Tag Archives: Nationals

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Chicago White Sox

The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.

The White Sox are clearly looking toward the future, having traded one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball and one of the team’s best hitters this offseason. The team traded SP Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a package of four players highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada, then a day later traded OF Adam Eaton to the Nationals in exchange for SP Lucas Giolito and two other players. Moncada and Giolito are the players acquired in those deals who are closest to being in the majors, but neither is guaranteed to end up with a roster spot when the season starts. The team signed SP Derek Holland, who will likely slot into the bottom of the rotation while SP Jose Quintana is the definitive No. 1 starter with Sale in Boston. 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier will lead the offensive attack for the White Sox. The offense will be without 2B Brett Lawrie, who the White Sox released in March after one season with the team.

The White Sox finished in the top half of MLB last season with a .257 average, but their 168 home runs were the ninth fewest in the majors. The team’s .727 OPS also finished in the bottom 10 of the league. Abreu was the team’s best hitter overall, hitting .293 with 25 home runs and a .820 OPS. Frazier led the team in home runs with a career-high 40  — eighth-most in the majors — but that went with a career-low .225 average, 30 points lower than what he hit in 2015. Frazier finished the season with a .767 OPS. OF Melky Cabrera hit. 296 with 14 home runs.

The pitchers posted a 4.10 ERA, which placed them near the middle of the league. They finished the season with a below-average 1,270 strikeouts, and the bullpen ended up with 43 saves, which was right on the MLB average. Quintana led the starting rotation with a 3.20 ERA. He also struck out 181 batters in 208 innings in 32 starts. Young SP Carlos Rodon started 28 games and put up decent numbers, a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings. SP Miguel Gonzalez put up a 3.73 ERA. With the Rangers last year, Holland pitched in 22 games — 20 starts — with a 4.95 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. RP David Robertson saved 37 games in 44 opportunities, to go along with a 3.47 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 62. 1 innings. RP Nate Jones had a good season in a setup role, throwing 70.2 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 80 strikeouts.

There’s a lot of youth in the White Sox lineup this season, with the likes of SS Tim Anderson and C Omar Narvaez expected to get the starting jobs at their positions coming out of spring training. OF Charlie Tilson was also on track to land a starting job, but a recent foot injury will likely prevent that from happening. Abreu and Frazier are likely going to have to carry the team offensively as the young players adapt to major-league pitching. Quintana is a viable ace, but without Sale there’s not a strong No. 2 to slot in behind him. Rodon could eventually be that guy, but he has been pretty inconsistent in his first two seasons in the league. He’ll have to step up if he wants to be that guy to put up good numbers behind Quintana in the rotation. Robertson and Jones should be able to keep a lead when they get one handed to them, if they continue to pitch like they did last year.

Being in the same division as the Twins could be the only thing that saves the White Sox from being a last-place team this year. After trading away Sale and Eaton, the White Sox are clearly going to take a step backwards this season and are probably looking at 70-75 wins after winning 78 games in 2016. It’s a period of rebuilding for the White Sox that is probably going to take at least another couple of years, so White Sox fans should expect sub-.500 teams for the foreseeable future.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.whitesox.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Cincinnati Reds

The next NL Central team up in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Cincinnati Reds, who finished in last place in the division last season.

The Reds, coming off a 68-win season, have finished in last place in the division each of the last two seasons, and are clearly in rebuilding mode. Last month, they traded veteran 2B Brandon Phillips to the Braves for a couple of minor leaguers and earlier in the winter traded SP Dan Straily to the Marlins. Their biggest acquisition this offseason was RP Drew Storen, who provides a veteran presence in the bullpen and could compete for the closer’s role, a position he has experience in from his time with the Nationals. Phillips’ departure leaves 1B Joey Votto as the only experienced position player in the starting lineup. Replacing Phillips at second is speedy Jose Peraza, with more speed in the outfield represented by Billy Hamilton. SP Anthony DeSclafani looked like he might be on track to lead the rotation — which also includes SP Scott Feldman, who the Reds signed to a one-year contract in January — but he has been shut down for a month with a torn UCL sprain, so he’ll be starting the season on the DL.

