Legends On Deck

2015 Atlanta Braves: How They Were Built

2015 Atlanta Braves

The 2015 Atlanta Braves roster looks a bit different than last year.  Trades involving players like Justin Upton and Jason Heyward changed the entire complexion of the outfield.  The pitching staff is young but could be very good as long as they stay healthy and they do boast the best closer in the major leagues, but the team is re-building.  Let’s take a closer look at how the 2015 Atlanta Braves were built.

Starting Pitchers

Julio Teheran – Signed as an amateur free agent with the Braves in 2007.  Teheran is 23-years old and has lived up to the billing of one of the Braves top pitching prospects.  He is 29-22 so far in his young career, including two consecutive 14-win seasons.  He had an ERA of 2.89 in 33 starts in 2014, recording 221 innings with 186 strikeouts, and was rewarded with an All-Star selection.  The righty from Venezuela signed a six-year $32.4 million contract extension in February of last year which also holds an option for the 2020 season.  This is one youngster to keep your eye on.

Mike Minor – Drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Braves.  Minor is one of two left-handed options for the Braves in the rotation in 2015.  Limited to just 25 starts last season due to shoulder issues, Minor will look to put 2014 in the rear-view and try to repeat what he was able to do in 2013, when he went 13-9 with an ERA of 3.21.  Minor is eligible for arbitration with a hearing that is scheduled for mid-February.  He is projected to be in the $5.1 million to $5.6 million range.

Shelby Miller – Acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals in November of 2014.  The 24-year old Miller has three years of MLB experience and brings with him a 26-18 record to Atlanta, and a third place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2013.  As one of the key players in the Jason Heyward trade, Miller should fit in nicely in Atlanta’s young rotation.

Alex Wood – Drafted in the second round of the 2012 amateur draft by the Braves.  Wood has appeared as both a starter and reliever so far in his young career.  Last season he posted an 11-11 record with an ERA of 2.78 in 35 appearances (24 starts).  The other left-handed option in the rotation is just 24-years old and will be looked at to do more of the same this season as he did in 2014.

Michael Foltynewicz – Acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros in January 2015.  Foltynewicz made his major league debut in 2014 appearing in 16 games with the Houston Astros.  The numbers he posted weren’t overly impressive, but still should get a shot at cracking the rotation when spring training concludes.  He was one of the key players in the trade that sent Evan Gattis to Houston.

Bullpen

Craig Kimbrel (CL) – Drafted in the third round of the 2008 amateur draft by the Braves.  There really isn’t much to say about Kimbreal other than he is the best closer in baseball.  He was put into the role in 2011 and has been brilliant.  He has amassed 186 saves in four seasons, with four consecutive All-Star selections, a Rookie of the Year award (2011), and four consecutive top ten finishes in the Cy Young Award voting.  He owns a minuscule ERA over his career of 1.43 and has 476 strikeouts in 289 innings of work.  The 26-year old Alabama native signed a four-year $42 million contract extension in 2014 with an option in 2018.  Look for the Braves to lock him up even longer in 2016 or 2017 if they are in position to compete.

Jason Grilli – Signed a two-year $8 million free agent contact with the Braves in January of 2015.  The well-traveled 38-year old Grilli has had his share of ups and downs.  He is entering his 13th season in the major leagues playing for the ninth team.  Grilli comes with closer experience and can be a nice option for the Braves before handing the ball over to Kimbrel to close things out.  He was selected to his first All-Star game in 2013 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Jim Johnson – Signed a one-year $1.6 million free agent contract with the Braves in December of 2014.  Another veteran arm for the Braves out of the bullpen with closer experience.  Johnson recorded back-to-back 50+ saves seasons when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles.  After stringing together several really good seasons, Johnson was certainly off in 2014.  I feel like this is a low-risk high-reward signing for the Braves that could even be flipped if the season doesn’t go according to plan in 2015.

James Russell – Acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in July of 2014.  The 6’4 lefty appeared in 22 games after being acquired in July from the Cubs and did a real nice job.  He was never a pitcher of record for Atlanta, but recorded an ERA of 2.22 which was his lowest so far in the major leagues.  Russell notched 24.1 innings of work for the Braves with 16 strikeouts.  Russell is one of several left-handed options for the Braves out of the pen.

Josh Outman – Signed a one-year $925K free agent contract with the Braves in January of 2015.  Outman is another left-handed pitcher that is entering his seventh season in the major leagues for his fifth different team.  Outman, who probably has one of the better names for a pitcher in baseball, last appeared with the New York Yankees in 2014.  All in all last season he posted a 4-0 record with an ERA of 2.86.

