Spring Training is here, which means baseball is back. The Atlanta Braves pitchers and catchers will report to camp on Friday marking the start of the season.
After a slow offseason, the Atlanta Braves are going to go to battle with pretty much the same squad as last season. And that’s not a bad thing considering this Braves team won the NL East. The goal this season will be more than just winning the division again. So did the Braves do enough this offseason for the team to go further?
The Braves were made up of a young core last season. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis were the veterans that were here to help these young guys mature, but the core was made up of Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ronald Acuna Jr., Sean Newcomb, and Mike Foltynewicz. Another year under the belt for all of those players will be positive, but it’s no guarantee that those young players will replicate the performance from last season.
The Braves can hope to get the same production, but the rest of the league has more tape on these younger players than last season. That means there could be a big regression upcoming for the Braves this season.
The Braves weren’t completely silent this offseason. Atlanta added Josh Donaldson, Brian McCann, and resigned Nick Markakis. That’s it. No pitching, which was the Braves biggest hole. We have to assume the origination felt comfortable going forward with Newcomb, Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman, Julio Tehran, and whatever young player steps up for that fifth rotation spot, whether that is Mike Soroka or Touki.
That staff is worrisome going into the new season. The Braves are still missing the top of the rotation ace that a team needs to go far in October. Maybe one of the young guys step up into that position, but the Braves can’t count on that happening. Dallas Keuchel is still unsigned so there is a chance he finds his way to Atlanta, but with Spring Training starting this week that doesn’t seem like the case.
Adding Josh Donaldson to the Braves lineup is an exciting prospect. Donaldson is a former MVP on a “prove it to me” one-year deal. If he can stay healthy and be productive, Donaldson could be in line for a big payday. If he is injury plagued, like he has been most of his career, we could be seeing a lot of Johan Camargo at third. Brian McCann is coming to this team to be the calming veteran voice along with Freeman and Markakis. McCann will come in with his World Series ring to show this team what it takes to get deeper in the playoffs. McCann is past his everyday playing schedule but should be a valuable member of the clubhouse for these young players.
The Braves are a solid team. That might be all they are. The Phillies and Mets improved this offseason while the Braves stood pat. And with the possibility of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado finding their way to the Phillies, the Braves repeating as NL East champions are less likely. Atlanta is betting on young talent to carry them to the same success. That could be a gamble for the Braves in their quest to go deeper into the playoffs.
I believe in Acuna and Albies. I just don’t like putting the team on their backs completely. Those two players are capable of carrying a team by themselves, we saw that last season, but to ask them to do it again is a lot. The offseason isn’t technically over yet, so let’s hope there is more coming down the pipeline for the Braves.