2015 Stats: 200 2/3 innings pitched, 4.04 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 1.1 WAR; Breakdown: After relinquishing his position as Atlanta’s de facto ace to Shelby Miller last season, Teheran returns to the spotlight after an up-and-down 2015 campaign. Aside from a slight increase in his strikeout rate, the soon-to-be 25-year-old’s numbers plummeted to career-worst marks across the board. Though his second half offered more promise —he produced right around his career averages — Teheran will need to return to 2014 levels of production (and more) if he’s going to anchor this staff heading into SunTrust Park. Significant improvement is not only needed, it is expected.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
Erick Aybar, Shortstop
2015 Stats: .270/.301/.338, 15 stolen bases, 1.0 WAR; Breakdown: From the moment the Braves acquired the veteran shortstop in the Andrelton Simmons trade, Coppolella has proclaimed Aybar to be an offensive upgrade. It’s a safe assumption considering both players’ career numbers, but Atlanta’s newest shortstop will need a bounce-back season after posting his worst offensive numbers since 2010. Last season, Aybar’s on-base percentage was lower than Simmons’ mark and he hit for near-identical power. The 31-year-old is set to become a free agent — likely clearing the path for top prospects Dansby Swanson or Ozhaino Albies — but baseball’s lowest-scoring offense will need more from the position in 2016.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn
Tyler Flowers, Catcher
2015 Stats: .239/.295/.356, nine home runs, 0.4 WAR; Breakdown: Flowers, an original Braves draft pick, has never been known for his bat. After posting excellent minor-league numbers at the plate, he’s never hit at league average in seven MLB seasons, serving more as a defensive backup until recently in Chicago. And while Flowers will presumably open the season as A.J. Pierzynski’s backup and help along a young rotation — something he did well with the White Sox — the front office has made it clear that starting a 39-year-old catcher for 140 games is not in the cards. Flowers, working on a two-year deal, has an opportunity to become a valuable member of the clubhouse as it transitions to SunTrust Park, but he’ll need to hit if he wants to become a consistent presence in the lineup.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Jace Peterson, Second Base
2015 Stats: .239/.314/.335, 12 stolen bases, 1.1 WAR; Breakdown: The only rookie on this list, Peterson’s ’15 campaign was an unexpected success. The 25-year-old stole the second-base job in spring training and even worked his way to the top of the order for parts of the season. However, he lost the job in the second half (69 weighted runs created plus), and with talents like Albies making their way up the pipeline, the 2016 season is a pivotal one for the McNeese State product. Plus, the Braves have plenty of replacement options after signing Gordon Beckham, Kelly Johnson and Emilio Bonifacio this offseason. Peterson proved he can compete at the major-league level last season, but now he’ll have to prove he deserves to be a part of the franchise’s future.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
Bud Norris, Starting Pitcher
2015 Stats: 83 innings pitched, 6.72 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 0.0 WAR; Breakdown: The Norris signing makes more sense in light of the Shelby Miller trade, a buy-low transaction similar to the strategy the franchise has employed with its bullpen, but Norris needs to turn things around — whether he’s a veteran presence or midseason trade option. The 30-year-old right-hander posted 9.6 wins above replacement from 2010 to 2014, but last season was forgettable at best with the Orioles and Padres. If Norris can not improve upon his replacement-level numbers, he could (and should) be quickly supplanted by one of the organization’s many upcoming arms.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsEvan Habeeb
Hector Olivera, Left Field/Third Base
2015 Stats: .253/.310/.405, two home runs, -0.1 WAR; Breakdown: Hector Olivera, regardless of position, has to produce for the franchise’s 2015 deadline blockbuster to pan out. Last year was a whirlwind for Olivera — not only moving from place to place, but also dealing with injuries — so his decent-but-underwhelming MLB debut was understandable. Olivera is under club control through at least the 2020 season, though, and while his contract never reaches “unmovable” status ($4 million in 2016), the fact that Atlanta gave up Alex Wood and Jose Peraza to acquire him means there is inherent pressure on the Cuban product to become a middle-of-the-lineup threat. The position quandary has stolen offseason headlines, but his bat remains the crux of the deal.