The Reds’ .256 batting average last season was just above the MLB average of .255, but they were in the bottom 10 with 164 home runs and a .724 OPS. Thanks to Peraza and Hamilton, the team ranked second in the majors with 139 steals. Votto’s .326 average led the team, and he hit 29 home runs for a .985 OPS. OF Adam Duvall hit 33 home runs, the most on the club, but hit just .241 with a .795 OPS. 3B Eugenio Suarez hit .248 with 21 home runs in his first full season in the majors. Peraza hit .324 and stole 21 bases in 72 games, while Hamilton swiped 58 bases, which was the second-most in the majors.

The team’s 4.91 ERA was tied for third-worst in the majors and the pitching staff’s 1,241 strikeouts were in the bottom half of the league. The bullpen recorded just 28 saves, which was the fewest in the National League and second-fewest overall in the majors. DeSclafani posted a 3.28 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 123.1 innings over the course of 20 starts. SP Brandon Finnegan put up a 3.98 ERA and struck out 145 batters in 172 innings in 31 starts. RP Tony Cingrani led the bullpen with 17 saves in 65 appearances. His 4.14 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 63 innings don’t stand out as part of a particularly successful season. In 37 games, RP Raisel Iglesias recorded 83 strikeouts in 78.1 innings with 6 saves and a 2.53 ERA. With the Blue Jays and Mariners, Storen pitched in 57 games last season with a career-worst 5.23 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 51.2 innings; he also added 3 saves to his career total.

Without adding any big-name hitters after trading away Phillips, the Reds are likely going to remain an average to below-average offense this season. You would expect Votto to exhibit power again this year, but Duvall likely won’t be able to repeat the 33-homer season he had a year ago. Having Peraza and Hamilton on the basepaths with their speed doesn’t benefit the Reds as much as it could other teams since they can’t capitalize on having the runners on base as much as they should. The pitching staff is mediocre for the most part, lacking both a proven ace and closer. The team has SP Homer Bailey waiting in the wings as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery, but he likely won’t be able to pitch until June at the earliest. Iglesias is probably the best option to close games, but he has virtually no experience in the role so it’s a gamble as to whether he would succeed as the closer. Storen has closing experience — he’s just a couple saves shy of 100 for his career — but he didn’t have a good year in 2016 and the Reds may not want him closing out games.

The Reds are likely still the worst team in the Central and playing in the same division as the World Series champion Cubs obviously won’t do them any favors. If their young players can develop into stars, the Reds could be good in a few years but for now they’re just a bad team that will finish another season well under .500.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. And be sure to subscribe, check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.reds.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Baltimore Orioles

We’re moving on to the AL East in our previews of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season. We begin the division’s previews with the Baltimore Orioles, who finished in a tie for second place in the division last season.

The Orioles team that begins the 2017 season will look awfully similar to the 89-win team from 2016, with the exception of the loss of C Matt Wieters, who signed with the Nationals; C Welington Castillo, who played for the Diamondbacks last season, is expected to replace him as the starter. The Orioles’ biggest addition this offseason was trading for OF Seth Smith from the Mariners; he is expected to patrol right field for the O’s, joining Hyun Soo Kim and Adam Jones in the outfield. It took a while but the team eventually re-signed free-agent DH Mark Trumbo.

The Orioles’ .256 average was middle of the pack in MLB last season, but they led the majors with 253 home runs, led by Trumbo and 1B Chris Davis, who hit 47 and 38, respectively. To go along with his career-high and MLB-best home run total, Trumbo hit .256 with a .850 OPS. Davis hit just .221 last season, which represents a 41-point drop from 2015. He also had the most strikeouts in the majors with 219. Elsewhere on the diamond, 3B Manny Machado set career highs with a .294 average, 37 home runs and a .876 OPS. His 6.7 WAR ranked seventh in the American League. Jones hit .265 and launched 29 home runs while playing the hot corner. The team’s 4.22 ERA and 1,248 strikeouts ranked in the bottom half of the majors, but the bullpen’s 54 saves was the fourth most. Leading the way in the rotation was SP Kevin Gausman, who posted a 3.61 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 179.2 inning, but he went just 9-12 in his 30 starts. SP Chris Tillman had a 3.77 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 172 innings to go along with a 16-6 record in his 30 games. In the bullpen, RP Zach Britton pitched to an impressive 0.54 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 67 innings. His 47 saves were the most in the AL.

