Last season, the Atlanta Braves were not exactly a hot bed of fantasy baseball production. Outside of Freddie Freeman’s #36 rank on ESPN’s Player Rater, no Brave was in the top 80. Matt Kemp and Julio Teheran were #82 and #86, but those three were pretty much it in Atlanta last year. This year will be more of the same, with those three in the top 101 by FantasyPros expert consensus ranks heading into the 2017 season. Today we get you primed on the Braves’ hitters. [Jeff]
Catcher – Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki
Flowers is currently slotted in as the Braves’ #8 hitter according to RosterResource.com, so that kind of tells you all you need to know about his potential. Flowers had a hot second half, but it was mostly buoyed by a .382 batting average in August. Flowers had a .777 OPS last season, which was good for seventh among catchers, but that’s 100 points above his career norm. Atlanta signed Suzuki on Sunday, which means Flowers will be splitting time with him. Suzuki hit .258/.301/.403 with eight dingers last year with Minnesota, which was above his career average. Neither will be fantasy baseball relevant except in two-catcher or NL-only leagues thanks to forced relevance.
First Base – Freddie Freeman
The jewel of the Braves’ fantasy baseball crop, Freeman was the #2 first baseman by OPS last season, and he chipped in six stolen bases for the heck of it. I was down on Freeman going into last season thanks to the woeful offense around him, but the Braves quietly had the #6 offense in baseball in the second half last year. His BABIP should scream regression, but it is just slightly above his career norms. Even if he does drop down slightly, a full season with an improved offense will benefit him greatly. He’s not as flashy as the first basemen going behind him, but he’s safer than Edwin Encarnacion and Daniel Murphy. He’s just going to be a steady Eddie around 1B five to seven at first base for your fantasy baseball team.
Second Base – Jace Peterson/Sean Rodriguez
He doesn’t steal, he doesn’t hit home runs, he doesn’t hit for average. There isn’t much Peterson will do to contribute to your fantasy baseball teams in 2017, even in the deepest of leagues. He has a decent eye at the plate, but is unlikely to contribute much of value. Rodriguez is a super-utility and may usurp Peterson until Ozzie Albies is ready. The Braves gave Rodriguez some decent cash this offseason after he broke out last year. He could have value as a 2015 Brock Holt type. If Rodriguez falters, don’t be surprised if super prospect Ozzie Albies makes an appearance halfway through the year.
Third Base – Adonis Garcia
So far this list is mostly uninspiring because Garcia, Peterson and Flowers are their 7-8-9 hitters (in whatever order). Garcia has only 3B eligibility and hit a forgettable .273/.311/.406. He’s just a guy, don’t worry about him or bother with him in your fantasy baseball leagues.
Shortstop – Dansby Swanson
The jewel of the Shelby Miller trade made his MLB debut, the #1 overall pick in 2015 is still extremely raw. However, there are indications that Swanson could hit second, putting him in behind Ender Inciarte and in front of Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp. Swanson should get plenty of balls to hit, and the lineup around him will boost his runs and RBI. He’s could be value as a MI in a deeper league, but he is not going to standout anywhere that will make him someone you should think of as your starting SS outside of NL-only leagues.
Outfielders – Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis
It wasn’t all that long ago that Matt Kemp was a fantasy baseball stud, and he isn’t that far off that mark now. Kemp had the Braves stink on him, as well as the fire sale from the Padres which skews the perception of his numbers. Kemp crushed 35 dongs, had 108 RBI and 89 runs while splitting time between two bad teams. He hasn’t stolen anywhere near 40 bases (combined) since his near 40/40 2011 campaign, but he is ranked as the #25 outfielder on FantasyPros, which is a steal given his 30/80/80/.290 potential. If you expand his time with Atlanta into a full season, he had 34 dingers, 101 runs, 112 RBI and a .280 average. The limited stolen bases (and their overvaluation) cap his ranking upside, but he is a great back-end number two or front-end number three outfielder to round out your corps.
Inciarte came over to Atlanta with Dansby Swanson, and he just signed a multi-year extension as he enters his prime. The Braves also moved Mallex Smith to make it abundantly clear that center field is Inciarte’s to roam for the foreseeable future. Inciarte has an obscenely low K% and an exceptionally high BB%, which he put together last year for a .351 OBP. While not amazing overall, Inciarte was on fire down the stretch, with a .347/.397/.453 slash line. Hitting atop a top-heavy Braves lineup will give him plenty of opportunity to score runs, and plenty of opportunity to steal bases. He’s currently the #60 OF per FantasyPros, but he should easily return that value, and more, in stolen bases and batting average while chipping in plenty of runs.
Once upon a time, Nick Markakis was one of the most well-rounded fantasy baseball contributors, but those seasons are nearly a decade in the past. There’s little reason to draft Markakis, whose batting average has been in steady decline and who hasn’t topped fifteen dingers or twelve stolen bases since 2011.