As an overview of the position players, here’s a brief summary of my findings and opinions from the “Where Do We Go From Here” series.
The hard truth is that the Braves had only 2 position players (Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte) register above 2.0 WAR in 2016. Worse, there are 4 incumbent position players who were essentially replacement level (Matt Kemp, Tyler Flowers, Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson all < 0.5 rWAR) and compounding that problem is that there are 4 positions where the incumbents will be 31 or older in 2017 (Kemp, Flowers, Garcia, Nick Markakis). The Braves again appear set to limp through 2017 with these guys, but these borderline vets are going to have to be addressed before the rebuild is over in 2018 or beyond.
The good news is that the Braves know where they are going at 1B and SS, with Freeman and Dansby Swanson, respectively. Swanson is a good bet to join Freeman and Inciarte in the > 2.0 WAR club in 2017, and Freeman is the oldest of the bunch at only 27. Jace Peterson is approaching what should be his peak years; there is a reasonable chance he will continue to improve for a couple of years. This improvement will have to happen for Jace to be a useful starter, but a healthy Ozzie Albies may at age 20 already be as good as Jace, and eventually well past him. Worst case, Jace’s versatility makes him an attractive bench player. There is a reasonable chance that Dustin Peterson could be a replacement for Markakis or Kemp by 2018.
I am skeptical about both Sean Rodriguez and Rio Ruiz, but platoons at 2nd and 3rd could increase the production there marginally. The Flowers / Recker / Gosewisch combo at catcher is primed for disappointment.
There are some intriguing prospects who spent 2016 in A-ball or lower, including Kevin Maitan, Travis Demeritte, Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, and Alex Jackson. I reserve judgment until we see them in Double-A.
The rebuild continues apace. It looks like we’re not going to get there in 2017, but I’m optimistic the Braves will be better than 2016. The winter is long enough without giving away the spring and the summer too.
Where do we go from here? Hopefully, by 2018 moves will be made so that we’re carrying only one replacement-level position player, max. Finally, it’s only January – still time for some of those moves to be made before April!