Take a sigh of relief Braves fans, it’s finally over. This past season was a tough one, and if you watched until the very end, you are truly a loyal fan because the product simply was not there. The Braves’ second half collapse was ugly, bad enough to notch them the third overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Though it was great to see the team end the season on a high note last week and for Shelby Miller to get his first win since May, it was still depressing to see an empty Turner Field at the season’s conclusion. This year sucked, plain and simple. However, the future is still bright for the organization as they hit the reset button. There is some good, and some bad. Let’s take a look at my thoughts from the 2015 season:
The Shelby Miller deal proved to be a steal. The righty posted a 3.02 ERA and proved to be the club’s ace en route to his first All-Star appearance. His numbers may have even been better with better morale, as he had historically bad run support behind him this season. Julio Teheran had a topsy-turvy year that sparked a lot of trade rumors, but his performance at home and late in the season are proof that he is still a very special young pitcher. Don’t forget, he’s just 24. I expect him to rebound next season. I am really big on the potential of young Matt Wisler. He struggled at times and was inconsistent, but the movement on this kids’ pitches is special. He also had a 2.93 ERA at home If he can knock those road demons, he can be a good starter in this league for a long time. Williams Perez broke onto the scene after being promoted following his incredible performance for AAA Gwinnett. That success carried over to the big leagues, but he had a rough stretch when he came off the DL. His final ERA of 4.78 is very deceiving, as he threw quality starts most games. He definitely deserves a shot to crack next year’s rotation, and like Wisler, he finished his 2015 campaign on a strong note. Manny Banuelos was very impressive as well, and much like Perez, he dominated AAA. His number one priority is to stay healthy. If he can do that, he is just as talented as any pitcher on this staff. Yes, Mike Foltynewicz has velocity, and people are huge on his potential. I, however, am running out of patience. He has proven to be ineffective out of the bullpen as well as in a starting role. With all the arms we have competing for next year’s rotation, it’s hard to make a case for Folty. I thought the Evan Gattis trade was the only offseason move that we would regret, and one year later it still looks as if that’s the case. I’m not huge on Ryan Weber as a future asset either. Also, a side note… looks like the team will be bringing back Mike Minor next season.
Oh boy, this should be fun. The bullpen this season was the Philadelphia 76ers of bullpens. Sorry, unlike most Braves writers, I’m a critic. I’m going to be brutally honest here, however, there were definitely bright spots as well. Let’s take a look at how everyone fared:
One guy that many have criticized throughout the year has been Brandon Cunniff. However, I’m actually pretty big on the rookie. He held batters to a .213 average against, and was often thrown into situations that are meant for veteran receivers to handle. I like his potential and think he has the ability to be a big league reliever for a very long time. Ross Detwiler… yikes. Next. Jason Grilli did a phenomenal job as the Braves’ closer before going down. He is still under contract for next season, but Arodys Vizcaino has emerged as a star closer in this league in his absense. There were a lot of rumors surrounding Grilli potentially being moved at the deadline before getting hurt, but after this year’s debacle hopefully they can have one work a setup role. They could combine for a great late inning duo next season. Edwin Jackson was a great low-key addition to the bullpen, and I really hope the team brings him back next season. He had a relationship with Roger McDowell prior to coming to Atlanta, and he had his best stint in years with Atlanta. The loss of Paco Rodriguez for 2016 is bigger than most think, because southpaws Andrew McKirahan and Matt Marksberry proved to be ineffective options this season. Expect the Braves to be in the market for a lefty reliever this offseason. It was great to see Peter Moylan make a comeback this season, and it was also great to see him mentor the young bullpen members. He is worth bringing back in 2016, in my opinion. Ryan Kelly and Sugar Ray Marimon belong in AAA… We didn’t really see much of Daniel Winkler and Danny Burawa, but both have been solid in the minors. Getting back Shae Simmons and Matt Withrow should help the bullpen a ton in 2016, and the team has emphasized that it will be addressed in the offseason.
A.J. Pierzynski exceeded expectations in 2015, and the team is really big on him. Not dealing him at the trade deadline despite having Christian Bethancourt is a strong indicator that they likely plan on bringing him back next season. Bethancourt’s future is very cloudy, as he really struggled at the plate this season. When he did get consistent at bats at AAA, he was very good, however. I still don’t think the team is sold on the young catcher, and for good reason. The question is whether they will give him another shot to prove his worth in 2016. Ryan Lavarnway served as a decent third catcher.
