Good morning to all of you in the enormous Braves universe. We are 1 day closer to Spring Training and late February when pitchers and catchers report to Florida. There is a countdown clock available for all of those counting down the months, weeks, and days. It’s very similar to a Christmas countdown calender which are everywhere, this is a baseball version. That makes it much cooler by definition.
The Atlanta Braves have had a very busy off season and there are many reasons to be excited in the Braves organization. The Braves have made some great trades, and have signed key free agents. A lot of the focus to the Braves off season seems to be focused on pitching and bullpen relief. The Braves have also added some key offensive players as well. Also as I have mentioned in some previous articles the trading deadline isn’t over until late July. Let’s not forget the Braves did not make a trade for Matt Kemp until later in the 2016 season. Luckily 2016 is almost done with and I’ve already started making my 2017 calender which is filling up quickly. Matt Kemp helped ignite a spark in the Braves line-up in 2016. Brian Snitker lead the Braves to a great season ending 2nd half of the season.
Snitker was the leader, the manager the Braves desperately needed. Freddie Gonzalez had his moment was the Braves manager and lead the Braves to a post season series. Gonzalez seem to lose control of the clubhouse which had also had many injuries in 2016. Freddie Freeman was swinging a very hot bat in 2016 as he took the reigns as the face of the Braves. In August of 2016 very few teams wanted to pitch to Freeman or even play the Braves. Nick Markakis was solid as the hitter following the very productive Freeman and Kemp in the number 5 spot in the line. The Braves also added Dansby Swanson to their lineup. Swanson primarily hit in the bottom of the order as Brian Snitker worked his way to the major league level. Swanson not only proved he was ready for the major leagues but he can excel in it as well. Swanson will work his way up in the lineup as he has proved his speed on the bases. Having him but in the number 2 spot in the lineup will set up Freeman hitting in the number 3 spot in the rotation.
The Braves have seemed to find their lead off hitter and their new center fielder in Ender Inciartre. Inciatre made the most of his chance when Mallex Smith went on the disabled list. Smith is still on the 25 man roster which is exciting. The Braves have added Sean Rodriguez to their lineup and he has proven his offensive productivity in the majors. The Braves also have Jace Peterson and Chase d’Armaud on the bench. Both players have added sparks to the Braves lineup in 2016, and Rio Ruiz has shown he is ready to play in the majors. Behind the plate the Braves have Tyler Flowers, Anthony Recker, and Tuffy Gosewisch. I will not go into the pitching depth in the Braves bullpen, I’ll do that in another article. Just seeing the offensive potential the Braves lineup is very exciting. I’ll control my enthusiasm even though I’m very tempted to write more.
Looking at the National League East it is going to be an exciting division. It can be argued it will be the best division in baseball. That is a matter of opinion. On paper all the divisions will be very competitive. The American League East with the Boston Red Soxs, New York Yankees, and the Baltimore Orioles looks interesting. The Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies all have added players to their rosters. Picking a team to be the clear favorite to win the NL East is saying you have inside knowledge of a coin flip. The MLB Network seems to love the Mets and the Nationals but that is to be a expected. Let’s never forget the MLB Network’s head offices are in New York. I’d call that a biased opinion but I’m sure my pick of the Atlanta Braves seems biased to readers who do not live in the South. One thing for sure is the NL East will come down to which teams are playing the best baseball in August and September 2017. Injuries might decide who will win the NL East title. The managers of the teams will make their lineup cards and their call ups to their 40 man rosters in August. Trades will be made in the division and no one knows how each player will be productive in the dog days of summer. Numbers will be broken down and educated guesses will be everywhere. I’m on the edge of my seat for the upcoming 2017. Not just in baseball but a new beginning with a new calendar. I have my dates already marked but as 2016 has shown us, nothing is a given in life or sports. The only things promised in 2017 is God is in control and things will happen as He sees fit. Sun Trust Park is just about ready and so am I. Play ball, almost. GO BRAVES!!!!!