Depressing and Obligatory: A 2015 Atlanta #BARVES Preview
Last year, the only baseball writing on this site was a #BARVES preview, wherein I explained what #BARVESing was. The only feedback received was from another DudeYouCrazy staffer’s mother, who questioned whether I was dyslexic in saying BARVES instead of Braves, the name donned on the home white jerseys.
Well, I was right to do so, as the team #BARVESED its way to an 11-22 finish, averaging about two runs per game with what was, on paper, a formidable lineup.
That lineup is gone, and 2015 will be the year of even more #BARVES. Gone are the bats of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis. They will all be replaced by guys who are projected to finish in the bottom third of the league in hitting competency. Interim GM John Hart won’t commit to rebuilding, operating under the guise that the team will contend this year. Don’t be fooled, this team is going to suck out loud.
Potential Bright Spots
The Braves did manage to keep a young, team-controlled core intact despite the winter fire sale. Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, and former Bulldog Alex Wood should anchor a young rotation that will have to overachieve yet again for the Braves to crack 70 wins. First baseman Freddie Freeman will draw a TON of walks, given his slow baserunning and the utter lack of competent hitters surrounding him in the lineup. And shortstop Andrelton Simmons will be Ozzie Smith-esque in the field again, even if he can’t really hit.
Closer Craig Kimbrel returns, but paying $10 million for a closer on a bad team seems foolish. I relegate him to the second (and final) graf of potential bright spots, because logic dictates (and prays) that he will be traded for some almost-MLB-ready bats to a team desperate for a closer at the trade deadline.
And that’s it! The Gwinnett Braves are your best bet to find guys who may help the team in the future, as highly-rated prospects such as trade returns SP Mike Foltyniwecz (sp?), 3B Rio Ruiz, and UTIL Jace Peterson, as well as future 2B Jose Peraza, will be honing their crafts in Lawrenceville. Hey, beer is cheaper at minor league games.
Everywhere. With Mike Minor starting the season on the DL, the pitching staff will rely on old castoffs by the name of Eric Stults and Wandy Rodriguez as starters for a good bit of the season. I had never heard of these two gentlemen prior to reading a few previews to get me amped for this post. And this on the team’s strength.
Left Field, Center Field, 3rd base, 2nd base, Catcher: manned by guys the casual fan has never heard of, except for Chris Johnson at 3rd. Johnson plays a laughable defensive hot corner, and his bat in no way compensates. LF and CF will be manned by guys named Eric Young Jr., Eury Perez, Todd Cunningham, and Zolio Almonte, all low-ceiling guys, most cast off by New York teams (Cunningham was a Braves draft pick, but the rest are all former Mets/Yankees. If those anemic teams can’t use them, surely the #BARVES can.) Melvin (erstwhile B.J.) Upton will actually represent an upgrade when he returns from injury. The same B.J. who, by all statistical measures, has been the worst everyday player in the league for the past two years running. Yeah.
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez and his “I don’t think he sucks, he just needs more at-bats” managerial style are back for a fourth (and hopefully last) season of mind-numbingly poor decisions. His mismanagement of bullpen innings, ignorance of rudimentary stats such as on-base percentage, and overall ineptitude have been the common denominator of the team’s downfall for each of the past three seasons.
This Season is a Success If…
I want to say if the team finishes ahead of the Phillies and avoids last place, but I think I’d rather have the high draft pick in 2016.
If the front office stops deluding itself into thinking the team is actually capable of making a push for the playoffs and trades Kimbrel for a good return, I can get on board with the Cobb County Braves in 2017 being decent. Otherwise, the team is going all 2000 Hawks and running in place.
That’s all I have. I’ll still be a fan, because Tuesday night games on $4 Stubhub tickets in the Chophouse are peak Atlanta summertime existence. But if you’re looking for winning baseball (let’s be honest, nobody watches baseball on TV anyway), I’d suggest an MLB Extra Innings subscription.