Baseball is back, and the Atlanta Braves have reported to spring training this week with many new faces once again aligned on the roster. As the Braves continue their rebuilding project, the off-season will hold growing pains. Much of their turmoil will be later effective in accumulating many high draft prospects which contains immense upside. Down below will be the breakdowns of what moves Atlanta made this off-season. Although some were questionable, all of them fit the mold of what the Braves’ front office is trying to sustain…longevity.
Shelby Miller Trade
The move that sent shock waves through the baseball world was when the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from the Braves. The Braves received a massive haul for Miller, starting with last year’s number one draft pick–Dansby Swanson the shortstop of the future. In addition, they got Aaron Blair another highly touted pitching prospect that has a chance to reach the big leagues this season. In the minors last season, Blair posted a 23-13 record, while holding together a 3.22 ERA.
Atlanta obtained a quality outfielder in Ender Inciarte who will likely be the starting center fielder and the lead-off hitter that the Braves have long been searching for. Inciarte is also under team control for the next four seasons. Another great thing is he is only 25 years of age. He could be someone the team can build around along with the several other young guns Atlanta has coming up through the system. Last season, Inciarte batted .292, with a .329 OBP, and stole 40 bases.
The move altogether was absolutely amazing from the Braves perspective, because not only did they add to a flourishing pipeline. But also they were able to add a quality MLB player that can impact the Braves immediately. In all likelihood, this move renewed the faith of many fans, although it could be several years until the deal makes way, it’s important Atlanta sticks with their plan. A plan that consists of acquiring top-tier talent that will be around for a long time, in hope of luring their trade partners into buyers’ remorse down the road.
Many baseball executives were shocked at how much the Braves were able to get for Miller. But, that’s the type of deal you should get for José Fernandez, not Shelby Miller. Miller is a quality pitcher and will fit well around Zach Greinke and the win-now mentality of the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, Arizona just gave up way too much to get him, much to the Braves delight.
The Simmons Trade
The other big move made this off-season was a little harder for fans to accept when the Braves sent away defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. The Braves acquired veteran Erick Aybar as a stopgap for the team until Dansby Swanson is deemed ready. In return, they acquired the Angels’ top two pitching prospects, Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis the crown jewels of the deal.
It’s quite possible that the Angels overpaid for Simmons, especially when considering he hasn’t developed on the offensive side yet. During his four-year career with Atlanta, Simmons batted .256 with 31 home runs and 168 RBIs. The little value he distributes as a hitter is what made him expendable in the Braves eyes. Numerously the Braves believed that they weren’t going to trade their best players unless they were blown away with overall talent and this move was another case of that.
Getting to Know Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis
Newcomb is a 6’5″, 240 pound left-hander with an electric fastball ranging from 93-97 MPH topping out at 99 MPH. In addition to that, he has a change-up and a curveball in his arsenal. At just 22 years of age, many baseball experts say he has ace potential and could be up sometime in 2016. In his minor league career, he was 9-4 with a 2.75 ERA. Newcomb holds tremendous upside and is the perfect piece for the Braves future.
Ellis is a 23-year-old right-hander, and a strong comparison to him is former Brave Kris Medlen. According to scouts, the main intrigue Ellis brings is his strong accuracy, this in itself overpowers his lack of velocity. Ellis is ground ball pitcher (65% of his outs in the minors came from ground balls), this works well because Ellis’ best pitch he commands is change-up. Most of the scouts in the minors believes that he needs a little more time to develop and figuring out his niche is essential, whether that me be as a starter or out of the bullpen. Ellis isn’t as polished as Newcomb, so his window is more destined for 2017.
So what are the Braves’ legit expectations?
No one really expects the Braves to compete in 2016, nor should they. However, the team is definitely ahead of the curve since this rebuilding process began. Young talent is littered throughout this roster and Atlanta should be excited about the future. These two moves made this off-season have sped up the process and could potentially develop their minor leaguers quicker in 2016.
There’s a multitude of unanswered questions with the Atlanta Braves. It may be easier to throw the names out of a hat and pick them at random than to accurately predict what their roster will be long-term. Don’t kid yourself; it’s going to be a long year for the Braves, just as predicted. 68-71 wins is likely their ceiling, but through it all the Braves must seek out patience during the process.