Atlanta Braves, MLB

Atlanta Braves Off-Season Overview

Baseball is back! The Atlanta Braves reported to spring training this week with many new faces once again, as we continue this rebuilding project. This off-season was once again painful, but effective in accumulating many high upside prospects that have the potential to become stars at the MLB level!

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Shelby Miller Trade 

The move that sent shockwaves through the baseball world was when the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from the Braves. The Braves got a massive haul for Miller starting with last year’s number one draft pick Dansby Swanson the shortstop of the future. In addition, they got Aaron Blair another highly touted pitching prospect that has a chance to reach the big leagues this season.

Minors Career 5 teams 23-13 Record 3.22 ERA635701805985458631-blair

 

Lastly, they got a quality outfielder in Ender Inciarte who will likely be the starting center fielder and the lead-off hitter I think they been looking for. Inciarte is also under team control for the next four seasons. Another great thing is he is only 25 years of age. He could be someone the team can build around along with these other young guns we have coming up through the system.

Career Stats:.292 BA .329 OBP .386 SLG 40 SB<> at Chase Field on April 25, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.

This move was absolutely amazing from the Braves perspective because not only did they add to a flourishing pipeline, but also they were able to add a quality MLB player that can help us right away. I think this move renewed faith of many fans because although it might be a long couple of years the team has a vision and are sticking to it.

Acquiring top-tier talent that will be around for a long time hoping to make their trade partners experience buyers’ remorse down the road. Many baseball executives were shocked at how much the Braves were able to get for Miller.

That’s the type of deal you should get for José Fernandez not Shelby Miller. He is a quality pitcher and will fit well with Zach Greinke and the win-now mentality of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They just gave up way too much to get him, much to the Braves delight.

The Simmons Trade

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Chris Ellis (Left) Sean Newcomb (Right)

The other big move made this off-season was a little harder for fans to accept when we traded defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. The Braves acquired veteran Erick Aybar as a stopgap for the team until Dansby Swanson is deemed ready. They were also able to get the Angels top two pitching prospects as well, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis the crown jewels of the deal.

Many baseball people feel the Angels overpaid because Simmons hasn’t developed on the offensive side of the ball hitting just, .256 with 31 home runs and 168 RBI’S in his four-year career. That’s what made him expendable in the Braves eyes, they’ve said all along they weren’t going to trade their best players in less they were blown away and this move was another case of that.

Sean Newcomb

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Newcomb is a 6’5 240 pound left-hander with an electric fastball ranging from 93-97 MPH topping out at 99 MPH. In addition to that, he has a changeup and a curveball in his arsenal, at just 22 years of age, many baseball experts say he has ace potential and could be up sometime in 2016. In his minor league career, he was 9-4 with 2.75 ERA. A guy with a ton of upside and will get a chance to impress as he was given an invite to spring training.

Chris Ellis

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Ellis is a 23-year-old right-hander, I would compare them to former Brave Kris Medlen because scouts say he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but has a really good changeup and is a ground ball pitcher just like Medlen. They say he needs a little more time to develop and figure out his niche whether he should be a starter or out of the bullpen. He possibly could contribute in 2016, but more likely 2017.

Ellis doesn’t sound as polished as Newcomb, but still has great upside and could be a great asset for the Braves moving forward. He will also get an opportunity to impress the staff as he got an invite to spring training as well.

Conclusion

No one expects the Braves to compete in 2016, nor should we, but the team is definitely ahead of the curve since this rebuilding process began. Young talent is littered throughout this roster and we should be excited about the future. These two moves made this off-season have sped up the process and we may see some of these guys to start the 2016 season, depending on how they perform in spring training.

There’s so many unanswered questions with the Atlanta Braves it may be easier just to throw the names and a hat and pick them out than to try to predict this year’s roster! However, it will be fun to see how these young guys develop and perform as they try to prove that they belong amongst MLB’s best. Don’t kid yourself; it’s going to be a long year it’s predicted between 68 and 71 wins. A piece of advice for Braves fans everywhere patience is the key.

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Carolina Panthers, NFL

Turning the Page: Poised to be Great Again

The Carolina Panthers fell a little short of the ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi trophy falling to the Denver Broncos 24-10. It was a game filled with what if’s and missed opportunities. I think I speak for all of Panther nation when I say I wish we could go back in time and fix the critical errors that ultimately cost us the game. However, that is not possible the worst thing about sports is someone has to lose and unfortunately we did not play up to our ability and suffered the consequences of that.

Despite the loss it was an incredible season to witness and be a part of! 2016 has a chance to be equally as amazing with a slightly different result at the end. The motivation couldn’t be higher for this organization to continue the journey to become the champion of the NFL! Here are three reasons it could be even better for the Panthers in 2016.

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The Return of Kelvin Benjamin

In sports, when one of your star players goes down with an injury, then returns it’s like making a big trade, but it doesn’t cost you anything. That’s going to happen for the Panthers next season as Kelvin Benjamin is set to return from his ACL injury he suffered in training camp before the season. It’s going to be a huge addition to an already potent offense.

In his rookie season he set records for receptions (73), yards (1008), and (9) touchdowns. This is going to be a huge shot in the arm and just another weapon for defenses to plan for. It’s a dream situation, I think because Cam Newton was able to build trust and confidence in his other wide receivers helping the entire offense mature and develop chemistry. Adding Benjamin to the mix creates mismatches and allows for creativity with the offense because defenses can’t double-team as frequently when Benjamin is on the football field.  The sky’s the limit for this offense, I can’t wait to see it!

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Another Year Older

The experience factor is just if not more important than the talent on the roster. This season so many young guys were able to gain valuable experience showing themselves and the coaching staff they belong. Those guys include Devin Funchess and Shaq Thompson rookies that were key contributors to our success. In Funchess’s case, he had to grow up a little faster due to injury and was able to do that making many important catches to help us win games. It’s going to be fun to see the twin towers Benjamin and Funchess develop into a great one-two punch with Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn JR, and Philly Brown alongside.

A lot of us were scratching our heads when we selected Thompson 25th overall out of the University of Washington. He has shown he has the ability to turn into a dynamic every down defender. He had some bone crushing hits this season that made me smile and understand why we made the selection. Those are just two young guys that benefited from great experience this season.

The experience was not only great for the rookies, but for the entire team from the top down. Experience shows you how to handle big moments, success and failure no one can take that away from them. Knowledge is the gift that keeps on giving, especially in football because you can go into your memory bank and see how you handled a situation on or off the field. Making them better prepared when they are in that situation again.

Being a year older will greatly benefit everyone that’s a part of this team on and off the field it’s amazing what experience will do for football players. The Panthers will benefit greatly from what they experienced this year!

DAVE_GETTLEMAN_06Young Core

Lastly, this roster is built for the long run with our core players being young starting with quarterback Cam Newton (26) and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (24) captains of the offense and defense respectively.

This team has built well through the draft in recent years Newton and Kuechly included, but here are some other guys that have developed into great NFL players and will be around for a while. Defensive tackles Kawann Short (27),  Star Lotulelei (26), Cornerback Josh Norman (28). Those are just a handful of guys that are just entering their prime and shows you can build a winner through the draft as we have.

I’m really hoping we are able to lock up these guys because they are really good and like GM Dave Gettleman said “I don’t want to develop these guys for other teams.” I’m very confident that we will be able to get those deals done while continuing to make improvements to our roster. Gettleman has the pulse of the team and understands what we need to make it over that last hurdle. It’s been exciting to see us develop this winning culture over the past handful of seasons. The Queen City will be roaring once again in 2016 I have no doubt. Go Panthers! Keep Pounding!

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