The Braves win at least 75 games
The Braves are considered to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season. However, the team is a lot more talented on paper than it was on Opening Day just a year ago. The Braves were a competitive team up until halfway through the season, when they blew everything up and made moves for the future. While the team is still in rebuild mode, I expect them to keep a lot more guys on board throughout the season. The lineup is improved offensively and the bullpen is a much better unit as a whole. The Braves have so many talented kids waiting in the wings, and if just a few of them figure it out this season, that would completely change the dynamic of this team. If a lot of things go right for the team and they add an impact bat at some point, this team could finish north of 80 wins next season.
Hector Olivera finishes as a top Rookie of the Year candidate
The fanbase as a whole has been down on Olivera, and for no good reason really. Sure, he turns 31 in a couple days, but the team still has him under control at a very reasonable rate until 2022. He did not set the world on fire in his short stint in the bigs, but he held his own. His performance this spring suggests that he could be a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate. He has the potential to be an impact hitter for the Braves this season. He could hit for an excess of 20 home runs and 70 runs batted in this season. If Olivera can provide that type of impact, having him behind Freddie Freeman in the lineup with a true leadoff hitter like Ender Inciarte can drastically imcrease the team’s run output.
The front office makes a blockbuster trade
By mid-summer, the Braves may be in a bit of a pickle with the surplus of young arms knocking on the door of the rotation. One could imagine a scenario in which the Braves package up some pitching prospects and perhaps a major league piece to land an impact hitter. The Braves are one big bat away from becoming a completely different baseball team. Catcher and third base are two positions that the team needs to address long-term. Though the Braves will have a ton of money to spend this offseason, the front office has learned its lesson with big time contracts and will likely seek an impact bat on the trade market as opposed to the open market. They want to take a big step towards being a winning team when they move into Suntrust Park. The impending free agent class is nothing to write home about.
Julio Teheran bounces back, remains a Brave
Julio Teheran had a topsy-turvy 2015, but his performance down the final strecth of the season as well as his success at Turner Field suggests that it was just a speed bump in a road for the promising starter. Teheran is still just 25 and serves as the anchor for the rotation. I see him as a piece that the Braves will hold onto through this rebuilding process despite trade rumors.
Nick Markakis gets traded before the deadline
Nick Markakis is a great hitter, but when Mallex Smith is brought up midseason, the longtime Oriole could be the odd man out. Hector Olivera, Ender Inciarte and Smith are all under team-friendly contracts for over the next half-decade. The team will wait for his power numbers to restore order after having more time recover from his neck surgery. His fate is likely to be moved near the deadline for prospects at the deadline, assuming the Braves have a crowded outfield.