2015 has been a very frustrating team to watch. Sure, they aren’t as disappointing as the 2014 team, but that was a team that had high expectations. This year’s team was expected to hover below .500 as the team undergoes the process of rebuilding, but that does not change the fact that this is a team that has not won a playoff series since 2001. Braves Country is undeniably hungry for a winner. John Hart is in the midst of providing the city with just that, but it’s all a process. You can’t rebuild overnight, and guess what? “Retooling” is still rebuilding. You may as well go all in, and that’s why Hart has made a plethora of moves throughout the season to stock our farm while still keeping us competitive.
It’s that time of the year when football is around the corner, and baseball is all we have. Despite that, the Braves’ TV ratings are at an all-time low with the lack of familiar faces down on the field. Only Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran remain from the 2014 squad. The Braves sit 13 games below .500 and can’t seem to find a way to win on the road. The bullpen has been a rollercoaster, and the offense has been hit or miss. So why should fans keep watching?
The final stretch of 2015 will be a great indicator of things to come. Freddie Freeman is expected to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s contest, and he is undoubtedly the catalyst of our offense. It’s too little too late for this season, but having him there to make the lineup click is encouraging for fans to see. In addition to this, Freeman will now have help in the lineup. Hector Olivera, who was acquired in the blockbuster deal
with the Dodgers, is expected to make his Major League debut next week. The Braves gave up a ton to get Olivera, and clearly the scouting department though he was the best option at the hot corner in the coming years. He is expected to be a guy who can hit for a high average and offer you 15-30 home runs, which is a huge upgrade for our lineup right now. Sure, he’s 30 years old, but the Braves aren’t as far off as you think. Yes, John Hart will likely remain aggressive this offseason and make some moves, but at the end of the day the Braves’ lineup is starting to shape up on paper. If we had this lineup on Opening Day, could 2015 be a different story? Olivera is the Braves’ lottery ticket, and if he ends up being as good as many expect than giving up Jose Peraza for an impact bat will be looked at in retrospect as a good deal. If we can get any production out of Michael Bourn in left field (or maybe even Nick Swisher), you have a pretty starter at every position.
Another thing to keep an eye on in a couple weeks is September callups. The Braves’ front office is undoubtedly eyeing the future, and September is a great time to get a sneak peak at what’s coming up on the farm. One of the bright spots this season has been watching the young players such as Jace Peterson, Manny Banuelos, Arodys Vizcaino and Matt Wisler come into their own this season. A few guys who appear to be candidates for September callups include Daniel Castro and Jason Hursh. Christian Bethancourt is also likely to be back with the team, as he has hit red hot for AAA. If we’re lucky we will get a glimpse of Tyrell Jenkins or Mallex Smith, but the team will likely be cautious with their development and they’re far from locks despite their performance in recent weeks.
All in all, 2015 was the start of a new generation of Braves baseball. However, late 2015 may be the first time we get a real glimpse at what our team will look like next season. Sure, they likely won’t be an October team in 2016, but they will most definitely be an improved team given the transactions made by the front office as well as an additional year of experience for our young players. It hasn’t been easy to watch, but if you’re a Braves fan, you need to be watching down the final stretch regardless of where we are in the standings.