Beginning this season, the Atlanta Braves are now playing at a ballpark (SunTrust Park) other than Turner Field for the first time since 1997. So it is in with the new, out with the old type scenario for the iconic Atlanta franchise who seemingly dominated the NL East in the 90’s. The Braves have some bright days ahead with their young stars like Dansby Swanson and Eder Inciarte. It’s just a matter when those bright days will translate into wins. Some say they are still in re-building mode, while others believe they have only just begun as far as talent and look to compete this season and beyond.
Last season, questionable decisions were made within the organization when Andrelton Simmons (2x Gold Glove Award winner) was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Erick Aybar and a couple of top pitching prospects. Simmons was highly touted for his flashy plays and defensive wizardry, being tagged as arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game today. So why would the franchise trade such a defensive gem for a lesser player and prospects? The answer very quickly became Dansby Swanson, at least defensively for the time being (.139 AVG, 1HR, 3RBI’s currently in 2017). After being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Vanderbilt University and traded to Atlanta, Swanson was expected to move quickly through the Braves organization, and was the opening day starter at shortstop this season. Swanson is the lone rookie on the team, and already considered a front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year.
In addition to Swanson being the future in the infield for the Braves, Ender Inciarte is the future in the outfield. Inciarte is already known for his flashy speed and highlight reel plays. To start the season, Inciarte is currently hitting .208 and already has matched his homerun total for 2016 with 4 long balls. Defensively, he rose above all in 2016, claiming his first of what seems to be many NL Gold Glove Awards.
Along with the young prospects the Braves have in their everyday lineup, they have a very veteran type presence in the likes of Matt Kemp (acquired in a trade from the San Diego Padres), Brandon Phillips (4x Gold Glove Award winner), and Freddie Freeman (7HR’s to start the season through 18 games). Atlanta’s pitching staff appears to be a question mark for the time being. The Braves seem to have a true ace in Julio Teheran (2x All-Star, 3.36 career ERA). After Teheran it seems to be questionable, Bartolo Colon(1-2, 4.50 ERA in 4 starts this season) and R.A. Dickey(1-2, 3.86 ERA in 3 starts this season) are veterans who look to have flashbacks to their younger career when they were aces themselves. Both of them will look to continue the trend of “age is just a number.” Jim Johnson(1-2 record, 3.52 ERA) has been up and down in recent years and hopes to regain form in the tune of his 2012-2013 seasons where he tallied a total of 101 saves.
With SunTrust Park’s opening in Atlanta this season, the Atlanta Braves hope to start the 2017 off right and turn the clocks back to their supremacy in the 90’s once again. With a tough division comprised of the Mets and Nationals, the Braves seem to have a slight uphill battle. Will Dansby Swanson, Eder Inciarte and Julio Teheran be enough to contend for the division, or will Bobby Cox need to return and resurrect the Braves back to the Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Greg Maddux days of the 90’s?