Final Record: 72-90
This offseason was defined by the hammering the Braves took from the Commissioner’s office after circumventing the international spending limits (see the excellent coverage from our friends at the Talking Chop for more details). Looking forward, when the Braves show up for Spring Training they will still have one of the most dangerous collections of talent in Major League Baseball. Their farm system is flush with Top 100 talent on the verge of breaking through to the Majors - and plenty of intriguing low-level prospects could take a step forward in their development even after the loss of many recent international signings.
Year 2 at SunTrust Park will be another big step forward for the Atlanta organization in their return to championship contention. Alex Anthopolous was a fantastic hire to help right the ship and a string of top draft picks are primed to take the next step in their development. The Braves roster is full of fantasy upside from emerging top prospect, Ronald Acuna, to the perennially undervalued Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte, to the big arms coming up in the rotation - Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, and Luiz Gohara. Do not be surprised to see the Braves finish #2 in the NL East this year and just maybe contend for a wild card birth if things break their way.
The Superstar: Freddie Freeman
Despite missing 45 games Freeman still delivered an excellent fantasy season with 28 HRs, 84 Rs, 71 RBI, 8 SB and a .307/.403/.586 slash line. A full 162 game season at that rate would’ve been MVP-caliber numbers. The missed time will work to fantasy owners advantage and keep Freeman outside of the Top 4-5 picks in drafts. Freeman makes for an excellent pick in the back-end of first round drafts. He’ll be entering his age 28 season and should continue to deliver elite fantasy production.
The Sleeper: Luiz Gohara
Gohara had a quiet little run to end the season for Atlanta and has trended under the radar in the early part of the off-season. In just under 30 innings, Gohara racked up 31 Ks, a 2.71 FIP, and walked only 8 batters in 5 starts. He’ll get love on the prospect lists that roll out this offseason because he is still rookie-eligible but expect him to make the Braves Opening Day rotation out of Spring Training. I would put Gohara above Newcomb in re-draft formats and think he’ll break out in a big way in 2018.
The Guy To Avoid: Matt Kemp
I’m avoiding Kemp, only because he’s the one player on the Braves roster that seems to be overvalued in early drafts. I actually like Kemp in a bounce back year after missing 47 games and still putting up solid numbers (.276/.318/.463 and 19 HRs). What turns me off is Kemp exiting his prime at 33 years old, and the Top 150 price tag I see him going for in drafts.
The Prospect To Watch: Ronald Acuna/Mike Soroka
Acuna is the easy pick here, he’s arguably the best fantasy prospect in baseball and will top many of the expert lists this off-season. Digging a little deeper, I want to note RHP Mike Soroka. Soroka should start off in AAA and will likely see time in the Majors in 2018. He does not project to be a high-strikoue pitcher with 9.0+ K/9 but he is going to be a workhorse for the Braves and contribute in all categories. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Soroka shows command/control that is rare for a pitcher with his frame.
The Braves system is loaded and picking even two names feels like I’m doing a disservice to other strong candidates. I would throw the following names into the list of players to make an impact for Atlanta in the near future: Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, Austin Riley, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Joey Wentz.
Be sure to follow on Twitter (@BrianCreagh) for any questions or reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)