Freddie Freeman is… Freddie Freeman. He is the face of the franchise and our best player. This year was the first time he has had issues staying on the field, but hopefully he can put those behind him and go back to the iron man he has been in years past. Jace Peterson’s final stats are nothing to write home about, but he did prove to be a clutch hitter in his first full season, which is an attribute that can’t simply be taught. The team may look to get more production at second base, but I think Jace has some room for improvement in his game. Hector Olivera is a huge investment on Atlanta’s part, and we only got a small sample size. However, he showed raw strength and many forget that between injuries, being traded, switching between minor league teams and not seeing his family all season, it was a long year. He will be playing winter ball and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer will be accompanying him. Expect more out of the Cuban third baseman in year two. Olivera’s platoon partner, Adonis Garcia, was a nice surprise as well. He hit .277 with 10 homers and 26 RBI in just 191 at bats. He actually performed better in the big leagues than he did in his minor league career. I’m all for bringing back Garcia as a bench player in 2016. Andrelton Simmons showcased his elite glove once again this season, but he’s still nothing special on offense. I think he could bring his batting average up a ton if he hits to the right side of the field more. If the Braves are trying to make a big time trade, Simba could be the most likely Brave to be moved, because let’s face it: the team needs bats. Pedro Ciriaco did a nice job in a utility role off our bench this year, but I want more action for Daniel Castro. I’m big on the youngster, and he stole a lot of at bats from Jace Peterson down the stretch. He could be in store for a big role in 2016.
Expectations weren’t too high for Cameron Maybin when he was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal. However, he ended up putting up a career year under the tutilege of Kevin Seitzer. Mallex Smith appears to being close to major league ready, so it’s unclear whether Maybin will be moved to left field or even another team. All I know is that he was one of the few bats in this lineup that really made a difference this season, and I’d love to have him around for a while. Nick Markakis may have only hit 3 homers this season, but he was easily the best hitter in our lineup. He consistently hit .300 all season, and Brian Jordan says it best: he’s a professional hitter. Expect him to regain a lot of his strength when he finally has a full offseason to recover from his neck surgery. He’s definitely worth the 4-year/$44 million contract that some have criticized. Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher and their contracts both came to Atlanta when they rid themselves of Chris Johnson. They both have had great careers, but 2015 hasn’t been friendly to either of them. Swisher looked like he benefited from a change of scenery when he first got to Atlanta, but really struggled down the stretch. His enthusiasm is contagious and he’s a great guy to have in the locker room, but the Braves are going to have to eat his big deal. Same goes for Michael Bourn. I still think Mallex Smith is Michael Bourn 2.0 (in his prime) and John Hart has emphasized that the two will be lockermates next season in AAA. He may not live up to his contract figure, but you hear stories all the time about how players mentor guys even though they are there to take their jobs and it has a huge influence on their career. Hopefully he can help shape young Mallex Smith. I’ve seen enough of Todd Cunningham to know what I’m getting out of him, but I did like what Eury Perez had to offer to the team and I love him as quality depth. I’m sure Hart and Coppy will try hard to move Swisher and Bourn’s contracts, and if so Perez could be the top backup option in our outfield.
If you follow my articles, you know I’m not a huge fan of Fredi Gonzalez. How he still has a job is beyond me, but it’s largely in part due to the media not being harsh enough in our market. This dude would have been fired four years ago in Boston. Fredi Gonzalez is not a winner, and it’s time to move on. Still can’t believe the team extended him. This team did not put up the best offensive numbers, but the talent also just wasn’t there this season. Kevin Seitzer has still gotten a ton of praise from players, and as I mentioned, he’s going down to work with Olivera. That type of dedication doesn’t come around often. Many people have criticized Roger McDowell, but I still think he is one of the best pitching coaches in this league. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to have so many different guys coming in and out of the locker room as a pitching coach. Pitching is an art of adjustments, and McDowell had very few guys who he had even worked a full season with. Jim Johnson was a perfect example of a guy who McDowell helped get back on track. Carlos Tosca followed Fredi Gonzalez here to Atlanta, and if you hate Batman you have to hate Robin. Bo Porter has been interviewed by the Florida Marlins for their managerial position, so the Braves may have a new third base coach next season. Terry Pendleton is still my candidate to be the team’s manager. We all know the Braves love to keep things internal, and Pendleton has something Fredi does not. Balls. We saw with the Chris Johnson incident that Pendleton is a hardass who is all about accountability. I can’t even remember the last time Fredi showed emotion, or a player had a positive thing to say about him. Pendleton was also interviewed by one of the best organizations in the league, the St. Louis Cardinals, for their managerial vacancy after Tony La Russa retired. He’s done his dues, he’s qualified, and I think he’s exactly what this team needs. Eddie Perez is simple Eddie Perez… he’s awesome. Wouldn’t mind him being named manager, either.