The Braves are entering a season where they will either boom or bust. Last year Atlanta finished 72-90 and never eclipsed a record above .500, but last season was a rebuilding year for the Braves. Their poor record gave them the opportunity to get lots of looks out of their prospects.
Heading into the 2018 season, Atlanta is expecting more of the same. Atlanta has one of the top farm systems in the MLB and you can expect to see some players from it at some point this season.
At times last season, it felt like the Braves were starting to put it together. They got some steady production from players at different points in the season, but they could never do it all at once.
Dansby Swanson Poised For Success?
Swanson was one of those players that struggled throughout the season. The 24-year old shortstop was supposed to make a big leap in 2017, but it never happened. In 144 games last year Swanson finished with a .232 batting average six home runs and 51 runs batted in.
Even with the bad play, Dansby managed to put together a short sample of what everyone was expecting. In June Swanson had a batting average of .306 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. Swanson struggled in July but responded with a strong August as well where he had a .309 average with eight RBIs and four doubles. Those two months of play at the plate are what the Braves are hoping will happen all season for Swanson, but one thing that is certain is that his fielding must improve.
Nobody saw the fielding malfunctions for Swanson coming. He committed 20 errors on the season, and his .965 fielding percentage was under the league average of .973.
2018 will be a big proving year for Swanson. He showed glimpses of his potential, but he is going to have to put together a full season if the Braves want any chance of competing for a postseason spot.
Freddie Freeman Poised For A Big Year
Freddie started off his 2018 red-hot. It seemed like he was on pace to potentially be the NL MVP, but unfortunately, all that was disrupted due to a wrist injury he suffered in a game versus the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 43 games before the injury, Freeman had a .348 batting average, 16 home runs, and 33 RBIs. The Braves were still just barely in contention when he went down, but his injury cut all that short. The Braves traded for Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams to replace Freeman, but that did not work out as planned.
Adams performed well, but when Freeman returned it caused a bunch of problems. Freeman was in and out of third and first base, and his stats took a hit because of it. In the second half of the season, he had an average of .283 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 30 fewer games than his first-half totals.
If Freeman can put in a full season at first base with numbers like he had at the beginning of 2017, the Braves will be sitting in good shape. He has shown that he can be an MVP caliber play, now it is just hoping he can get there again.
Julio Teheran Needs To Find It At Home
Julio Teheran is the Braves ace going into the 2018 season, but if he wants to keep it that way he needs to find out how to pitch at home. At SunTrust Park, last season Teheran had a 5.86 ERA with a 3-10 record. On the road, he was a completely different player. Teheran had a 3.14 ERA with an 8-3 record.
There was a night and day difference between Julio at home and on the road. Headed into his second year at SunTrust Park, Teheran will have to figure out a way to pitch at home. If he can’t get this down, he could be on the move at the trade deadline in 2018.
Addition By Subtraction
As stated earlier the Braves farm system is incredibly deep. Because of this Atlanta can add talent by dumping players. Matt Kemp was sent over to the Dodgers this offseason, and that clears a spot in the outfield for top-prospect Ronald Acuna.
Acuna won’t be called up until later in the year so that the Braves can keep his control, but when that time comes, he is almost a lock to take that spot in the field.
Another move the Braves made last season was getting rid of Jim Johnson. Johnson was awful last season and cost the Braves a lot of games. In 61 appearances last season Johnson only had 22 saves and had an ERA of 5.56. There is no excuse for any closer to having those numbers. Now heading into 2018 Arodys Vizcaino will take over the closing duties and the Braves will be expecting significant improvements.
Boom or Bust?
This is an experimental season for the Braves, and that is why it is boom or bust. The Braves could easily make a run if everyone plays up to their potential, but at the same time, they could flop. I think they will improve their record from last year, but not by much. They will get a lot of production from their young guys, and it will set them up for big things in 2019.
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