Wednesday, February 17, 2016


By Michael Wong

Lake Buena Vista, Fla.--There is bad and then there are the Atlanta Braves for 2016.  Having begun the process of cleaning out the team in 2015, the Braves continued on dismantling whatever was not nailed down as they look ahead to opening their new ballpark in 2017.  While the Braves have an extreme shortage of veteran or even major league quality players, the fact of the matter is that they picked up a bunch of prime prospects to boost their future.  However there is almost no way the Braves won't challenge for the least amount of wins in the major leagues this season which makes finding fantasy baseball-worth options a futile undertaking.  Let's get to the pressing themes as I kick off my tour of all the Major League spring training sites. 

1.  Freddie Freeman on an island all to his own in 2016.  While there is no denying the fact that first baseman Freeman is very capable of being a solid fantasy baseball first baseman, things look quite ugly for the guy in this season in terms of numbers.  With the Braves having almost literally no protection for Freeman in the lineup, the still young (turning 27 this season) slugger could very well reprise his underwhelming numbers in 2015 when he hit just 18 home runs with 66 RBI and a 62 runs scored while hitting .276.  The fact Freeman didn't even reach 70 in either runs or RBI speaks to how tough it was for him to gather numbers in 2015 with no one serviceable around him in the order.  The same holds true for 2016 and it might even be worse if you can believe it.  Freeman has hit 23 home runs twice before but there is no reason for opposing pitchers to give him anything to hit which makes even 20 questionable.  Right now Freeman is more name brand then anything and really he qualifies more as a UTIL or CI bat then a starting first baseman. 

2.  Ender Inciarte gets to play everyday:  The Braves swung a deal for the promising and speedy Ender Inciarte over the winter which gives the former Arizona Diamondbacks property a chance to play on a daily basis for the first time in his career.  Inciarte is quite interesting when it comes to sleeper value as he is far from a household name and has some solid ability in runs scored, average, and stolen bases.  He also can chip in with the odd home run as well.  The Braves very well could flip Inciarte along the way but he is proof that there is at least one sleeper on every Major League Team.

3.  Possible closer battle on tap?   The Braves had a revolving door at closer for all of 2015 after trading Craig Kimbrel right before Opening Day.  Veterans Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, and youngster Arodys Vizcaino all served time in the ninth inning with varying degrees of success.  All three are back for 2016 but it looks like Vizcaino has the upper hand on Grilli and Johnson in that order.  Vizcaino showed himself to be capable as a closer last season in pitching to a 1.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and striking out 37 batters in 33.2 innings.  Maybe Freddie Gonzalez falls back on the annoying "veteran" card and favors Grilli but Vizcaino is the guy we would target.

4.  Already time could be running out on Hector Olivera.  It was a head scratcher when the Los Angeles Dodgers ponied up a ton of money on Cuban free agent third baseman Hector Olivera despite the fact he was already 30-years-old.  The Braves traded for Olivera at the July trade deadline and gave him a quick look-see down the stretch as he hit .253 with 4 home runs in just 87 at-bats.  There is some solid power potential here from Olivera worth checking out but nothing in the way of speed.  Worth a late round look but the age is a turnoff. 

5.  Who is the real Julio Teheran?  It was a puzzling season from the promising Julio Teheran in 2015 as he was absolutely bombarded during the first half of the 2015 season to the tune of a 4.56 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  This after Teheran seemed to show himself to be a future star with a 2014 ERA of 2.89 and striking out 186 batters in 221 innings.  Truth be told, Teheran pitched well the second half of last season but he remains somewhat of an enigma.  The draft price has come way down on Teheran which makes buying low a worthwhile investment but at the same time you won't be getting hardly any wins on this team.  Looks like too much trouble to be worth dealing with. 


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