If you’re a casual fan like I once was, then the start of the new baseball season is often simultaneously exciting and confusing. You may have been paying attention to a whole bunch of other crap that was more important to you at the time. If you’re from Braves country you might have been chasing the Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide fighting for the College Football National Championship. Maybe you were watching the Falcons break your heart, or the Jags nearly pulling off an NFL miracle, not to mention those of you who are college football fans watching the coaching carousel fiascos.
The point is, I get it. I know what it’s like to suddenly tune back into baseball and not have a clue what is going on. Add in the fact that the Braves have had arguably the weirdest winter in the team’s history, and it’s quite a bit to take in. I thought it might be helpful to give you a fast review of all the things you might have missed. So without further adieu, I give you…
A Knucklehead’s Guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.
First let’s recap the offseason.
John Coppolella quit. He got into a metric crap-ton of trouble and he resigned as GM. Oh yeah, he’s also now banned from baseball for life.
Let’s keep it simple and say
– He cheated.
– So did everyone else.
– He cheated and didn’t hide it.
– He wasn’t very good with leading people.
– MLB needed an example, they made one.
The basics: he bundled contracts of not so good international players and funneled that money to better players so they would sign with the Braves to get around rules that say you can only spend so much on international bonuses. This is a set of really ignorant rules that MLB has in place to keep teams from paying players what they are actually worth. That being said, rules are rules and Coppy and his team broke them.
The results: The Braves get smashed by MLB and 13 Braves prospects become free agents and sign with other teams. The only one you probably knew is Kevin Maitan. He’s now an Anaheim Angel (like half of the former Braves players and prospects, seriously they are like “Braves West” now).
The Braves also can’t sign any international prospects for a few years (there’s more details, but you probably don’t care, and if you do there are better articles for that).
Braves keep all their really good prospects other than Maitan. Including OF Drew Waters (it was about 50/50 on him going away there for a while).
Ok, so now we’re past that Crap storm.
Oops, wait, no we aren’t. In the midst of all that, John Hart (VP of Baseball Ops) appoints himself as decision maker and signs Snitker to a one year deal as well as firing half the coaches under Snit (Pendleton and Perez – fortunately they stayed with the organization), while hiring several new faces (Walt Weiss and Eric Young, Sr to name a couple).
But wait, it gets better. Then the Braves hire Alex Anthopoulos (AA) to come be the new General Manager. This was a great hire. He comes from winning teams and understands baseball. But here’s the kicker:, John Hart then rides off into the sunset (Anthopoulos probably kicked his butt out) scott-freaking-free. In fact, last week MLB hired him to return as an anchor on MLB tonight. So the guy who oversaw the greatest scandal in the past 20 years of baseball gets off without any accountability whatsoever. Ain’t baseball grand?
Ok, so back to the team.
Anthopoulos. Really smart. Basically Coppolella with hair and personality. They even sound the same (it’s freaking weird).
AA pulls a rabbit straight out of his butt and trades Matt Kemp and his giant gut and colossal contract to the Dodgers for Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson and Adrian Gonzalez’s colossal contract. Simply shipping Kemp is a feat in and of itself, but back to LA makes it even more hysterical.
Before you get all excited about names… Gonzalez (who has been atrocious the last few years) was immediately cut loose by the Braves as part of the deal. Kazmir, while once terrific, is coming back from a few years of significant injuries, and McCarthy (who had a great year last year) is a bit of an injury concern himself, having only pitched in about 17 games last year. Long story short, there is some good potential here for quality players, but the best part of the deal was dumping Kemp’s contract, bad hamstrings, and apocalyptic defense.
Next – Addition by subtraction.
These guys are all gone now…
Matt Kemp – Gone.
Matt Adams – Gone. The Braves didn’t sign him back because he has no place to play. (NO, he can’t play outfield or ANY position other than first base and that position is taken.)
Adonis Garcia – Gone. A-dong-is wanted to play in Korea. HE GONE.
R.A. Dickey – Gone. Retired.
Jason Motte – Gone. Braves only had him on a 1 year deal, he’s back with the Cardinals now.
Jace Peterson – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Yankees with an invite to Spring Training.
Ian Krol – Gone. Non-tendered. Signed a minor league deal with the Angels with an invite to Spring Training.
The Braves didn’t do anything.
Well that’s what fans will be telling you anyway.
– They didn’t sign a big name 3B (No Todd Frazier or Mike Moustakas). They didn’t sign a big name pitcher (No Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta). They didn’t sign a big name LF (No JD Martinez, Corey Dickerson, or Adam Duvall).
– Looks like they aren’t spending any more money. (lots of possible reasons, but this ain’t the time or the place – read Boggy’s 2-part article right here for more info).
What does that mean?
– Johan Camargo is going to be playing 3B – most likely.
– Nick Markakis is going to be playing RF – most likely.
– MLB’s #1 Prospect, Ronald Acuña will be playing LF (after April 13th) – most likely.
What does all of THAT mean?
– Well, it means ATL isn’t going much over $100M in payroll despite what they said last year.
– It means Camargo is going to get a real shot to show what he has.
– It means the Braves don’t have a ton of power.
This last point is the one everyone is going to harp on, and they probably should. The Braves have one guy projected to hit more than 20 HRs – Freddie Freeman. This team is going to be an on-base dependent team. They’ll pop a home run or two (and maybe more than people think), but for the most part, they’re going to have to play a bit of old school baseball; get them on, get them over, get them home. Fortunately, nearly the entire team has speed and should be fun to watch.
What to watch for in 2018.
Well, they changed some rules, nothing too major (thankfully), but they did limit coaching/catcher visits to the mound per game, and the amount of time in between innings, let’s see if it speeds things up or not.
The Twins added a bunch of talent in the off-season, as did the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton is now a Yankee). The Red Sox signed JD Martinez to try to keep up. The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani (famous pitcher/hitter from Japan) sweepstakes. Oh, and if you tuned out before the playoffs, the Washington Nationals STILL have not won a playoff series in team history.
What to watch for on the Braves:
There’s going to be a ton of it. Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, AJ Minter, Akeel Morris. All names that you’re going to be hearing this year. The talent is starting to make it to the majors and it’s going to be legit. Also, there’s a name or two you may see disappear if they don’t figure things out. I’m looking at you Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler (but for now they’re still trying to make a go of it and Blair lost 40 lbs over the winter).
Oh you thought the Braves only had arms… sorry they have MOARRRR HITTERZZZ.
Johan Camargo (5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs in 87 ABs in the 2017/18 Dominican Winter League)
Ronald Acuña. Acuña, baseball’s #1 prospect, is going to explode on the scene this year and he’s full of piss, vinegar, and a whole lot of swagger. You might not like him if you like your players to act like a stoic member of the Queen’s guard.
At the end of the day, this team is going to be fun and fast. They may be bad at times, they may be really good at times. However, most of this year is going to ride on their ability to pitch.
Watch for how Snitker develops the young kids (he’s spent his whole life doing just that), and look for the kids that truly surprise at the Major League level.
Now that you’ve read a knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves, you know enough to be horribly dangerous when talking Braves baseball with your friends. If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I will fill in any gaps that I can. Chop on!
Share this junk with your friends, you knuckleheads