The Atlanta Braves are in a unique position heading into the 2017 season. Coming off of three consecutive losing seasons the Braves have hope for 2017. While the puzzle may not be completed, they are certainly getting there.
I am a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves; not in the sense that they are my favorite team, but I am very intrigued on the direction the franchise has taken. After back to back notable bad seasons the Braves easily became a rebuilding franchise. Yet, despite them still being in rebuild mode, I have a gut instinct that they may challenge for the National League Wild Card. While I don’t think they are quite there yet, the pieces they have in place make up for interesting dynamics that may lead to a promising season.
Matt Kemp‘s Resurgence
Heading into Spring Training, Matt Kemp reportedly shed 30 pounds in route to putting together a better, healthier frame. This weight cut is extremely promising for the Braves, as when Kemp was at his best he was arguably the best player in all of baseball. Kemp had the potential to put together a 40-40 season and nearly did so being one home run shy. While Kemp has aged, and that dynamic time period have left, he certainly can add a ton to this Braves team. With more strength and conditioning Kemp can easily match his 35 home runs and 108 runs batted in from last year. With quicker hands, and a bit more speed on the base path, we may again see Kemp approach the .300 mark at the plate.
Dansby Swanson‘s Impact
Dansby Swanson was acquired in the steal of the decade when the Diamondbacks shipped him, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller. Swanson is expected to be the Braves opening day shortstop and will prove to be a huge asset for the team’s success. Before Swanson’s debut the Braves shortstop position held a lackluster -1.8 Wins Above Replacement. Swanson, in his 38 games, put together a 0.8 Wins Above Replacement, and according to Fangraphs will post anywhere between a 1.7 and 3.3. This is a considerable upgrade and quite frankly may even be low balling Swanson. We have seen so many young shortstops take the league by storm in recent years and I would expect Swanson to follow suit.