Atlanta Braves: Can the Braves Return to Contention this Season?

Aug 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) collects his first major league base hit against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (2) collects his first major league base hit against the Minnesota Twins during the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Are the Atlanta Braves ready to compete in 2017?

The Atlanta Braves have been very active this off-season moving around minor league players and adding in major league talent like Sean Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, and R.A. Dickey. With the new additions to their team and the young talent in their system, how far are the Braves from competing?

Adding in veteran arms to a rotation that is led by Julio Teheran has improved the team for sure but to think that the new additions make this Braves team a contender would be dead wrong. The Braves will be counting on an offense that struggled for the majority of last season and could take a step back this year with veteran outfielders Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis both getting a year older and further away from the prime of their respective careers.

It is also only fair to mention the offensive surge that the Braves had the last two months of the season. Once rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson and veteran outfielder Matt Kemp were added to the team the offense clicked and made up for the Braves lack of pitching carrying the team down the stretch and piling up runs along the way. It is hard to guess which version of their lineup the Braves will see in the 2017 season.  Jace Peterson, Adonis Garcia, and young shortstop Dansby Swanson are all question marks offensively and could help this offense swing in either direction.

The Braves’ bullpen looks to be their strong point headed into the 2017 season with plenty of arms capable of throwing later innings in games. Jim Johnson currently sits as the projected closer with plenty of insurance behind him.  Jordan Walden and Eric O’Flaherty have been added to the team as well on minor league deals that could make the bullpen very deep if they manage to bounce back to the form they had a couple of seasons ago as Braves’ relievers.

The deciding factor as to whether or not the Braves will be able to compete for postseason play in 2017 will be their pitching staff. While on the surface they may have appeared to get better by adding two free agents and trading for Jaime Garcia from an unbiased perspective the Braves added two 40+ year old pitchers and an injury prone Garcia to eat innings is not much improvement. Their farm system though loaded has no one ready to compete at a Major League level and though Dickey and Colon both are capable of keeping their teams in game and eating innings they are not the makings of a postseason rotation when they expect to slot into the 2 and 3 spots of the rotation.

Adding Bartolo Colon may be a popular move with the fans and should bring more people to the new stadium but in reality it is not one that is going to help the Braves return to postseason this year. They are remaining patient with their farm system and opting to wait it out one more year hoping that they will find their own Chris Sale or Brian Dozier within their farms system and until then remain content to be patient for yet another season.

Next: Players the Braves Need to Add

While the worst of the rebuild is behind us, it is not over yet and the team is still not ready to return to postseason contention. The Braves are building a team that will compete for many years to come, the problem for impatient Braves’ fans will be that they are still not quite there yet.