The Atlanta Braves, who are currently rebuilding for the third consecutive season, will seek to improve their record and analyze how newly acquired veterans - Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Phillips, and Sean Rodriguez can make an impact on some of the younger talents like Julio Teheran, Dansby Swanson, and Ender Inciarte.
Since John Hart took over as President of Baseball Operations in 2014, fans have witnessed some key home-grown players being traded such as Jason Heyward, Kris Medlen, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons thinking they would be a part of the organization once SunTrust Park opened and playing a major role in starting a new dynasty.
The Braves only achieved 68 wins in 2016, a one-game improvement from their 2015 record, however, the team had a power surge post All-Star break ranking in the top 10 in eight offensive categories. With a new season just around the corner, it gives the Braves a chance to prove what they can do under new skipper Brian Snitker and some veteran acquisitions during the offseason to work with new talents as they prepare to become the future of the franchise.
There's no doubt that Freddie Freeman is the current face of the Atlanta Braves franchise, but with Dansby Swanson being a part of the Braves future, he may take that role at some point. In just 38 games, Swanson made an impact in the major leagues batting .302/.442/.803 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in and who could forget his debut going 2-for-4 with an inside the park homer?
While it may have been early for him to skip Triple-A, he’ll go out there to prove he’s here to stay for good. He’s batting .455 with one home runs and two runs batted in so far this spring. Another thing to look at with Swanson is how he handles playing with the newly acquired veterans this offseason including Brandon Phillips.
“There's so many ways to benefit from working with Phillips. I’m a visual learner. You just watch him go about his business [taking groundballs] everyday and that makes you better.”
Ender Inciarte made his Braves debut on Opening Day 2016, earlier than Swanson, but he also has something to prove after a rocky start last season. One week into the 2016 campaign, Inciarte was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and two months later, he was day-to-day with a groin injury.
Because he was unable to stay healthy, Inciarte only produced a .221 batting average in the first half of the season. After some much needed time to heal some wounds during the All-Star break, Inciarte came back with a good second half and posted a .291 average to end the season. The production from Inciarte is certainly there if he can stay healthy and can also receive guidance from veterans to become another leader in the future.
“Anytime you add a veteran guy to a team, especially if they're young, you get a lot more experience and a player who knows what the game is about."
If the Braves can start the 2017 season better than last year and continue where they left off in the second half, I don't see them being contenders yet, but there's a good chance they can finish the season at .500. When you have guys like Swanson and Inciarte confident in their game, healthy, and love working with veteran players like Brandon Phillips, Matt Kemp, and Nick Markakis, there's a good reason to believe they are the future of this franchise.
The front office and ownership of any team would love to have guys like them on their ball club because when they're willing to learn from players who have been around long enough to know what the game is about, they will eventually pass that knowledge onto the next generation of ball players.