After a 68 win season not many expect the Atlanta Braves to make much of an impact in 2017. However, Atlanta should be on the radar as everybody’s dark horse to win it all.
With the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, I figured we would give Atlanta’s other favorite team some love (Sorry Hawks). Atlanta was always regarded as a solid team, but was never expected to outdo the Carolina Panthers, let alone make it this far. Enough with football though, we are here to discuss the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves were pretty bad last season, let’s not mistake that. They tied for the second lowest win total throughout the season, and honestly were laughed at as the season went on. They were inexperienced, inconsistent, and were just destined to lose in 2016. However, this coming season looks much more promising, and we should all be ready for it.
First off, Atlanta is opening a brand new place to play in SunTrust Park. The Braves are not looking to be a repeat of the Miami Marlins and flop in their first season, and chances are they won’t. The Braves arguably have the best farm system in baseball, and some of these guys are already big league ready. That gives the Braves the ability to trade their pieces for an immediate upgrade, or bring up their young guns to succeed now.
Trading them may not be the popular consensus, but it would make them a playoff team in 2017. The Braves have so many guys in the top 100 of prospects that can be dealt for elite guys. Arms like Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, or Justin Verlander could end up in Atlanta. Heck, even guys like Brian Dozier or Ian Kinsler could somehow find themselves in Atlanta’s new ball park. The options are almost limitless, and that is a path Atlanta could take.
The other, smarter, alternative would be to hold onto their young guys and let them develop. They could bring up Sean Newcomb now, and let other guys like Ozzie Albies develop in the minors. Last season the Yankees proved that youth can win games, and the Braves would love that path. Instead of looking for a blockbuster deal, the Braves can make minor moves, or perhaps attempt to land a top free agent. This gives the Braves more flexibility and a longer chance of success.
Whatever route the Braves take however, they should find themselves in a great spot. With Freddie Freeman leading the way, my personal choice for best first baseman, anything is possible. Matt Kemp still produces pretty decent numbers, despite what people may think. Ender Inciarte is a superstar in the making who is already great, and Dansby Swanson is the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year.
Young arms like Newcomb and Wisler will only get better, and the addition of Jaime Garcia will help them. Their pitching may be a bit thin, but with veterans Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey it may get them by. All the Braves need is one or two more pieces, maybe Matt Wieters and a third baseman, and they look like a serious playoff caliber team.
Yes, they play in a tough division behind the Mets and the Nationals, but they have every chance in the world to sneak into a wild card slot. The Mets have had health issues, and the Giants haven’t made the postseason in an odd year since 2003. That leaves the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, with the Marlins likely not repeating their success from last year. We have every reason to think that the Braves can sneak in.
Then from there, well it is October and anything can happen. Obviously, it is an uphill battle for the Braves, and they may not want to be great right away. However, the Braves seem like a formidable dark horse for 2017, and with 100-1 odds, they may be the best upset ever alongside Leicester City.