The 2015 Braves: Predicament and Predictions

3817950365_097dcf2315_oNote: If this post had been published at 12PM EDT on Sunday as I originally intended, the tone would have been quite different and maybe more optimistic.

I didn’t have high hopes for the season after the trades of mainstays like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis. I knew the eye was focused on the future and the team was looking to acquire young minor league talent, free up money, and look totally different come 2017 when they move into SunTrust Park.

Around 6:45 PM as I was enjoying my Sunday meal I saw a text from my homie Jon and tweets about the Braves trading closer Craig Kimbrel and BJ Melvin Upton for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin, the Padres top pitching prospect Matt Wisler, and young minor league OF Jordan Paroubeck.

Sure, they got from under the Upton contract in the trade, acquired more outfield depth in Maybin and added Paroubeck, a pitcher who could be in the majors as soon as next year, but a few things don’t sit right with me.

Kimbrel would’ve been under contract until 2017 and was probably the steadiest player on the roster. General Manager John Hart intimated a few times during the offseason that Kimbrel wouldn’t be moved. Quite peculiar. From a rational view I can see why Kimbrel was traded though, trading a guy with high value at a volatile position netted us some more pieces for the future and avoided the potential headache of contract negotiations down the road.

Luckily and maybe by design, the Braves have veterans in Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson with closer experience who could be used interchangeably in save situations.

The Season

On the major league level the cupboard is relatively bare. Stopgaps, reclamation projects, and a few promising young players make up most of the 25 man roster.

As always the starting pitching is the Braves strength. Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and offseason acquisition Shelby Miller will be counted on to be the horses in the rotation. Eric Stults, Trevor Cahill and Mike Minor, when he returns from injury will round out the rotation. I’m worried about the back end of the rotation, despite Stults’ strong spring. It remains to be seen how the bullpen will perform, things were solid with Kimbrel, but it muddies the situation with Grilli and Johnson possibly closing.

Depth_Chart_braves.com_Team_-_2015-04-06_11.48.51Half of the Braves positions (C, 2B, LF, CF) will see some type of platoon situation this season. Veteran AJ Pierzynski and the highly touted Christian Bethancourt will be behind the plate. Excluding Nick Markakis holding down rightfield, there will be quite a few combinations in the outfield. Jonny Gomes and Kelly Johnson in left and Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr. in centerfield. Phil Gosselin may get some spot duty in the outfield as well. As those dizzying alignments show, this team will be evaluated on a year to year basis for the next 2-3 years.

I’m looking forward to seeing a bounce back season from Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons at the plate and a semblance of 2013 for Chris Johnson. I’d also like to see breakout performances from Jace Peterson, Josh Outman, and Jason Grilli.

With all that said, I’m still a Braves fan through and through, and I’ll catch at least 3 games as I do every year. In my lifetime, we’ve been by spoiled by a nearly two decade run of success followed by a few playoff appearances the past 5 years. In any sector in life, it’s hard to live in a present littered with uncertainty. especially when there aren’t too many tangible positives on the horizon. There’s no doubt fellow Braves fans, it’s a dark time, but we’ll get through it.

Now Predictions….

BA: Nick Markakis, .297

HR: Freddie Freeman, 28

RBI: Freddie Freeman, 104

Runs: Andrelton Simmons, 105

ERA: Alex Wood, 2.95

Wins: Julio Teheran, 16

Losses: Julio Teheran, 13

Saves: Jason Grilli, 28

Record: 75-87

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