Baseball is officially back with three games to open the season on Sunday and a full slate of games on Monday. The Atlanta Braves open the season against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field. It’s a special year because the final year in Turner Field before the team moves to SunTrust Park.
It’s going to be a fun year seeing the new memories created and reminiscing about the great baseball played at that ballpark during the 2016 season. Let’s take a look at the 25-man roster and my biggest takeaways.
Starting Rotation: Julio Teheran, Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez, Jhoulys Chacín
Bullpen: Jon Gant, Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli, Eric O’Flaherty, Alexi Ogando, Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez, Daniel Winkler
Catchers: AJ Pierzynski, Tyler Flowers
Infielders: Freddie Freeman, Jace Peterson, Gordon Beckham, Kelly Johnson,
Erick Aybar, Adonis Garcia
Outfielders: Jeff Francoeur, Drew Stubbs, Nick Markakis, Hector Olivera, Ender Inciarte
The Biggest Question Mark: The Pitching Staff
The biggest concern for the Braves in 2016 is most definitely the pitching staff and who’s going to get opponents out. The starting rotation had a roller coaster spring, but they all were able finished strong leaving a good taste in their mouth heading into the regular season. Another huge storyline for the pitching staff is the need for a bounce back year from Julio Teheran. He needs to prove the organization was right in holding on to him as his name was bantered about in trade rumors for the past two seasons.
However, The bullpen struggled throughout the spring with the exception of a few guys the team went 6-20-6 and a lot of those losses, and ties were due to blown late leads. I’ve mentioned this multiple times, but the team only has one left-handed reliever and Eric O’Flaherty whom they had to trade for in the late stages of spring training. The fact of the matter is, no one pitched well enough from the left side of the rubber to warrant a roster spot.
Another concern is Jason Grilli and Williams Perez are coming off injuries and you don’t know how they will perform when it really matters. Additionally, they didn’t get as much work in spring training as they would like you to those injuries so that is something to watch for to begin the year.I think our offense will be better this season, if our pitching staff outperforms the projections we will have a pretty good chance to win ball games.
Biggest Surprises: Jeff Francoeur and Drew Stubbs
The Atlanta Braves during this rebuilding process have taken some chances on low-cost veteran players this off-season was no different with a former Brave Jeff Francoeur trying to restart his career where it began. Francoeur came up in 2005 with the baby Braves since then he has bounced around quite a few places. The Braves signed Francoeur to a minor-league deal and gave him one of the many opportunities this roster presented to start spring training.
Francoeur took advantage and forced his way on the roster. He hit a robust .327 with a homer and three doubles. He will provide pop off of the bench and get The starting assignments against the tough lefties. He is also very versatile with the ability to play all three-outfield positions if any of the starters need a day off.
The Braves signed Stubbs with three days to go in spring training. At first I was surprised he made the roster, but the team wanted a right-handed backup center fielder because Inciarte is left-handed and they didn’t want the outfield to become too left-handed heavy.
Stubbs provides speed and he is a very good outfielder, if he can make more contact and put the ball in play he can wreak havoc for opposing pitchers and defenses. He just needs to cut down on the strikeouts big-time it’s the reason he’s bounced around so many places he tries to be more of a power hitter than he is. This move gives Fredi Gonzalez another option off the bench in late game situations with the ability to play match ups.
What I like: Roster Versatility
A trend coming back to baseball is the super utility man the ability of guys to play multiple positions. The Braves roster is full of super utility men in both the position players and the bullpen a great asset for manager Fredi Gonzalez to manipulate his roster to give his team the best chance to win every single night.
The bullpen has three options to close games Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli, who have all had experience finishing games. The Braves can choose which guy they want based on matchups past history or who is the hottest at the time. A luxury many teams don’t have and hopefully the team will take advantage.
This team is full of position players that can play multiple positions Atlanta native Gordon Beckham can play second, shortstop and third. Kelly Johnson can play third, second, first, and left field. Francoeur can play all three-outfield positions.
A very valuable asset for the manager during a 162 game season it provides the ability to withstand some injuries because of the versatility that exist on the roster.
The team might be in a massive rebuild right now, but you look at the 25 man roster as currently constructed there are a ton of veteran guys. Those guys include AJ Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham, Kelly Johnson, Nick Markakis, Jeff Francoeur, and Erick Aybar. These guys have been through it all in their major-league careers and understand what it takes to win baseball games.
The Braves may struggle this year while we wait for the young guys to develop and make the big leagues, but this team will do it the right way and play hard. When the young guys start making their appearances in the show they will be able to lean on all of these veterans picking their brain to make their games better.
An immeasurable asset to this club in a rebuilding process no one can predict what’s going to happen throughout the season who knows maybe we will shock the world!
The Atlanta Braves roster is very interesting just like this season will be. Our opening schedule very unforgiving it’s ranked the hardest of all 30 teams.So buckle your seat belts and remember stay patient Go Braves!