When the Braves traded Erick Aybar yesterday and subsequently replaced him with Dansby Swanson, the fanbase got a huge glance at the team’s future. Swanson’s promotion signifies a turning point in the team’s rebuild. The Vandy prospect is one of the most intriguing prospects in recent memory for Braves fans, and he should make an impact day one. While the Braves have a horrid 44-75 record, they are trending towards the right direction and should be a competitive team next season. However, fans will get a taste of the pieces that will change the dynamic of this team between now and the regular season’s end.
Jace Peterson has been a bright spot for the Braves this season. However, given his versatility, it may be in the team’s best interest to mold him into a super-utility type player, a poor man’s version of a Ben Zobrist. There is little doubt that Ozzie Albies is the future at the second base position, and it looks like we could see him before the end of the season. While he is younger than Swanson, it was Albies who got the promotion to AAA month ago, only to be sent down to share the middle infield with Swanson in preparation for the big leagues. Albies is a likely September callup candidate, and perhaps the team will send him to AAA for the next two weeks in the meantime. If the team wants to go ahead and call him up now, Gordon Beckham hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Or, the team could simply wait for rosters to expand.
The team is also set to get back ace Julio Teheran in the approaching days, as he tossed five innings in a rehab start with Gwinnett on Sunday. There is a good chance his next scheduled start will be with the big league club. The Braves have made a huge push in Teheran’s absence, so getting back their best pitcher is very encouraging. The Braves only have four starters on their active roster so the team will likely opt to send a reliever to the minors to make room for Julio in the coming days.
Brian Snitker told reporters that Mallex Smith may not return this season. There is not a setback in his injury, but his thumb is taking more time to heal than planned. Smith was forced into action and had a small sample size with the big league club, but still impressed. It would be nice to see him return to the field this season. If the team finds a taker for Nick Markakis before the Sepember 1 waiver trade deadline, Smith could become an every day regular. The Braves should not take any chances with Mallex though, given their record.
The Braves will also get their best catcher back soon in Tyler Flowers. Like Teheran, he is currently rehabbing in the minors. Flowers was in the midst of the best year of his career, and offers a lot of value in today’s talent-ridden catching market. Anthony Recker has earned a roster spot, but it is unlikely the team parts ways with A.J. Pierzynski. Getting Flowers back offers the lineup a little more firepower.
John Gant is approaching his return as well, and should replace Joel de la Cruz in the rotation. Gant had his struggles but posted an encouraging strikeout rate in his first big league stint. A rotation of Teheran-Folty-Jenkins-Whalen-Gant carries a bunch of intrigue. Williams Perez was transferred to the 60-day DL, and it looks less and less likely by the day that we see him again this season. The team may or may not let Matt Wisler rejoin the rotation at some point after being demoted to AAA. This does not mean he is not in the team’s future plans. Given the injury bug the Braves have dealed with this season, it is likely Wisler gets another chance. Aaron Blair looked to have figured out his mechanics in AAA, but is currently sidelined by injury.
The unit that is set to import a bunch of talent in the coming weeks is the bullpen. Closer Arodys Vizcaino is set to return from his oblique injury soon and is currently rehabbing in the minors. Akeel Morris got the call last week, just to be sent down the next day. He is likely the next guy to come up for the Braves. The team has many expendable options currently in Ryan Weber and Eric O’ Flaherty. When rosters expand, the rich could get even richer. Shae Simmons is expected to make his major league return in September, and Chris Withrow will likely be recovered from injury by then. There is also a chance the Braves could give A.J. Minter and/or Caleb Dirks a taste of the big leagues as well.
The Braves have been awful this season, but the team also failed to live up to expectations. This roster was never built to win a title, but a combination of injuries and inconsistency has haunted the team. The fans are finally getting to see John Coppolella’s vision, and the future looks brighter by the day. It is encouraging to see the team perform better recently, and with all the names listed above set to join the roster between now and the end of the season, September will be a month to remember for Braves fans. Hopefully the team can show glimpses of competitiveness down the stretch, and turn this thing around real fast… Astros style.