The Atlanta Braves are repeating their own history with their current rebuild that is setting them up to compete long term in a very short time.
I was 10 years old in 1982 when I first fell in love with the Atlanta Braves. I’ve been through both the highs (1991-2005 when we were highly competitive) and the lows (1985-1990, 2015-2016 when we had no chance/were rebuilding). I’ll never forget that 1991 magical season..how I felt ‘rewarded’ after staying loyal and religiously following The Braves via WTBS (and reading up on the prospects in The Sporting News and Baseball America) during the lean Major League 1985-1990 seasons.
The end of the 1990 season appeared to be no different than previous off-seasons. However, we had a plethora of young pitching..to go along with a rising David Justice. John Schuerholz wisely decided to use free agency to sign Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard, and Deion Sanders. Along with making an astute trade to acquire Otis Nixon from The Expos at the end of Spring Training.
Originally, the hope was that Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, Lucas Sims, and Sean Newcomb were going to be primed to compete for rotation spots in 2017. However a combination of ineffectiveness and control issues among that foursome along with the surprisingly robust performance of our offense the last two months of 2016 as well as the opening of SunTrust Park forced Braves GM John Coppolella to sign/trade for some veteran starting pitching that appeared to convey hope that 2017 will have The Braves possibly competing for a playoff spot.
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Regardless, it appears that the long term plan is to bide time for our plethora of high ceiling young starting pitching talent (all of whole will start the season at Double A and below) to develop/work their way up to Atlanta and continue a strategy of mass drafting young, high ceiling starting pitchers!
It’s tough to pinpoint which prospects will make it and which will get hurt or prove to be ineffective. That’s why Coppolella’s mass volume strategy of drafting and acquiring pitching talent should be applauded. All our eggs are not in one basket. As good as John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, David Justice and company were they were only the 1st wave of several highly talented prospects who played a key role in our 15 year run of success!
The next two seasons should give us a good idea of what needs we should address in what looks to be a highly loaded 2018 Offseason Free Agent Class. If Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson show that they are the real deals, then they will join Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman as locks in our lineup for 2019. Matt Kemp will have one year left on his contract while Nick Markakis will be a free agent after the 2018 season.
We’ll have two seasons for someone to rise up or for Coppy to make trades that addresses who will be our long term catcher, 3rd baseman, left and right fielder…before deciding who in Free Agency we need to target. Braves management will have plenty of money to spend should we emulate what we did after The 1990 season!
While the next two seasons could turn out to be surprisingly competitive, realistic Braves fans should look to 2019 as the year we potentially begin another 15 year run of excellence. The temptation is to accelerate the rebuild. Coppy did not tear a veteran laden team after The 2014 season and spend the following two years rebuilding what looks to be a stellar Minor League System…..only to sacrifice a potential 15 year run of competing for championships to chase a pipe dream of contending in 2017 and 2018.
All Braves fans are up for a pleasant surprise and will root for The Braves to win games in the upcoming season in what looks to be a beautiful ballpark. What I don’t want to see happen, is to see us having to repeat a rebuild 5 years from now! Long time Braves fans will remember that we lost our asses off from 1985-1990 at The Major League Level while Bobby Cox used high draft picks and savvy trades to set the table for The 1991 season. 2017 will only be year three of the current rebuild. Two more drafts like The 2015-2016 Drafts would be ideal in setting the table for The Braves to begin another 15 year run of Braves Baseball!