Starting Lineup

Christian Bethancourt (C) – Signed as an amateur free agent in 2008 by the Braves.  Bethancourt looks to be handed the reigns as the Braves every day starter at catcher.  He split time with Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird, who have both moved on, but will still have a veteran presence with Pierzynski.  The 23-year old will need more time to improve on his numbers as he only appeared in 31 games in 2014.

Freddie Freeman (1B) – Drafted in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft by the Braves.  Freeman is another exciting player that the Braves have on their roster.  He has made two consecutive All-Star appearances and played all 162 games in 2014.  He was runner-up to Kimbrel as the Rookie of the Year in 2011, and hasn’t stopped since.  He is capable of hitting 20 home runs while driving in nearly 100, He hits for average, and gets on base.  Freeman has gaudy numbers and is just 25-years old.  He and the Braves agreed on an eight-year $135 million contract extension prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Alberto Callaspo (2B) – Signed a one-year $3 million free agent contract with the Braves.  Callaspo is entering his 10th season in the major leagues.  He hold a career .267 average and is most likely a place holder for the Braves top prospect Jose Peraza who could make the leap sometime this season.  The Braves are Callaspo’s fifth team that he has played for in the major leagues.

Chris Johnson (3B) – Acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013.  Johnson may have had a semi-down year at the plate last season, but he made up for it with his improving defense.  He had a tremendous 2013 with the Braves hitting .321/.358/.457/.816 with 12 home runs and 68 RBI, which netted him a three-year $23.5 million contract extension with an option for 2018.  Johnson’s name was swirling around this winter in trade rumors, but it looks like he will man the hot corner for Atlanta moving forward in 2015.

Andrelton Simmons (SS) – Drafted in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Braves.  Another player that saw a slight dip in production last season was Simmons.  He is entering his fourth season in the major leagues and was locked up long-term by the Braves in April of 2014.  Simmons and Atlanta agreed on a seven-year $58 million contract extension, which at the time was the largest annual average salary extension by a play with just a little over a year of MLB service.  He has won two straight Gold Glove awards and he is only 25-years old.

Jonny Gomes (LF) – Signed a one-year $4 million free agent contract with the Braves.  It is kind of unreasonable to think that the 34-year old Gomes will be able to play in the outfield everyday.  Gomes hit just .234 with both Oakland and Boston last season and saw a dip in his power numbers.  Atlanta would love Gomes to return to the 20 home run hitter that he has been in the past.

B.J. Upton (CF) – Signed a five-year $75.25 million free agent contact with the Braves in 2012.  Although Upton’s batting average was .208 in 2014, it was actually up from the .184 he hit in 2013.  The Braves were looking to possibly move Upton during the offseason but weren’t able to.  The 30-year old has the ability to hit for power and has stolen bases in the past but it seems like those days are gone.

Nick Markakis (RF) – Signed a four-year $44 million free agent contact with the Braves in this offseason.  This signing confused me a little bit when it was announced.  It had nothing to do with Markakis as a player because he is a real good one.  It was the direction the Braves were talking of going and working towards re-building, and Markakis seems to be more of a player to go to a contender but that is neither here nor there.  Markakis is entering his 10th season in the league and has won two Gold Glove Awards.  He is a career .290 hitter with 141 home runs and a .358 on base percentage.  He is a very durable player that has played in over 155 games seven times in his career with five of them eclipsing 160.

Projected Bench

A.J. Pierzynski (C) – Signed a one-year $2 million free agent contract with the Braves.  Heading into the twilight of his career, the 17-year veteran catcher will be playing for his seventh team.  He has been selected to the All-Star game twice, and picked up the Silver Slugger award as a 35-year old in 2012.  He will be a great asset to the Braves and their young catcher Bethancourt as they move forward.

Kelly Johnson (IF/OF) – Signed as a free agent in January of 2015.  Johnson is a player that can literally play anywhere and has.  He spent 2014 with three different teams and potentially could be used as a trade chip later in the season if things don’t go as planned.  The 32-year old owns a career .250 average and has shown signs of power at different points in his career.

Eury Perez (OF) – Claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees in January 2015.  Perez has little MLB experience in his three years, but could fill a slot potentially on the bench for the Braves in 2015.

Philip Gosselin (IF/OF) – Drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 amateur draft by the Braves.  Gosselin appeared in 46 games in 2014 and played just about every position but most of the time was at second base.  This could be another case of holding a spot down until other prospects are ready, but the fact he can play anywhere is beneficial to Atlanta.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com