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“On Bzdek” 2017 Team Preview: Atlanta Braves

2016 Recap

The Braves finished last in the NL East in 2016, winning only 68 games. Despite the disappointing result, the Braves finished the year strong going 18-10 in September and October as they closed out the last months of baseball at Turner Field. 2017 will mark the first season in SunTrust Park, the Braves new home field. To generate buzz for the new stadium, the Braves brought in … R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, and Brandon Phillips? Not exactly the flashy names to put butts in seats, but with the MLB’s top farm system the Braves’ focus on adding veteran stop-gaps is a smart approach. Below are all the key transactions of the Braves’ offseason, followed by the projected lineup and bench.

Key Additions

  • A. Dickey (free agent signing)
  • Bartolo Colon (free agent signing)
  • Sean Rodriguez (free agent signing)
  • Jaime Garcia (acquired from STL)
  • Brandon Phillips (acquired from STL)

Key Deletions

  • J. Pierzynski (elected free agency)
  • Max Povse (traded to SEA)
  • Rob Whalen (traded to SEA)
  • Mallex Smith (traded to SEA, who then flipped him to TB)

Projected Lineup

  1. Ender Inciarte – CF
  2. Dansby Swanson – SS
  3. Freddie Freeman – 1B
  4. Matt Kemp – LF
  5. Brandon Phillips – 2B
  6. Nick Markakis – RF
  7. Adonis Garcia – 3B
  8. Tyler Flowers – C

Projected Bench

  • Jace Peterson – IF
  • Kurt Suzuki – C
  • Emilio Bonafacio – Util
  • Chase dArnaud – IF

 

At the top of the lineup is Ender Inciarte. He’s a prototypical leadoff hitter in that he can hit for average, get on base, and swipe a few bags. Expect a near .300 batting average, .335 OBP and upwards of 20 steals and 80 runs. He’s a solid complimentary player for your fantasy lineup. Next is the rookie Dansby Swanson. Swanson impressed in his cup of coffee last September, posting a triple slash of .302/.361/.442 in 38 games. He does not excel in any one area but is a well-rounded player that can steal a base and hit the occasional home run. Drafted out of college, he is more polished than your typical rookie, which raises his floor for 2017. He may be more valuable to the Braves than your fantasy team, but his high floor and ability to contribute in various areas makes him a worthy investment.

The best hitter usually bats third, and that is the case for the Braves with first basemen Freddie Freeman. Freeman is coming off a career year in 2016 where he triple slashed a remarkable .302/.400/.569. Entering his age 27 season there is no reason why he can’t continue to mash. Batting cleanup is Matt Kemp. Kemp is far removed from his 39 homer 40 steal season of 2011, however he still managed 35 home runs in 2016, despite stealing only 1 bag. Kemp’s on-base percentage has been steadily declining and was only .304 in 2016. I’d expect some home runs from Kemp in 2017 but not much more.

Following Kemp are two veterans in Brandon Phillips and Nick Markakis. Both have long histories of solid production but are also on the back end of their careers and their better days are behind them. At age 35 and 33 respectively, both guys can still produce at a rate to bring value to the Braves, however neither are very interesting fantasy options as they have little upside. The same can be said for Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers – not fantasy relevant names but guys who won’t kill the Braves at the plate. On to the pitching…

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Julio Teheran
  2. Bartolo Colon
  3. Jaime Garcia
  4. Mike Foltynewicz
  5. R.A. Dickey

Projected Bullpen

  • Jim Johnson – closer
  • Arodys Vizcaino
  • Mauricio Cabrera (likely to begin season on DL)
  • Ian Krol
  • Josh Collmenter
  • Eric O’Flaherty
  • Jose Ramirez
  • Chaz Roe
  • Joel De La Cruz

Julio Teheran is the team’s ace and deservedly so as he has put up four straight seasons of at least 180 innings with ERAs in the mid to low threes while racking up just under 8 Ks per 9 innings. I would not expect more than 10-12 wins but the other stats provide more than enough value to make Teheran a top 25 pitcher for 2017. Behind Teheran are three veteran starters and youngster Mike Foltynewicz. I’ll start with Folty, as he has the most upside of the bunch. Folty is a hard throwing right hander. His fastball is high 90s and he has a great slider to go along with it. He is a viable strike out pitcher who projects for over 8 Ks/9. The problem is command, as well as lack of a good enough third pitch. For this reason, Folty may be destined for the bullpen, where a fastball/slider combo can be devastating. However, at age 25, he’s worth a late round flyer in your league if you are looking for Ks, and on the chance he puts it all together he will rise in the ranks very quickly.