Going from Wieters to Castillo behind the plate should present just a minimal loss on offense — if any — and with the rest of the lineup remaining pretty much intact, the offense shouldn’t take much of a hit this season compared to last year. The problem is the team can’t always rely on the long ball to have a successful season so if the batting average doesn’t improve much, the Orioles won’t be in a much better situation than in 2016. A significant improvement in batting average isn’t likely in the cards, though, with guys like Davis and Trumbo, who can hit the ball out of the park but struggle with making contact if they’re not hitting home runs. The biggest change in the starting rotation is the subtraction of SP Yovani Gallardo — who was sent to Seattle in the Smith trade — and young Dylan Bundy taking on a role as starter after splitting his time between the rotation and bullpen last year in his first season at the major-league level. He wasn’t overly impressive last year, with a 4.02 ERA, but if he can take a step forward in his sophomore season it would be a boon to a pitching staff that could use some help to get better. At the back end of the rotation, SPs Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez have a history of inconsistency. If the starters can get the lead to the bullpen, and the relievers hold the lead until Britton gets into the game, the closer should be able to finish games, although he shouldn’t be expected to finish the year with another sub-1.00 ERA. But with 37, 36 and 47 saves, respectively, in the past three seasons Britton has proven himself to be a reliable closer at the end of games.

The Orioles tied the Blue Jays for second place in the division last season with 89 wins, but I don’t think they’ll do that good this season. The Yankees should be better than they were last season with some of their young prospects finally making it up to the majors. I see the Orioles being more of a .500 team this year that will likely finish third or fourth in the division so I’m not expecting another playoff appearance for the Orioles.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.orioles.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Washington Nationals

We finish out the first division in our continuing previews of all 30 MLB teams with the Washington Nationals, who  won the NL East last season.

 

The Nationals had a busy offseason, trying to improve a team coming off a division title — its third in the last five seasons — but couldn’t get out of the NLDS. With C Wilson Ramos moving to the Rays in free agency, the Nationals looked to acquire a veteran presence with a proven offensive track record behind the plate rather than relying on light-hitting C Jose Lobaton as the starter. Early in the winter, they acquired C Derek Norris in a trade with the Padres. He will likely serve as a backup, though, because just days before spring training the Nats signed C Matt Wieters, who has spent his entire career in the region as a member of the Orioles. Wieters should get the starting job at catcher. The Nationals also made a trade with the White Sox, getting OF Adam Eaton in exchange for a trio of prospects, led by Lucas Giolito, who saw some time in the majors last season. The Nationals also traded away 2B Danny Espinosa, who didn’t have a starting role in a crowded infield that includes 2B Daniel Murphy and young SS Trea Turner up the middle. And early in spring training, they signed veteran P Joe Blanton, who may compete for a spot at the bottom of the rotation but will likely provide bullpen depth if he doesn’t get a starting role.

While not excelling on offense in 2016, the Nationals finished in the top half of MLB in most offensive categories, including batting average, home runs and OPS. Leading the offensive attack was Murphy, who had a career year in his first season with the team. He hit .347 with 25 home runs, and he led the National League with 47 doubles, .595 slugging percentage and .985 OPS. Murphy’s offensive WAR of 5.7 was good for third best in the NL. Those numbers helped him finish second in NL MVP voting, behind Cubs 3B Kris Bryant. Murphy’s performance helped pick up the slack for the disappointing year from OF Bryce Harper, the 2015 MVP, who hit .243 with 24 home runs and a .814 OPS — all career lows for a year in which he played in more than 100 games. HIs 1.6 WAR was also the lowest of his career, save for injury-shortened 2014, and a big drop-off from the 9.9 WAR he had in 2015. 3B Anthony Rendon and OF Jayson Werth each hit at least 20 home runs while hitting .270 and .244, respectively. In 73 games after being called up from the minors, Turner hit .342 with 13 home runs and 33 steals in 307 at-bats. With the Orioles last season, Wieters hit .243 with 17 home runs.

