Written by Kyle Dawson, Photo Editor
The Atlanta Braves are in the midst of a rebuilding process that turned Turner Field into a ghost town. They fired general manager Frank Wren and have made 11 moves since 2015 including trading hometown hero Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, 4-time National League saves leader Craig Kimbrel to the Padres and Platinum Glove winner Andrelton Simmons to the Angels.
In return, the Braves saved money and got young pitchers in order to rebuild for 2017 when they will be moving into their new stadium, Suntrust Park, in Cobb County. Although they gave up some stars, they acquired some great young arms. Those acquisitions have them ranked second overall in Keith Law’s Major League Baseball’s farm system rankings.
The Braves have also acquired highly touted Cuban prospect, Adonis Garcia, who hit .285 and only made eight errors at third base in 87 games with Gwinnett in 2015. Garcia, who is already 30, is expected to start when the Braves move to Cobb County.
So far during Spring Training the Braves have not done too well. They are 2-6 in the Grapefruit League, but there have been some bright spots.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson has had a productive spring so far, including hitting a game tying triple and scoring the winning run on Wednesday to beat the Mets. Swanson, 2015’s first overall pick, is the eighth best prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com.
Twenty-two year old speedster Mallex Smith has done well this spring, and MLB.com expects him to make his major league debut later this season. Smith stole 57 bases in 126 games while playing centerfield with Gwinnett and Mississippi in 2015.
The Braves have enlisted the help of some hometown heroes to fill positions while the prospects are getting ready for 2017.
Outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is from Atlanta and played with the Braves from 2005 to 2009, signed a minor league contract with the team on Feb. 22. Francoeur has been a journeyman as of late, playing with six teams since 2009.
Atlanta also signed second basemen Gordon Beckham to a one year contract in December. Beckham is also from Atlanta and played baseball at the University of Georgia. He spent the first six years of his career with the Chicago White Sox and last year with the Los Angeles Angels.
One of the lone stars who is still with the club is first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman, who was troubled with injuries last year, will be one of the main attractions for fans in Atlanta in 2016.
The Braves don’t expect to win the pennant in 2016, but their goal is to get the team in position to win the National League East in 2017.