2017 Fantasy Baseball Recap: Atlanta Braves
After falling below 80 wins for the fourth consecutive season, and failing to make the postseason in as many years, the Atlanta Braves will continue their rebuild process. They’ll now be doing so without the services of General Manager John Coppolella, who was recently dismissed by the team after an investigation by Major League Baseball revealed serious rules violations in the international player market.
Whatever the future holds for the Braves, the rock that it will be built upon will be first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is the closest thing this team has to a true “star.” Freeman finished the 2017 season ranked 3rd in the National League in slugging percentage (.586) and fourth in OPS (.989), in addition to leading his team in batting average (.307 good for 10th in the NL) and home runs (28).
While Freeman while man the middle of the lineup for the Braves in 2018, his “tag team” partner of sorts centerfielder Ender Inciarte will bat somewhere near the top of the lineup. Inciarte finished the 2017 season with 201 hits, which hasn’t been achieved by an Atlanta Braves player since Marquis Grissom in 1996, and was good for the second most in the National League (tied with Dee Gordon of the Miami Marlins). Point being: he’s really good at getting on base (his batting average of .304 was second only to Freeman), and as evidenced by his team-high 93 runs this year, he’s also really good at getting home, too.
Whether you want to look at it as the former protecting the latter or the latter protecting the former, veteran right-fielder Nick Markakis brings leverage into the lineup, batting after Freeman. His 39 doubles and 68 walks led the team last year, and at 33-years old, his .275 average was more than serviceable. Of course, his team-high 76 RBI were expected though greatly appreciated for someone in the cleanup spot in the order as well.
If there’s a spot where the Braves don’t have quite as many pieces to build on for 2017, it’s their pitching rotation. None of their starting pitchers finished with an ERA under 4.26, which is probably why none of them finished with a winning record this season.
Right-hander Julio Teheran allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out just three batters through six innings in his final start against Miami last week, blemishing his 2.08 ERA and 1.15 WHIP through his previous six outings. He finished the season with an underwhelming 4.49 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 7.2 K/9. Still, because of his previous success and flashes of excellence, Teheran projects to remain a polarizing fantasy commodity entering the 2018 campaign.
The Braves are thinking about picking up the $8 million option on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for next season, after he finished the year tied for the second-most wins on the team (10). Dickey pitched a team-high 190 innings with a team-best 4.26 ERA in 31 starts after signing with Atlanta last winter. The right-hander has pitched at least 200 innings on five occasions.
Young righty Mike Foltynewicz was something of a bright spot for Atlanta this season, picking up 10 wins in 29 starts. He posted a 4.79 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and struck out 143 in 154 innings. Foltynewicz should have the inside track at a rotation spot again in 2018, though he’s running out of time to truly make his mark, given the young pitchers that Atlanta could call up to the majors next year.