On the mound, SP Max Scherzer led a pitching staff that posted a 3.51 ERA, which ranked as the second-best in the majors behind the eventual World Series champion Cubs. The Nationals’ 1,476 strikeouts was also second, and their 155 home runs allowed were the third fewest in the majors. Where the pitching wasn’t as good was in the bullpen, with the Nationals’ 46 saves slotting in near the middle of the pack. In his 34 starts, Scherzer struck out a career-best and NL-leading 284 batters en route to posting a 2.96 ERA over 228.1 innings, earning him the NL Cy Young Award. Scherzer also led the NL with 20 wins, a 0.968 WHIP and a 6.2 WAR for pitchers. Pitching behind Scherzer in the rotation, SP Tanner Roark went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 172 strikeouts and SP Stephen Strasburg won 15 of his 24 starts, posting a 3.60 ERA with 183 strikeouts. RP Jonathan Papelbon — currently a free agent — led the team in saves. RP Shawn Kelley had 7 saves last season to go along with his 2.64 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 67 appearances.

The Nationals should be improved with the additions they made to their roster, but there are some question marks that could hamper expectations for the team that won 95 games last year. One is injury-related, with Scherzer dealing with a hand injury that could cause him to miss the beginning of the regular season. A bigger worry is the bullpen and the Nationals’ lack of a bonafide closer. Kelley looks like he’ll get the first shot at the role, but his limited experience closing games could limit his success at the end of games.

The team also shouldn’t expect to get a repeat performance from Murphy, who played well above the level people have come to expect from him. In his 32-year-old season, he should regress back toward his career averages of .296 batting average and 13 home runs. On the other hand, Harper should bounce back from his down year in 2016. The 24 home runs he hit last year is around what he typically does — 2015’s 42 homers are definitely an outlier in his career stats — but he should be able to raise his .243 average significantly. Turner is a wild card with his limited experience in the majors, but if he can keep up the strong pace he got off to in his rookie season, he could be a 20-homer, 40-steal guy if he can keep up the power and speed he showcased in the second half of last season.

The Nationals look like they have a good chance of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, including the Montreal days. The Mets are still a good team, but the Nationals remain the class of the NL East. It may be hard to win 95 games again but the Nationals appear to be on track for another season of 90-plus victories, which should be enough for another division title. If that happens, the question becomes whether the Nationals can advance out of the NLDS for the first time since moving to D.C.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.nationals.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Philadelphia Phillies

Continuing with our previews of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, it is the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished in fourth place in the NL East last season.

 

The Phillies won 71 games last season, which — despite being 20 games under .500 — was an eight-game improvement over 2015. The Phillies weren’t active signing big names on the free-agent market this offseason but did trade for a couple of pitchers and a veteran hitter who could have an impact on the team this season. The Phillies traded a couple of players to the Dodgers in exchange for OF Howie Kendrick. The more notable name of the two pitchers is SP Clay Buchholz, who the Phillies acquired from the Red Sox for a minor leaguer. Early in the winter, they added an arm to the bullpen by trading for veteran RP Pat Neshek from the Astros. They also signed another veteran reliever, Joaquin Benoit, in free agency to help bolster the bullpen in addition to signing OF Michael Saunders to add another veteran to the offense. Outside of the veterans acquired this winter, much of the core of the Phillies’ roster consists of young players as part of the team’s continued rebuilding efforts.

The Phillies’ offense ranked near the bottom of MLB last season, with their .240 batting average finishing next-to-last in the majors while their 161 home runs were better than just six other teams. Their hitters weren’t patient at the plate, either, finishing with the seventh-most strikeouts and second-fewest walks last season. If you’re looking for a bright spot on the roster, the team’s 96 steals were better than the league average of 85. 2B Cesar Hernandez led the team’s regular starters with a .294 average while 3B Maikel Franco’s 25 home runs tied 1B Ryan Howard — who is currently a free agent — for the most on the team. Franco hit just .255, though. It was a similar story with SS Freddy Galvis, whose 20 home runs came with a .241 average in his second full major-league season. The pitching wasn’t great, either, with the staff’s 4.63 ERA ending up as the fifth-worst in the majors. Their 1,299 strikeouts matched up exactly with the league average, as did the 43 saves recorded by the bullpen. No regular starting pitcher had a better ERA than 3.65, which was posted by SP Jerad Eickhoff. SP Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t far behind him at 3.71. SP Vince Velasquez, who was limited by injuries to 24 starts, had a strong start to the season but regressed in the second half to finish with a 4.12 ERA. He managed to strike out 152 batters in 131 innings while Eickhoff’s 167 strikeouts and 197 innings led the team. RP Jeanmar Gomez recorded 37 saves but didn’t do well in other categories, posting a 4.85 ERA and just 47 strikeouts in 68.2 innings.

