whatever power growth Inciarte could have shown. So, it leaves a guy that can hit for a good AVG, steal 25 or so bases and score some runs. He could be a fifth OF type in some leagues, but I’d rather have either of the two Kevins (Pillar and Kiermaier) known for their elite defense. They at least have the ability to reach double digit HRs while being near Inciarte’s SB total.

Starting Pitching: After two strong seasons, Julio Teheran struggled in 2015, due mainly to more walks and HRs allowed. Other than that, all of his numbers look in Julio Teheranline with prior years, so I can easily see a 3.60 ERA with good strikeout numbers. Bud Norris has always done a couple of things: get strikeouts and give up home runs. Pitching in the NL should help in both of those areas though. He’s not someone to rely on, but he has potential as a streamer when he can take advantage of weak NL lineups, especially if combined with a decent park for pitchers. The rest of the rotation looks to be mainly young guys with back of the rotation potential. One of them may be turn out to be more, but it’s not worth rostering any of them hoping for it.

Relief Pitching: Prior to rupturing his Achilles, Jason Grilli, was in the midst of an exceptional season, right in line with his 2013 stats. Based on that, if he’s healthy, he has to be the closer to start the year and you may be able to get good strikeouts plus saves, until he gets traded. Once Grilli is moved, Arodys Vizcaino and his high strikeout rate seems like the obvious choice to assume the closer role. So, if you want him, you’ll likely have to get him on your roster before the Braves make their move. Based on how terribly Jim Johnson finished the year and his atrocious 2014, even if he is an option for saves, it’s not worth risking the damage he could do to your team. The one other name to watch as a potential setup arm is Mike Foltynewicz. He’s a former first round pick that hasn’t quite panned out as a starter, but could see success with shorter stints out of the bullpen.

Prospects to Watch: 88 and 57, that’s how many SBs Mallex Smith had in the minors in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Between trades and injuries, there are plenty of avenues to playing time in the OF by mid season. Once he comes up he could up Dee Gordon type numbers. Aaron Blair is the other prospect to watch. His minor league numbers don’t jump off the page, but scouts who get paid to get this information right seem to like him. Plus former college pitchers normally have a shorter path to the big leagues, so I could definitely see him pitching in Atlanta part way through the season and putting up strikeout totals that get our attention.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #4 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss everything fantasy and MLB related in the N.L. East.

Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports, a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and big part of our growing MLFS community.

Come join a lively debate!

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 20th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will break down everything fantasy and MLB relevant for the N.L. Central division.

Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Phil Weiss. Andy is the head baseball coach at Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California, and a veteran owner in MLFS leagues. Phil Weiss’s resume includes working as a CPA with a large public accounting firm as well as private industry (Fortune 500), specializing in international corporate tax planning. Also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Chief Financial Analyst for Independent RIA, responsible for individual securities held in client accounts.

Media Experience:
Frequent guest on CNBC and Bloomberg television. Multiple appearances on Bloomberg radio, local and national radio.
Regularly quoted in Wall Street Journal, Reuters, New York Times, AP, thestreet.com, local news, Financial Times

Fantasy Baseball Experience:
Seasoned fantasy player since college and also a Major League Fantasy Baseball team owner for 3 years.

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