Pitchers and catchers are beginning to report to Braves spring training in Venice, Florida. The end of football season this Sunday also marks the beginning of the baseball calendar year for most sports fans.
For the Braves, this season is as important as ever. Atlanta won a league-best 104 games last season and received an NLDS berth as a result. However, they lost to the upstart Philadelphia Phillies in four games for the second year in a row.
Atlanta got better this winter, albeit slightly. They improved their bullpen thanks to additions like Aaron Bummer, Reynaldo Lopez and more. Atlanta traded for former Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, as well, to add some rotation depth. An early-offseason trade for Jarred Kelenic, previously a top prospect of the Seattle Mariners, will hopefully solve a seasons-long revolving door in the corner outfield spot.
Nonetheless, Alex Anthopoulos and Brian Snitker have some tough choices to make this spring. Narrowing down a roster from 40 to 26 or 27 (based on injuries) isn't easy. These players are likely to start the season in the minor leagues or worse.
3. Braves can't expect Ian Anderson back anytime soon
Ian Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery and has been in recovery mode ever since. The Braves cannot expect him back anytime soon, with June being the most recent prognosis. Anderson was a former rising star in the Braves starting rotation. However, struggles gave way to injury, and now Anderson could be the next Michael Soroka in Atlanta's farm system.
"This probably answers questions, more so for Ian, because it wasn't something he did or didn't do," Snitker said when Anderson underwent surgery. "It's just one of those things that happens. It's the life of the pitcher."
Anderson hopefully still has a future in MLB, whether it be Atlanta or elsewhere. It would be a surprise to see him make an impact on this year's Braves team, however, given his injury timeline. Coming back from Tommy John will require months of rehab starts and minor-league experience.