The 2018 season began with a lot of promise for the Braves. The fans weren’t expecting much from the in-progress rebuild, and they knew that there would be a solid mix of veteran presence and future stars. After a shaky spring, the questions that many had were answered: Ronald Acuña Jr. would be a mid-April call up, there would be opportunities for rookie pitchers to answer the call and show their stuff, and the Braves were firmly entrenched in the idea of having a record over .500, which would be a vast improvement from the three previous losing seasons. The Braves surprised all, rocketing out of the gate to a 33-23 record in the first few months of the season. This was aided by the four Braves All-Stars: Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies, and Mike Foltynewicz. Though the team cooled off in the second half, they still ended the season with a 90-72 record, which was good enough to win the National League East. This feat had not been achieved by the Braves since the 2013 season. Even with an early exit to the Dodgers in the NLDS, many Braves fans (myself included), were happy with their achievements during the final year of the rebuild.
The offseason generated mixed reviews from a multitude of fans. Alex Anthopoulos started the offseason with a splash, inking Josh Donaldson to a 1 year, $23 million deal. On the very same day, Brian McCann took a hometown discount of $2 million to be Tyler Flower’s backup catcher. It seemed as though every Braves fan was pumped for the offseason to remember; the rebuild was over, the bad contracts were off the books, and the new stadium was generating plenty of revenue for the ownership to spend on new free agents. But once these players signed with the Braves, the front office went surprisingly quiet. Eventually, Nick Markakis signed a $4 million deal to return to the team for a season, but that seemed to be the end of big major league deals that the front office was going to complete during the offseason. Some fans were confused; wasn’t this supposed to be the offseason to remember? How did we miss out on Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, A.J. Pollock, and Michael Brantley? Other fans thought the few splashes we made were plenty, and left enough money to put toward extending current stars, like Albies and Acuña Jr.
Through spring training, fans watched the emergence of prospects such as Cristian Pache, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, and Austin Riley. This next wave of prospects was coming quickly, and many forgot about the lack of moves that happened in the offseason. Now with the 2019 season upon us, let’s take a look at how the Atlanta Braves will stack up to begin the season.
Catcher: Tyler Flowers, Brian McCann (2)
First Base: Freddie Freeman (1)
Second Base: Ozzie Albies (1)
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson (1)
Third Base: Josh Donaldson (1)
Utility: Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson (2)
Outfield: Ronald Acuña Jr., Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Matt Joyce (4)
Starting Pitching: Julio Teheran,
Relief Pitching: Arodys Vizcaino, Josh Tomlin, Jonny Venters, Jesse Biddle, Wes Parsons, Shane Carle, Luke Jackson, Chad Sobotka (8)
Opening Day Starting Lineup:
Inciarte – 8
Donaldson – 5
Freeman – 3
Acuña Jr. – 7
Markakis – 9
Albies – 4
Flowers – 2
Swanson – 6
Teheran – 1
Though many Braves fans were disappointed in the lack of offseason moves, I believe this team is ready to prove the doubters wrong and silence the haters. Despite winning the division last year, none of the experts have picked the Braves to even compete with the rest of division. Even though the rest of the NL East improved their teams, they were working to catch up with the most recent division winner. The Braves don’t plan on going anywhere, bringing back most of their best players and signing a former MVP who could have a rebounding season.