Spring training officially ended yesterday, and the Braves are off to Philadelphia for their Opening Day game at Citizens Bank Ballpark. This spring was one of the most intriguing in recent memory due to the number of rising stars the Braves have in their system. Many of them showed out, some left much to be desired, and others were non-participants, giving us some intriguing storylines as the Braves prepare for the regular season.
The Health of Mike Soroka and Luiz Gohara
Gohara had an odd 2018. He began the year as a prospect the Braves believed would eventually become a significant addition to their rotation. Injuries and a family emergency later – Gohara was back in the minor leagues. The Braves still think the Brazilian native has one of the highest ceilings among their talented pitching prospects, but after another spring lost because of injuries, his outlook in Atlanta is becoming cloudier by the day.
Soroka’s injury is even more concerning. The Braves #3 ranked prospect, according to FanGraphs, was shut down last June and never returned because of shoulder soreness. That soreness appeared to re-aggravate him this spring, even though initially, the Braves stated there was no reason to worry. Now, Soroka doesn’t have a timetable to return and did not pitch during spring training.
Adam Duvall shows no signs of improvement
The Braves opted not to add another outfielder this offseason and instead doubled-down on their Adam Duvall investment. Duvall rewarded them with an abominable .171 batting average in spring training – not much better than the .132 he hit with the Braves last season. Because of that, the Braves acquired Matt Joyce, who will be joining the team in Philadelphia instead of Duvall. It looks like the organization will keep Duvall around in AAA for depth. But man, could that move have turned out any worse for the Braves?
Dansby Swanson looking like a breakout candidate?
Swanson finally returned healthy this spring after having surgery on his wrist last November – an injury that hamstrung the former #1 overall pick all of 2018. He looked much different in spring training, showing a willingness to go the other way, and do so with power.
The hometown product has been extremely underwhelming at the plate in his first two full seasons, but one scroll through Twitter should remind him this city still believes in his potential. A breakout year for Dansby doesn’t have to be an All-Star campaign. If he can hit .270 with double-digit home runs along with his already stellar defense – that is a massive step forward.
The Christian Pache show
Christian Pache is generating Ronald Acuña-type prospect hype after his spring training. The 20-year old is already viewed as the best fielder in the whole organization, including three-time Gold Glove winner, Ender Inciarte, but what has the Braves salivating is Pache’s improved strength and power. He did not hit his first home run until 2018, registering nine of them last year. This spring he hit well over .350 with five doubles and two home runs in only 36 ABs. The Braves are going to begin him in AA, where he has only played 29 games. However, it’s not totally out of the question that he makes his major league debut in 2019.
Wes Parsons dominates his way to the Opening Day roster
Unless you’re a die-hard prospect junkie, you probably didn’t even know who Wes Parsons was until this spring training. The undrafted free agent out of Jackson State Community College became an obvious addition to the Opening Day bullpen that is dealing with the injury bug. Parsons threw 15 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts while allowing a single walk. He now has the opportunity to earn a permanent role on the major league squad while A.J. Minter and Darren O’Day recover from injuries.
The emergence of Kyle Wright
Kyle Wright was projected by many to be a major leaguer in 2020. After all, Wright has only been a professional since 2017 when he was drafted 5th overall out of Vanderbilt. But as the Braves have shown in the past, they are much more willing to call players up who have college experience. Wright proved he is more than ready for the majors and could be a top of the rotation option by season’s end. He will make his debut on Sunday Night Baseball against the division rival Philadelphia Phillies.