It’s never too early to think about next season, and specifically next spring. Let’s take a look at the internal candidates for the positions on the field to know what the Braves might be looking for this offseason.
THOUGHTS: Well, Blair will need to poop or get off the pot. He will need to be in contention of a rotation spot next spring or he will be considered a flop. He’ll also run the risk of getting passed by others. If Teheran is traded and not there, a veteran will be needed and likely they will add a couple – probably one on a more significant deal and another Bud Norris-type pitcher. Obviously, Foltynewicz, Perez and Gant need to stay healthy and show what they can do in the final part of 2016 so the Braves can make a decision on their future. The rotation will need some help, since many of the young pitching prospects they have in their future plans are likely not going to be ready.
Joel de la Cruz
THOUGHTS: If Harrell keeps this up, they’ll want him back. But it’s only been two games. Joel de la Cruz is mainly filler. Don’t get too excited about that. Banuelos is still trying to prove he can be healthy. Whalen may have the best shot to make the jump of the younger pitchers. Chris Ellis and Sean Newcomb likely need more time. Lucas Sims has struggled, so he’s not in the conversation now.
THOUGHTS: Some of these guys are fringe candidates, but there will be a larger number of legit candidates next spring than in years past. Plus, you know they’ll add a few veterans on minor league contracts and maybe even spend money on a major reliever that can help the young pitchers. Remember, they wanted Darren O’Day last winter. If Vizcaino is traded, Cabrera and Minter may be the leading internal candidates to take over as closer. There will be plenty of candidates for middle and setup reliever, particularly with left-handers (five legit candidates with Krol, Cervenka, Alvarez, Rodriguez and Minter).
THOUGHTS: Flowers will be back. A.J. Pierzynski will not return. The Braves will pursue a starting catcher, and you have to wonder if Wilson Ramos could be a target. He may be the type of player they would want to invest in until some of the young catching prospects (Herbert, Cumberland, Gutierrez) are ready.
THOUGHTS: He’s not going anyway, so Freeman will be the face of the franchise as it enters Sun Trust Park.
THOUGHTS: I think he’ll be ready. If not, Jace Peterson could keep his job until Albies is ready. Also, don’t count out the Braves bringing Gordon Beckham back to play there until Albies is ready. But at some point, expect the then-20-year-old Albies to take over at shortstop.
THOUGHTS: I think he’ll be ready. If not, the Braves could bring back Omar Infante or even Gordon Beckham. Chase d’Arnaud could be an option. You’d think the Braves would want a veteran 2B/SS-type player who could be there in case Albies or Swanson need more time.
THOUGHTS: Well, do the Braves get another third baseman to bridge the gap until Austin Riley or Kevin Maitan are ready? Martin Prado might be an option if they go down that road. He’d love to come home. But Garcia is still around, and Peterson can play third. The scouts need to really look hard at Rio Ruiz for the rest of this season. Is Ruiz a serious candidate to take over in Atlanta? He’ll turn 23 next May, so he’s still very, very young. Ruiz is having a decent year as a 22-year-old player in Triple-A this season. But could he handle a full season in Atlanta?
THOUGHTS: They’ll have to bring d’Arnaud back. If Peterson is squeezed out at second and doesn’t win the third base job, he may be the most important reserve on the bench. Omar Infante and Gordon Beckham would have to return, but both could be very valuable reserves. They will bring in more candidates, including someone that can be on standby if Albies or Swanson are not ready. Where are you, Kelly Johnson?
THOUGHTS: Mallex needs to be given the chance to play every day. He was on his way before he got injured. Hopefully, he’ll return in August and prove he needs to be in the opening day starting lineup. If not, the Braves will need help. Will Dustin Peterson knock on the door sometime next season? It’s unlikely it’ll happen on opening day, but if he continues to do well Peterson will be in the conversation.
THOUGHTS: He has no power, but he’s likely the best defensive center fielder since Andruw Jones left after the 2007 season. Inciarte needs to hit more, but he is what he is.
THOUGHTS: The Braves are probably trying to trade Markakis. But if they can’t, he’ll return next season in the third year of his four-year contract. The Braves may want to keep him if they can’t get a good deal. Plus, the Braves don’t want to show potential future free agents they trade all of their veterans. But if Markakis is traded, then someone needs to be ready to take over. The Braves could push Dustin Peterson, but he’s likely needing at least one more year in the minors to develop.
THOUGHTS: Well, I had to put him somewhere. Who knows what this guy will do once he returns in August. The Braves might want to bring Jeff Francoeur back, since he’s been great in the clubhouse this year. Jace Peterson can also be a backup in the outfield in an emergency, but it’s interesting the new manager has not put him out there since taking over.
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