The Phillies don’t look to be a much-improved team from last season and most of their young players will have to improve considerably if they want to have a chance of contending for anything. Hellickson and Buchholz will have to anchor the rotation that apart from them consists of young pitchers in Velasquez, Eickhoff and Aaron Nola if they want to give the team a chance to win games because the offense can’t be counted on to score a lot of runs. But even if the starters can give a lead to the bullpen, it’s not certain that Gomez would be able to successfully close out the games because the numbers he put up last season aren’t indicative of what you would expect to see from a closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses the closer’s role at some point during the season — possibly to Benoit, who has some closing experience in his career. Or RP Hector Neris, who struck out 102 batters last season, could get a chance to close out games.

The Phillies finished in fourth place in the division last season and that is likely the best they can hope for this year, as it’ll likely be them and the Braves at the bottom of the East. There are too many question marks on the team — including a lack of a true ace and closer — to expect them to improve much from 2016. They’ll probably be around the 70-win mark again this year as their young players aren’t quite ready to take the next step yet and the players they added during the offseason probably won’t do much to help the team approach .500.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.phillies.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: New York Mets

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, are the New York Metswho finished in second place in the NL East last season

 

A season after losing to the Royals in the World Series the Mets had an 87-win season in 2016, finishing behind the Nationals in the division, and losing to the Giants in the National League Wild Card game in the playoffs. The Mets didn’t make any notable moves in the offseason. They lost SP Bartolo Colon in free agency, opening up a spot in their starting rotation, which has high upside with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, who is coming off an injury that limited him to 17 starts last season and ending his season in early July. Barring an injury SP Steven Matz should be able to get 30-plus starts for the first time in his major league career, which could provide a boost to the pitching staff if he can pitch well out of the No. 4 spot in the rotation. OF Yoenis Cespedes will likely be relied upo to lead the offense with injury questions surrounding veteran 3B David Wright, who had to leave spring training early to head back to New York to have doctors look at a shoulder injury, which could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

The Mets ranked near the bottom of the majors with a .246 average last season but their 218 home runs were fifth-best among the 30 teams. Cespedes and OF Curtis Granderson led the team with 31 and 30 home runs, respectively, while 2B Neil Walker‘s .282 average was tops among the team’s starting position players. Cespedes’ 31 home runs put him in a tie for the ninth most in the National League and his .530 slugging percentage was also ninth in the NL. 3B Jose Reyes, who played 60 games with the team as a midseason free-agent signing, had one of his best seasons in recent years, hitting .267 with 8 home runs. Young OF Michael Conforto showed some power last season, hitting 12 home runs in 304 at-bats, but hit just .220 and struck out 89 times. On the mound, Syndergaard had one of the best seasons among all major league pitchers, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings while compiling a 14-9 record. His 6.0 WAR ranked sixth among all players in the NL. The Mets also saw a good year out of deGrom, who had a 3.04 ERA in an injury-shortened season during which he threw 148 innings in 24 starts, striking out 143. Harvey, who was limited to just 92.2 innings put up a disappointing 4.86 ERA and struck out just 76 batters. Closer Jeurys Familia recorded 51 saves in 56 opportunities. He notched 84 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA over 77.2 innings.

Heading into this season, the Mets need to get more consistent at getting on base, they can’t rely on the long ball as much as they did last year. A key piece to the offense will be OF Jay Bruce, who struggled at the plate after being traded by the Reds to the Mets at the trade deadline. Bruce is the projected starter in right field, but he may not hold that job long if he doesn’t improve upon the .219 he hit in his 50 games with the team last season. Conforto is lurking behind Bruce on the depth chart, waiting to take over for the veteran if he can’t perform to the Mets’ expectations. It might be hard for Syndergaard to repeat his performance from last season, but if he can even come close to that he’ll be a strong ace of a young rotation. The questions come with the rest of the starters, including whether Harvey is fully recovered from his injury and can make it through the full season and if Matz can handle a full-season workload after throwing 132 innings in the majors last season. The Mets shouldn’t have much concern about their bullpen, with Familia coming off two seasons with 43 and 51 saves. The caveat with that is a possible suspension looming for Familia, who was arrested for domestic violence last year. If he misses time for that, RPs Addison Reed or Hansel Robles would likely to get the bulk of the save opportunities in his absence.

