Illusion check, in order of appearance: Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons. Or if youâ€™re not into using names: Immediate Sensation 1, Immediate Sensation 2, Immediate Hugsation, Immediate Sensation 3.
Okay, okay, it didnâ€™t turn out perfectly. Heyward lost his power, Kimbrel got a little shaky in some key moments, Freeman hasnâ€™t quite had that BIG season we all want to see, and Andrelton isnâ€™t much of a hitter. But these were stunners; absolute, no-assembly required studs right out of the box. We stuck them into everyday roles, and kept on winning as if weâ€™d gone to the Elite Free Agent Store. (Sidenote: We did go to the Elite Free Agent Store. What the hell was Mudge doing on a shelf at the Elite Free Agent Store?!) Thatâ€™s how talent is supposed to work.
Reality check: That is not how talent works.
Letâ€™s see hereâ€¦How about a quiz?
Player A, 2005, Kansas City: 5-17, 5.80 ERA, 183 IP, 2.15 K/BB
Player B, 2012, Los Angeles: 330 Plate Appearances, .228/.280/.281, 1 HR, 20 BB, 62 SO, special shout-out for Sam Hutcheson
Player C, 2008, Cincinnati: 9-14, 4.81 ERA, 171 IP, 29 HR allowed
Player D, 2008, Oakland: 316 Plate Appearances, .242/.273/.361, 4 HR, 13 BB, 81 SO
Hint: All of these seasons occurred early in a playerâ€™s career, and in each case the player got much better later. Players learn. Players adjust. Players grow. Players mature.
And so, 2016 Braves, be patient with Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, Manny Banuelos, William Perez, William Perez, Arodys Vizcaino, Shae Simmons, Andrew McKirahan, Tyrell Jenkins, Lucas Sims, Max Fried, Hector Olivera, Christian Bethancourt, Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, Dian Toscano, and Mallex Smith, whenever they come up.
Some of them are going to be duds. Some of them are going to be back-ups. A few will have long unspectacular major league careers. And maybe one or two or three of them, with the right mix of TLC and hard knocks, are going to become special.
The point here isnâ€™t to wishcast. It isnâ€™t to encourage a massive trial-by-fire either. But the Braves, more than any team in baseball save the Phillies, probably arenâ€™t built to win now. Weâ€™re building a future, and weâ€™ve got to figure out whoâ€™s a part of it. Coppy, Harty, Scheurholzy, Fredi: If your choice is between a total black hole and some Neck Cakes, take the Neck Cakes. But if your choice for third base is Adonis Garcia or David Freese, pick Adonis, even if we think Freese is more likely to handle the position. Jerome Williams is a free agent, and he might pitch better than our other two Williams, or Wisler, or Folty, or ManBan. 2016 is not the year to give him the chance.
I donâ€™t care how sure you are that Nick Swisher’s going to grin his way into a dead cat bounce. Let the kids play. Alright?