In the past two season, the Braves have had losing seasons. We came to two conclusions. 1) Injuries very much were a factor and 2) Fredi Gonzalez had to go.
Instantly in 2017 the Braves had an injuried Oswaldo Arcia to a ruptured medial collateral ligament in Spring Training and we had lost a middle of the lineup threat that put up a 3.5 WAR in 2016. Freddie Freeman also had the injury bug missing a total of 8 weeks this past season. Other notable injuries were, Michael Taylor who missed roughly 6 weeks, Johnny Cueto who missed 5 weeks, and also Clint Coulter who missed about 3 weeks.
I expected every single one of these players on the injury train to be a contributor this season and it ended up that not only were they unavailable for parts of the season, but their production was limited as well. Freeman who had a line of .315/.369/.469 in 2016 showed a .278/.344/.465 slash in 2017. In the 2016 offseason we went after Michael Taylor who put up a 3.1 WAR in only 90 games with the Orioles in 2016 to posting a 1.0 WAR with the Braves in 114 games this past season; even though his August numbers were looking to make a jump back before spraining his knee and missing the rest of the season.
But there is even more than just made us *facepalm*. Jake Lamb was a crucial piece we went for after seeing our season jump off to an 8-1 start and decided to pull a trigger on yet another top caliber bat in our lineup at a position where we ready didn’t have a player for the future. But then he couldn’t handle the transition to Atlanta. Slashing a line of .333/.403/.525 with the Diamondbacks in 2016 to hitting .258/.338/.421 with the Braves this season. Another disappointment was Andrew Susac, his 2016 number for me was…..how can I saw it….unexpected. He brought a 5.0 WAR to the table after acquiring him from the Giants in 2015. But then 2017 came and so did all the problems. He ended up losing his spot in the starting lineup to Justin O’Conner in June and finished with a line of .193/.288/.308. Its an understatement of how much of a disappointment that was.
We looked to make some moves this trade deadline. We moved Johnny Cueto for next to nothing after his $28mil contract seems to be too much of a handicap for the Braves going forward in the next four years. We also tried to make a trade to fill our void where Arcia would have been and also was looking for someone to maybe take over the reigns for Coulter even though we didn’t want to quite give it up until we saw where the start of 2018 brought us. So we went out to get Kole Calhoun who was having a solid season. He only had 1 game in the Braves uniform before there were rumors that Matt Kemp was available; so it was decided to trade within our division and acquire Kemp. Kemp ended up producing a negative WAR for the Braves after a relatively hot start; he just caught the 2017 bug. But the biggest trade for us this season was the trade made on the last day of July with the Athletics. Dustin Ackley was traded for Joe Miller; who is that you say? Joe was a 21-year-old starter in the Athletics rookie ball league who had a good start but his control seems to be a real fault for him. Since being with the Braves his walks have only seemed to rise BUT the change is that he is no longer a starter and plan to push him in the closer role. We are very excited to see how his future turns out.
To keep the positives going, there were definitely bright spots this season on the Braves roster. Jordan Jankoswki had another dominating campaign in 2017 and had a win-loss record of 12-2 before hitting a major speed bump in July and only going 2-7 after that; he finished up the year with a 4.1 WAR. The Braves rotation in 2017 was a bright spot and it was lead by Jankowski and 26-year-old Kendall Graveman. Graveman came to the Braves in 2016 by the three-way trade that took J.D. Martinez to Detroit and Nick Markakis to the Athletics. Gravemen finished the year 3rd in the Rookie Of The Year voting and posted a 4.7 WAR in his first full season at the major league level. Taylor Jordan had his first season with the Braves and posted a 3.5 WAR but only a record of 7-14. Matt Wisler was dominant for us in the first half but there had been some clubhouse issues with him and thus was another contributing factor in firing Fredi Gonzalez. Jose Peraza and Jorge Polanco saw improvement from their 2016 numbers this season. I was satisfied with the production that Justin O’Conner made when he was promoted. He struggled over two seasons in the major leagues with the Rays, but in 2017 he broke out of that slump in the 38 games with Atlanta.
Other notable call-ups that we were happy with this season were: Travis Ballew, Tim Berry, and Colin Bray, before his injury.
2018 looks to be a new regime in the management position. Gonzalez is out and we are actively looking to fill that role as we speak. We are excited to have Arcia back and also looking to make a move for a center fielder that anchor the outfield defensively. The fifth starting spot in the rotation is either going to be filled in the free agent market, only at a reasonable price, or will pull from within the organization; but we are not sure if we have players that can be ready for a whole year at the major league level. Lastly, we look to make moves to strengthen our bullpen, 2016 it was the backbone for us and in 2017 it followed suit with all the other issues we seemed to face.
Looking forward to the offseason and want to wish all other general managers great success this next season.
- Curt Wilkerson produces this season in Gwinnett and starts the 2019 season in Atlanta.
- Alex Verdugo to start the season in Gwinnett and hope to see his power numbers increase to 10 hrs this season.
- Joaquin Baker finishes the year as a top pitcher in the Southern League.
- Joe Miller to see strikeout number above 12 K/9 in Carolina and finish the season in Mississippi.
- Daniel Gossett to maybe see action in Atlanta if the stars aline.
- Don Jones to make major strides in being the player he is projected to be and to see a jump in his slugging percentage.
- Leonardo Molina to be traded in the next 8 months.