The Mets and Nationals should continue to fight for the top spot in the East this season, though the Mets are likely going to be on the worse end of that battle if the offense doesn’t pick things up. The team will likely have to rely on the starting rotation to keep them in games and help them get victories if they want to make it to the playoffs for a third straight season.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.mets.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Atlanta Braves

Over the course of the next 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season. The series begins with a preview of the Atlanta Braves, who finished in last place in the NL East last season.

The Braves may be looking to the future by opening a new ballpark this season, but they were looking at the past with their offseason additions by acquiring veteran pitchers. In November, the Braves signed 40-something SPs R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Then in December, the Braves traded three prospects to the Cardinals in exchange for SP Jaime Garcia, who is coming off of a rare healthy season. That trio will slot into the middle of the rotation, behind SP Julio Teheran at the top of the rotation and a No. 5 role that will likely be determined during spring training. Just days before the start of spring training, the Braves sent a couple of minor leaguers to the Reds in exchange for veteran 2B Brandon Phillips. More exciting for Braves fans is SS Dansby Swanson, a former No. 1 draft pick who the Braves acquired from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2016 season, who should get his first full season in the majors in 2017.

The Braves are in rebuilding mode, coming off a 68-win season and last-place finish a year after winning just 67 games. The Braves’ .255 batting average last season was a slight improvement from 2015 and right on the average among all 30 MLB teams last season. They ranked last in the majors with just 122 home runs on the season and next-to-last with 615 RBI. They also ranked near the bottom of the league in OPS, which all helped lead to a second-worst 649 runs on the season. Their best hitter was 1B Freddie Freeman, who hit .302 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS that was the third-highest in the National League. His 6.5 WAR also placed him third among all players in the NL. Swanson showed some promising signs in his limited time in the majors, hitting .302 with 3 home runs in 129 at-bats.

Teheran led a starting rotation that was among the worst in the majors. Despite posting a 3.21 ERA over 188 innings, he had his first sub-.500 season with a 7-10 record due in large part to the lack of run support from the Braves’ struggling offense. Teheran’s 1.053 WHIP was the fifth-lowest in the NL and his 4.8 WAR ranked 10th among National League pitchers. None of the team’s other regular starters finished the year with an ERA better than 4.31, with that mark held by SP Mike Foltynewicz, who appears to be the favorite to land the No. 5 spot in the rotation to begin the season. The team’s 39 saves was a few below the MLB average, with RP Jim Johnson leading the team with 20 saves over 65 appearances. His 3.06 ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer.

Looking ahead to 2017, the Braves will be relying on Swanson and Phillips — who they traded for to replace 2B Sean Rodriguez, who is expected to miss three to five months after being injured in a car accident — to help their offense have a better season than the production their hitters put up in 2016 because the rest of their lineup is the same as last year and not very inspiring. Likewise with the rotation. Teheran should put up good numbers at the top of the rotation, but the recently acquired starters all have question marks associated with them. Dickey and Colon are both in their 40s and the former is coming off his worst season since 2013. And while Garcia started 30 games last season — just the second time in his seven-year career he made at least 30 starts — he had a career-worst 4.67 ERA and gave up 26 home runs. If he can’t get his ERA closer to the 3.00-3.50 range, that won’t be good for a Braves team that is expecting him to be able to perform well in the middle of the rotation. Johnson had his best season in a while in 2016 but he’s not an elite closer and probably doesn’t have a long leash if he doesn’t get off to a good start in the season because RP Arodys Vizcaino, who saved 10 games in 14 chances last season, is lurking behind him on the depth chart.

With the moves the Braves made this offseason, they are an improved team and should do better than they have the past couple seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’ll compete for the NL East title. The Mets and Nationals are still the cream of the crop of the division and the Braves will likely be fighting with the Phillies for the bottom two spots in the rotation. The Braves are probably about a 75-win team this season. Better than last season but still a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.atlantabraves.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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