• Exclusives

    How Different Will The 2017 Braves Look?

    (Updated 8/2/16)

    Many Braves fans are understandably despondent these days, with their team on track to top 100 losses this year. But as poorly as the 2016 season has gone, it’s worth remembering that the Braves roster will soon be overhauled once more.

    The Joker put it best …

    What changes will we see before the Braves move into their new Cobb County digs in 2017?

    ROTATION:

    • Don’t give up on RHP’s Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler. Despite their struggles, both have the stuff to be top-half-of rotation starters, and if/when things click for them, they could still earn long-term roles in the Braves rotation next season.
    • The Braves’ #1 pitching prospect Sean Newcomb is still ironing out command issues at double-A Mississippi, but the hard-throwing lefty has ace potential. There is a very good chance that we’ll see Newcomb in the big leagues at some point next season.
    • Tyrell Jenkins will have the rest of this season and next spring to make his case for am Opening Day rotation spot.

      RHP Aaron Blair

      RHP Aaron Blair

    • Some combination of the Braves’ other high end starting pitching prospects currently at the double-A or triple-A level could impact the rotation. That’s a lengthy list, which includes: Lucas Sims, Rob Whalen, Chris Ellis,  Manny Banuelos and Max Povse.

    BULLPEN:

    • Several relievers could return from injuries, which have sidelined them through most or all of this season: Paco Rodriguez, Shae Simmons and Dan Winkler. John Gant, who had a long stay on the DL this season, could also be in the ‘pen at the start of 2017.
    • Mauricio Cabrera, who has been a mid-season revelation for the Braves, will almost certainly be in the Atlanta bullpen from day-one next year.
    • A.J. Minter has put up eye-popping numbers at the single-A and double-A levels this year. Through 25.2 innings, Minter has fanned 36 batters, while posting a 0.55 WHIP and a .093 opp avg. Look for him in the shiny new bullpen at Sun Trust Park next season.
    • The Braves also have a list of other talented young relievers ready to battle for bullpen job. That list includes: Jason Hursh, Stephen Janas and Andrew Thurman (all righty relievers).
    • And there’s a good chance that the Braves will add a proven veteran reliever or two via trade and/or free agency.

    LINEUP:

    • Atlanta’s #1 prospect and top overall pick in 2015 MLB draft, SS Dansby Swanson, will likely be a part of a new and improved Braves lineup at some point in 2017, if not on Opening Day.
    • So will Braves’ #3 prospect 2B Ozzie Albies.
    • Atlanta will almost certainly sign or trade for a new starting catcher this winter. Matt Wieters and Wilson Ramos will top Atlanta’s list of free agent targets at that position. The Braves’ front office has also discussed the possibility of bringing Brian McCann back to Atlanta, if the Yankees’ price is right.
    • Matt Kemp is obviously now penciled in the 2017 lineup.
    • But the Braves aren’t done shopping for power. They could still add another big stick at 3B or in the outfield.
    • Mallex Smith will likely be patrolling CF for the Braves full-time as of next April. However, if the Braves have an opportunity to add another middle-of-the order bat somewhere in the outfield, they may have a difficult decision to make.
    SS Dansby Swanson

    SS Dansby Swanson

    How different will the 2017 Braves look?

    Vastly.

    We could see greater than 50% turnover in the pitching staff and in the lineup before Opening Day, 2017. There will be a lot of young, inexperienced players, and kids will sometimes take their lumps. So this team may not be ready to compete for a postseason berth next season. And it will likely be at least 2018 before the Braves can once again be considered legitimate World Series contenders. But come April of next year, this roster will be loaded with talent and barely recognizable when compared to the current cast of characters.

    Let me know what you think about the Braves outlook for 2017. Chirp me up on Twitter: @FriedbasballATL

    Kent Covington is a national radio news reporter and BravesWire Editor.