Braves: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

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AL East: BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR

The Braves were very busy during the offseason, signing two starting pitchers and trading for one more. Will this help the fantasy value of the whole team?

The Atlanta Braves have struggled recently, losing at least 93 games over the last two seasons. The team finished first or second in the National League East in the previous five seasons. The front office is rebuilding from two angles.

The Braves have a few prospects that have big-star potential. Two are in the starting lineup and the third is waiting for a spot to open up in the outfield. If a certain veteran outfielder hits poorly in the first half, then I think a switch could be made.

The second angle is signing older pitchers for the starting rotation. The team recently signed two pitchers over 40 years old. They traded for a 31-year-old in December. The two remaining spots belong to two 25-year-olds that have been developed in the system.

The Braves offense did not produce a lot of power. They finished last in home runs, 29th in runs scored, and 29th in RBI. The batters made good contact, finishing 19th in average and 16th in on-base percentage.

The starting pitching and offense were carried by one player. The Braves fans and fantasy owners are hoping that more players break out and compete in the NL East. The division doesn’t feature the best offenses, so the Braves could finish second or third instead of fourth or fifth.

There is just one player ranked inside my top 50 and a couple of more that fall just outside my top 100. Then, there are a few players worth taking a flyer on later in the draft.

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The Braves starting rotation is going to look a little different in 2017. Of the five that made at least 11 starts last season, two of them are in the rotation this season. Julio Teheran and Mike Foltynewicz.

The Braves signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey within days of each other. The fifth member of the rotation is Jaime Garcia.

Teheran is clearly the best pitcher of the five. He finished with a 3.21 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and 7-10 record. He also struck out 167 in 188 innings. I don’t take the wins to heart because you should be using quality starts anyway.

Colon doesn’t seem like he’ll ever retire. At age 43, he had his best season in three years with the New York Mets. He went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.210 WHIP. The Mets had a lot of injuries to their rotation, and Colon was the most consistent option.

The Mets had a lot of injuries to their rotation, and Colon was the most consistent option. He isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher, 128 in 191.2 innings, but does induce a lot of groundballs, 43 percent.

Foltynewicz ranks outside of my top-60 starting pitchers. He is a good strikeout pitcher, 111 in 123.1 innings, but has trouble with control. Foltynewicz had a 4.31 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, and 4.24 FIP. He is my sleeper in this rotation.

Dickey and Garcia are not worth drafting in standard leagues.

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The Braves have two solid options anchoring their bullpen, Arodys Vizcaino and Jim Johnson.

The team actually entered the season with a three-headed bullpen monster, adding Jason Grilli to the mix. But, Grilli was traded and Vizcaino took over the closer role. He finished with 10 saves, 4.42 ERA, and 1.629 WHIP. He had a 50:26 K:BB ratio in 38.2 innings.

Johnson currently sits atop the depth chart with Vizcaino taking the set-up role. Johnson had a 3.06 ERA, 1.191 WHIP and 20 saves. He had 68 strikeouts and 20 walks in 64.2 innings.

He ranks outside my top-25 relief pitchers, but not because of his skill. It’s from the lack of save opportunities. Unless the offense turns it around and the rotation can hand a lead over to the bullpen, I think 20 saves is the cap.

I also think Vizcaino will spell Johnson every so often, taking away for save chances. It’s a platoon bullpen, but like every platoon, helps no one involved.

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The Braves were linked to bringing back veteran catcher Brian McCann, but he ended up being traded to the Houston Astros. Now, they are stuck with Tyler Flowers.

First baseman Freddie Freeman had his best season to date. He hit 34 home runs, 91 RBI and .302. It was the first time he hit over .300 and 30 home runs. Freeman is still only 26 years old. With some of the options on offense, I think another similar season is possible. He is my No. 9 first baseman.

Jace Peterson hit .254 with seven homers and 29 RBI. He is outside my top-20 second baseman. He doesn’t do anything for me in standard leagues.

Dansby Swanson has the potential to be an elite shortstop for years. He is my No. 11 shortstop now and could go even higher. He isn’t much of a power hitter, but hitting .300 atop the Braves lineup will his run and the others’ RBI totals.

Adonis Garcia is at third base. There isn’t much t say here. He’s good, but there are plenty of better options. He hit .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI. I like him in an NL-only league.

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Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are the Braves starting outfield. One of these three is not like the other. Inciarte is just 26 while the other two are in their mid-30s.

Inciarte is a speedy outfielder. He hit .291 with 16 stolen bases. Speed can be found late, but combination of speed and contact is value. Having Swanson and Inciarte hitting in the first and second spots of the lineup could benefit everyone.

Kemp only played in 56 games. He did hit .280 and 12 home runs in that short amount of time. If he can play a full season, then I think the Braves offense will be better than last season.

Markakis is a deep outfield option. I like his power in the middle of the Braves lineup. The 11-year veteran can still produce.

Mallex Smith is patiently waiting for his chance. We saw what he could do on the base path. In 72 games, he hit .238/.316/.365 with 16 steals. He is someone to draft in the later rounds.

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The Braves have been rebuilding for a couple of years. This could be the season where things start to turn around.

Freeman will look to improve on his career season. The Swanson and Inciarte will be a great combination of 40 steals at the one and two spots. They are two players that will attract a lot of attention.

The rotation is the only thing that concerns me. Can you seriously trust Colon for another season? Teheran is the ace and will be a top-25 starting pitcher. Draft him in the middle rounds with upside.