Seemingly every year, a team comes from nowhere to contend; which sleeper teams have the potential to surprise the MLB world this season?
In Major League Baseball, there is a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots. The Have-nots can contend for a few years at a time if they are able to develop and grow the right prospects. When it’s time for those homegrown stars to test the market, MLB teams have begun taking an NBA-like approach, stripping their roster down to the studs and accepting a few years of losing.
It has become much harder for a real “sleeper” team to emerge in a given year, but one always seems to make a mark. The Cleveland Indians were supposed to be good last season, but it was still a surprise to see them make a run to the World Series. The Chicago Cubs would have qualified as a sleeper team before their run to the NLCS in 2015, and the Kansas City Royals were certainly a sleeper when they came out of nowhere to reach the World Series in 2014.
Quite a few teams stand out this year as having the potential to surprise. These are the 10 MLB teams that stand out the most as potential sleeper picks for 2017.
10. Atlanta Braves
The rebuilding process continues in Atlanta, but the front office went out and supplemented this efforts this offseason by signing veteran starters to eat up the bulk of the innings. The Braves lost 93 games last season, but went 37-35 in the second half, including 16-10 in September. It’s hard to read too much into a hot finish by a young team, but Atlanta could be on the verge of accelerating their rebuilding timeline similar to the way the Houston Astros did when they made the playoffs in 2015.
Bringing in Bartolo Colon, R.A, Dickey, and Jaime Garcia will help make it easier for the Braves to have a respectable season in their first year in a new park. Dickey, especially, should benefit from a return to the National League and an open-air stadium. With Julio Teheran leading the rotation, the Braves should be able to hang close in most ballgames.
On offense, the Braves have been difficult to watch at times since their teardown began. They finished 14th in the NL in runs and slugging last year, and were last with 122 home runs. They did, however, hit a lot of doubles, finishing third in the league. Having Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips will provide a major power boost this year. Dansby Swanson could blossom into an All-Star, and Ender Inciarte is an outstanding defender who has batted close to .300 for his career. Freddie Freeman might not feel like he’s hitting in a Triple-A lineup this season.
Ninety wins and a spot on the playoffs? That might be pushing it for the 2017 Braves, but they should be much closer to .500, and could even hang around the fringes of contention for most of the season.