Legends On Deck

Atlanta Braves 2017 Spring Training in Review

It was an eventful 2017 Spring Training at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. Now that the Braves have packed their bags and made it safely back to Atlanta, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the headlines of the Spring before the Braves open up SunTrust Park with one final tuneup game tonight against the New York Yankees.

Matt Kemp Looks Like he has Returned to his Old Playing Frame

(Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)

After Braves General Manager, John Coppolella, had some less than flattering things to say about Matt Kemp’s playing shape and how it affected him in left field, his weight became a big story in the off season. Then, after he reported to Spring Training early, it was an even bigger story. Reports surfaced out of camp claiming that Kemp had shed some pounds and was back to the playing shape he was in when he was posting great numbers with the Los Angeles Dodgers. There is a lull in Spring Training news when guys are first reporting and no games have been played yet, so this topic dominated Braves news for the first few days of Spring Training. He did not post the best Spring stats this year, but it will be interesting to see if the defense improves this season and how much he attributes that to his off season.

Ron Washington is Committed

Washington has an incredible work ethic and a tremendous ability to help players craft their game. He interviewed for the Braves open Managerial position and even though he was not selected, the club was eager to keep him on the staff in some capacity. He will be replacing Bo Porter as the third base coach, but his work will more than likely impact guys on the defensive side of the game the most. Recognized league wide for his ability to help young infielders with their defense, Washington was found all camp doing solo drills with players. Many early reports claimed that Washington was beating everyone out onto the field in the morning. With such a young team coming up, having a coach like Washington on the staff will be a huge addition. He already started making a big impact in his first spring with the Braves.  

Dansby Swanson Misses some Playing Time

(John Bazemore/AP)

Every Braves fan seemed to hold their breath for about two weeks straight this Spring while Dansby Swanson was missing time due to “back tightness” or a “side strain” depending on which report you read. They eased him back into the lineup with some minor league games and everything was fine. The fan favorite went on to hit .297 in only 37 at bats this Spring. It will be interesting to see how the young shortstop reacts to limited action in camp.

Ronald Acuna is the New Big Name Position Player

With Swanson in the bigs and Ozzie Albies knocking on the door, Ronald Acuna has emerged as the latest Braves position player to take the farm system by storm. He had a good Spring that included eight hits and three doubles in 27 at bats. He held his own in the outfield as well and was receiving praise from Braves top brass. The 19 year old battled injury issues in 2016, but reestablished himself as a top prospect to watch after his performance in the Australian Baseball League this Winter. He built off of that moment this Spring and thrived with all eyes on him. Acuna took a big step this camp and proved he is developing nicely.

The Guys Leave for the WBC

The Braves had 10 guys set to participate in the WBC, but only seven guys ended up seeing playing time.

Andrew Albers (Canada): 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 2 K, 1 BB

Steven Kent (Australia): 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 K, 1 BB

Jon Kennedy (Australia): 0 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 0 K, 2 BB

Julio Teheran (Colombia): 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 3 K, 1 BB

Freddie Freeman (Canada): 11 AB, 2 H, 1 RBI

Ender Inciarte (Venezuela): 24 AB, 7 H, 3 2B, 3 RBI

Mel Rojas Jr. (Dominican Republic): 2 AB, 0 H

Micah Johnson Makes a Great Catch that Costs him a Roster Spot

(Curtis Compton/AJC)

Micah Johnson was making a very strong case to break camp on the Atlanta Braves opening day roster. With guys like Chase d’Arnaud and Jace Peterson acting as utility players in both the infield and outfield, the Braves saw Johnson as a guy who could back up Inciarte in center. The Braves saw those plans go down the drain on March 14 when the 26 year old broke his wrist on an exceptional diving catch in left field.

The Fourth Outfielder Debate

The top two candidates for the fourth outfielder job are out with Johnson done for about 8 weeks and Dustin Peterson, a Braves top prospect many thought could earn a bench spot, missing time after hand surgery. Throw in the fact that Sean Rodriguez, who was the backup everything, is likely to miss the entire 2017 and the Braves already slim bench options lost even more depth. Enter, Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio is no stranger to the Braves organization and it looks like he is going to break camp as the Braves fourth outfielder.

Mike Foltynewicz Locks Down his Rotation Spot

(Carlos Osorio/AP)

Not that it was ever really in jeopardy. Despite lackluster performances from a number of Braves starters last season, many people thought one of those arms was going to somehow knock Foltynewicz out of the fifth starter spot. No matter how he performed this Spring that was never going to happen, but Foltynewicz made sure to put any rumblings that he didn’t deserve a spot in the rotation to bed with his performance. He posted a 2.66 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP and 18 K’s in 23.2 innings pitched.

A Cluttered Bullpen can be a Good Problem to Have

The Braves bullpen was a surprising bright spot in 2016 and they have many options that could possibly land them in the top 10 bullpens in 2017. It is still undecided on whether they will start the season with seven or eight arms in the pen, but no matter how many guys make the roster there has been plenty of competition all Spring long. Brian Snitker wasted no time naming Jim Johnson as the Braves closer with Arodys Vizcaino guaranteed to get some late inning work as well. Mauricio Cabrera and his speedy fastball were prime for a setup role, but does that change now that he is battling “elbow soreness”? Eric O’Flaherty and Ian Krol appear to be the lefties in the pen with Josh Collmenter serving as a long reliever. Chaz Roe was out of options so he was set to make the roster unless the Braves were blown away by someone else. The Braves bullpen has the potential to be surprisingly good to outsiders, but is also one or two injuries away from having a long 2017.

Young Guys Get Great Experience

Manager Brian Snitker did a great job of mixing and matching his lineups this Spring to give us a look at the everyday guys, the players on the 40-man roster, the guys who have had their cup of coffee, the veterans that have been battling in the minors for years, and top prospects. The future is bright in Atlanta and the young crop of guys that the Braves are looking to have take the reins over the next few years got some valuable experience this camp.   

Rio Ruiz: 56 AB, 15 H, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Adam Walker: 31 AB, 7 H, 2 HR, 8 RBI

Ronald Acuna: 27 AB, 8 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI

Ozzie Albies: 16 AB, 6 H, 1 2B, 2 R

Travis Demeritte: 20 AB, 3 H, 1 2B

Ray-Patrick Didder: 10 AB, 1 H, 1 2B

Austin Riley: 8 AB, 2 H, 1 2B

Luke Jackson: 4 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 K, 4 BB

Max Fried: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 3 BB

Sean Newcomb: 3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 K, 0 BB

Patrick Weigel: 1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 0 K, 2 BB

Jake Berry
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Jake Berry

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2016 with an undergrad in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at berrysbaseball.com

You can also reach out to Jake at jberry@legendsondeck.com
Jake Berry
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