Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fantasy Baseball: Who Are the Atlanta Braves?

As a fan of the New York Yankees that has since moved out of the state and to metro Atlanta, Georgia I am forced to keep up with the Atlanta Braves. For one it’s all you can see down here without a MLB TV package and it’s the only baseball talk I get down here unless I am at a Yankees vs. Braves game and also it’s kind of frowned upon to not at least pretend like you’re rooting for the home team down here. For that reason alone I wanted to take this opportunity to shine a light on the current status of the Braves team as far as fantasy baseball goes because even my biggest Braves fan friends don’t know 90% of the team anymore. Maybe they will read and learn something and I hope that you do as well as you prepare for your fantasy drafts and lobbies.

You almost have to start with Freddie Freeman seeing as he is the only recognizable face left on the squad. Freeman is coming off a season in which he hit .299 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI through his first 66 games only to have his season derailed by several wrist injuries and an oblique injury or two. Freeman has since been given a clean bill of health but the fact remains that he will have little to no protection in the lineup and will not see many meaningful pitches all season long. If you need walks or intentional walks then go ahead and grab Freeman, if not he may not be worth a pick until around the 10th round or so. That’s not a bash on him that’s just a sign of what’s to come with opposing team’s strategy against his team.

New arrivals in Turner Field this season will be Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar most notably. Inciarte will replace Cameron Maybin in center field and came over from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Shelby Miller trade after breaking out in his rookie campaign with a .303 average, six home runs and 73 runs scored. Inciarte is likely to lead off in Atlanta and will be used as a weapon at the plate with his contact swing and on-base percentage as well as his ability to hit the ball in the gaps and steal bases. Inciarte seems like a shoe-in for 20 stolen bases, 70+ RBI and a .300 average. Inciarte’s biggest flaw? The fact that he struggles against left-handed starting pitching so keep that in mind if you draft him late in your draft. Hitting after Inciarte will be Aybar. Without the hitting protection of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols Aybar will an average, at best, middle infielder and likely a player I would personally stay away from in fantasy. He won’t bring you much.

Julio Teheran is a pitcher on the Braves that would be interesting to look at if you need a bonafide ace in your rotation. Teheran did not live up to the hype in 2015 posting a 4.04 ERA and a 3.27 BB/9 rate in what had to be a frustrating season for the Braves ace. Teheran saw his home run numbers go up in a pitcher friendly park and saw his road ERA skyrocket to above 5.40 so why should you trust him in 2016? Well first and foremost he will be around in the later innings giving you a low risk and high reward type pick to fill out your rotation. Secondly he will be throwing to Tyler Flowers this season who has drawn rave reviews for his pitch framing instead of Christian Bethancourt and AJ Pierzynski and finally another year under his belt cannot hurt, especially with a young pitcher. Teheran is going to be 25-years old this season and is heading into 2016 after stellar 2013 and 2014 campaigns under his belt before the step back in 2015. Buy low and sell really high on Teheran in my opinion.

If you’re looking for help later in the draft you can always look towards relative unknowns in outfielder Hector Olivera and bullpen arm Arodys Vizcaino. Olivera is said to have great plate discipline and a fluid swing that could produce 20+ home runs in a full season. Atlanta is already looking to trade one or both of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to make room for Olivera in the outfield while you, the fantasy owner, will likely also be able to use him at third base or second base making him a true value on your team. Vizcaino on the other hand will likely set up for closer Jason Grilli and would be the obvious candidate to take over if Grilli were to re-injure his Achilles tendon or stutter coming out of the gate at 39-years old. Vizcaino is a big strikeout guy that with the saves statistic added to his repertoire that could be a great find late in the draft.

These are just a few of the names that many of your fellow league mates may not know that you can become familiar with before your draft. It’s never a bad idea to have picks like Vizcaino and other Braves players ready to take with your last pick or two in the draft. Those are the picks you reach for the moon on and if it doesn’t work out you simply release and replace. Hopefully this helps your league and if I missed anyone let me know down in the comments section. 

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