The Braves were the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention in the National League, which isn’t altogether surprising, the way they’ve mortgaged the present for the future. They easily “won” the race to the bottom of the NL East this season, as their 59-91 record at the time of this post is eight losses worse than the Phillies. Congrats, ATL!
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Braves, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Nothing really went wrong for the Braves as much as they did what they were built to do — lose. (Maybe even tank?!?) Nobody, not even Braves fans, have the misconception that this team would compete in 2016, not with all cost-cutting and roster-shredding they’ve done since the end of the 2014 season. We’re talking about a team that hit the fewest homers in MLB, that used 16 different starting pitchers and that started Jeff Francoeur for 99 games. They were never going to win. (Mike Oz)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Braves’ season started off well when they took advantage of the Arizona Diamondbacks and convinced them to give up first-round pick Dansby Swanson in exchange for Shelby Miller. That was back in December 2015, and… that might be it. Swanson has done well since he debuted in mid-August, and the Braves themselves will avoid losing 100 games, but this is a year that most Braves fans will want to forget. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
The Braves’ season was never better than on June 19. Julio Teheran was terrific in a 6-0 win over the Mets, pitching a complete game shutout, allowing one hit – a single in the third inning – no walks and striking out seven. Teheran’s gem also came during a six-game winning-streak. There weren’t a ton of pretty days for baseball in Atlanta this season, but this was certainly one of them. The 25-year-old right-hander was on the top of his game and it was beautiful to watch. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
We know the Braves will experience a change of scenery next season when they move into SunTrust Park. If they could pull off a change of divisions, that wouldn’t hurt either. The entire NL East seems to be positioned well for the future as long as certain players stay healthy.
With that in mind, the Braves need to and certainly will continue overhauling the roster. They’ve put together an impressive core that will be the backbone of their future, but they need impact players beyond Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. Many of their recent moves seem to be focused toward that goal, as they’ve taken on salary here to shed salary there. That could free them up for an active winter. (Mark Townsend)
WARP INTO THE FUTURE
Two words: Dansby Swanson. At 22, Swanson is already holding his own in the majors with a .289/.347/.411 slash line. Everything we know about him up to this point suggests he’s going to be the next superstar shortstop. He was drafted first overall, cruised through the minors and is already performing in the majors. Sign us up!
Swanson remains the most talented and most immediate reason to be hopeful, but the Braves’ farm system is strong. The club spent last offseason hoarding young pitching, and while some of those players might turn into nothing, it still seems like a good strategy. Aaron Blair and Sean Newcomb should play a big role with the club next year. Touki Toussant and Max Fried remain further away.
If you really want to go deep, infielder Ozzie Albies, pitchers Ian Anderson and Kolby Allard are all high-upside players who are still years away from making the majors. Albies and Allard were born in 1997. Anderson was born in 1998. Feel old yet? (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Minnesota Twins
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