On to the three vets. Garcia is the youngest of the group, coming in at age 30. He’s had success with the Cardinals in the past but injuries limited his ability to stay on the field. In 2016, Garcia found relatively health, throwing 171.2 innings, his highest mark since throwing 194.2 innings in 2011. Garcia’s ERA last year was 4.67, but the projections have him landing in the high 3s for ERA in 2017. His K rate is solid at just under 8 Ks/9. If he can stay healthy he’s an interesting under the radar option hoping for a bounce back season and he can be drafted very late on draft day.

The other two vets are former CY Young award winners, but those days are long gone. Colon is making the intra-division move to ATL from pitching with the Mets last season. He had success in New York posting 15 wins and a 3.43 ERA in 2016. Colon doesn’t strike many guys out but he won’t walk many either. He relies on the great command of his 88 MPH fastball which can be effective against weaker opponents in pitcher friendly parks, making Colon a good streaming option. Dickey is another former Met joining the Braves staff this year. The knuckleballer struggled in his last seasons with Toronto, but his Cy Young season came when he was last in the NL East, so I think the move back to that division will help him. He is not a guy on many people’s radar as the Ks were down and BBs up last year. He won’t be much value to your fantasy team but he should eat some innings for the Braves.

In the bullpen, Jim Johnson will be closing games. He has experience, logging 154 career saves. While his ERA is not elite for a closer at 3.06, he strikes out about a batter per inning which makes him a viable fantasy option. Johnson is not immune to struggles though, and the arms behind him will be knocking on the door if Johnson gets off to a rocky start. Set-up man Arodys Vizcaio boasted an 11.64 K/9 last year, however his struggles with walks led him to a 4.42 ERA. Nonetheless, he should get plenty of holds opportunities and will provide value with his exceptional K rate. The other reliever of note in the Braves pen is Mauricio Cabrera. He will likely start the season on the DL, but Cabrera throws gas and has touched as high as 103.8 MPH. Like Vizciano, he has some control issues to work on, but anyone throwing that hard will have some success out of the pen.

Prospect Watch

The Braves have the top farm system per Baseball America, so I thought I would spend some additional time discussing their prospects than usual.

Ozzie Albies – SS
Albies is the Braves’ top prospect outside of Dansby Swanson. Like Swanson, Albies is a natural shortstop but can also play second base. He’s shown a strong contact rate in the minors with ability to hit the ball to all fields, as well as a good batters eye and base running skills. In double-A last season he hit .321/.391/.467 before earning a promotion to triple-A. He struggled a bit in triple-A, but at age 19 some growing pains are expected. With Swanson penciled in as the Braves shortstop for time to come, Albies may wind up at second base, making for an exciting young middle infield duo for years to come. Albies should see a full season in triple-A this year but if he continues to impress he could see a late season promotion.

Sean Newcomb – SP

Sean Newco

Newcomb is a lefty starter who features an upper 90s fastball with a plus curve and an average changeup. In 140 innings at double-A last year he struck out 152 batters in 140 innings, however he also walked 71 batters. The command is his biggest issue right now but it is improving. There is no question his stuff is top-notch.  He will start the season in triple-A but could see a promotion if he continues to show improvement with his command. He’s a guy I will be watching this year for a call up.

Kolby Allard – SP
Allard is a left-handed starting pitcher featuring a cutting fastball, a plus curve, and a developing change-up. In 2016 he struck out over a batter per inning across two teams in the low minors. Scouts report he has good feel for pitching and good command. He will see another season or two in the minors but projects as a #2 starter.

Michael Soroka – SP
Soroka is listed at 6’4” 195 lbs. He features a fastball, curveball, and changeup that are all above average. His above average command and ability to keep the ball down in the zone project Soroka as a top of the rotation pitcher. At age 19, he will need a couple of seasons in the minors, but look out for him in 2019.   

Kevin Maitan – SS
Maitan is an international free agent signing out of Venezuela, and another shortstop in the Braves farm system. Only 17, Maitan is recognized for his ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate, however he also possesses a plus arm and athletic ability to make him a plus defender at whatever position he settles in at. Maitan was signed by the Braves last summer for $4.25 million, so the expectations are high with this young fellow. He has yet to play a game in the minors, but is worth monitoring as the potential is sky high.

Final Thoughts

The Braves should be better in 2017 than they were in 2016, but did not do enough to compete for the playoffs. The veterans brought in during the off-season will keep the team from being a bottom dweller during the inaugural season at SunTrust Park and will bridge the gap until the talent in the farm system is ready.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I've been playing fantasy baseball for 14 years. I am also an auditor and CPA, where I analyze information on a daily basis. Combined, my passion for fantasy baseball and analytical background create a unique perspective for analyzing and writing about fantasy baseball.

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