The Braves finished 2017 with just 72 wins, but there is reason for optimism in Atlanta. Here are five bold predictions for the team in 2018:
1) Julio Teheran will be traded before the July 31st trade deadline.
Julio Teheran has been a member of the Atlanta Braves organization since he was signed as an international free agent in 2007 as a 16-year-old. The highly-touted prospect out of Colombia has posted a career 3.59 ERA through seven MLB seasons with the Braves, but struggled to find himself last season in Atlanta’s brand new SunTrust Park. The 2-time All-Star kept himself afloat by posting an 8-3 record on the road with a 3.14 ERA, while struggling to the tune of a 3-10 record with a 5.86 ERA at home. Young, promising pitching prospects such as Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka are knocking on the door of the big leagues, so Teheran will almost certainly be traded barring a great start to the season.
2) Ender Inciarte will log another 200-hit season.
Since arriving in Atlanta via trade prior to the 2016 season, Ender Inciarte has proven to be one of the best fielders in the MLB. Two straight Gold Gloves validate the Venezuelan’s excellent range in center field, but perhaps the most valuable part of his game has been his consistency and approach in the leadoff spot for the Braves. A season ago Inciarte accounted for a career-high 201 hits after a miserably slow start to the season, so Braves fans can expect another 200-hit season as he enters his 27-year-old season in the midst of his prime.
3) A.J. Minter will establish himself as the Braves’ closer of the future.
Perhaps the biggest problem the Atlanta Braves faced last season was an inconsistent bullpen. They have seen very little success from their closers since trading Craig Kimbrel to the Padres after the 2014 season. Enter A.J. Minter. The lefty out of Texas A&M debuted last season and flashed swing-and-miss stuff with 26 strikeouts in only 15 innings pitched. Though it was a small sample size, Minter has seen success at every level of pitching and will likely take on the closer role at some point during the 2018 season.
4) Freddie Freeman will finish in the top 5 in National League MVP voting.
Freddie Freeman began the 2017 campaign looking like an MVP candidate and was on pace for 60 home runs before breaking his wrist in the second month of the season. The perennial All-Star has established himself as one of the best hitters in the MLB in recent years and will benefit greatly from a full season alongside Ozzie Albies at the top of the Braves lineup. Still only 28 years old, Freeman will likely re-enter the National League MVP conversation as the Braves inch closer to contention.
5) Sean Newcomb will have an All-Star season.
Sean Newcomb made his MLB debut last season and immediately showed ace potential before losing control of his fastball. The big southpaw has one of the best curveballs in the National League and looks unhittable at times. Towards the end of last season, Newcomb began to learn to pitch to contact rather than constantly trying to overpower hitters. With something to prove in the middle of Atlanta’s young pitching logjam, Newcomb will solidify his spot in the Braves rotation and prove to be one of the best young pitchers in the MLB.
By: Mycah Daniel