The Braves have been one of the busier clubs in baseball this offseason, and we're about a month away from players arriving for Spring Training. This upcoming year will be an interesting one for the rebuilding Braves, with expectations in Atlanta as low as they've been since the late 1980s.
What's left for the Braves this winter and what does the current roster look like? Let's take a look.
Ready or not, Christian Bethancourt figures to be Atlanta's primary starter in 2015.
Bethancourt, 23, has played 283 games above Double-A ball since 2012, but there are still big questions about his bat and ability behind the plate. It's probably time to see if the kid can handle a full season in the big leagues. A.J. Pierzynski figures to be the backup catcher.
It's going to be really interesting to see how Freddie Freeman handles being the one and only impact bat in the lineup. It's a lot easier to hit when you've got the likes of Justin Upton and Evan Gattis protecting you; Freeman figures to have Chris Johnson and — hell, I don't even know at this point – batting behind him. Freeman needs to make sure he doesn't start swinging at crap as pitchers inevitably pitch around him.
Jose Peraza is clearly the future here, but there is no reason for him to begin the season in Atlanta. He's still just 20 years old with 44 games above High-A ball; let him have another full season to refine his game in Mississippi and Gwinnett, bring him up in September, and plan for a big rookie year in 2016.
As for 2015, Alberto Callaspo, Goose Gosselin and Jace Peterson will likely end up splitting starts. Callaspo, 31, was an interesting signing a few months back; he was quite reliable from 2009 to 2013, but he was one of the worst players in the game last year. He fits the trend of the new front office signing veterans who were once good but were terrible last year.
Chris Johnson is one of the few holdovers from the offseason, and he figures to get another 130+ starts unless there's a trade at the last minute. The return of 2013 Chris Johnson would be nice, mostly because it would make him tradable. Callaspo also has some experience at third base and could fill in, though he's pretty bad defensively.
I'm going to keep a close eye on Andrelton Simmons this year. While his glove has been consistently amazing, he's been all over the place as a hitter his first two and a half years.
Is he the high-batting-average-and-decent-on-base guy he was as a rookie in 2012?
Is he the 17-homer guy he was in 2013?
Is he one of the worst hitting regulars in baseball, as he was in 2014?
This seems like a big year for Simmons as he moves forward in his career.
Nick Markakis will take over in right field, and B.J. Upton will continue to roam center field as we pray for even a small resurgence. As Dan wrote last week, the club might as well keep Upton now.
Left field is still open. A couple of reporters have suggested the Braves will sign or trade for another outfielder, but there's not much left on the free agent market and trading away prospects after spending the last three months rebuilding the farm seems silly.
Zoilo Almonte, Joey Terdoslavich and Todd Cunningham are the likely in-house candidates to fill left field should no one else be brought in.
Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Mike Minor should make everyone excited. If Minor can regain his 2013 form and Miller finds some consistency on the mound, the Braves might just win a few games. Granted they will all be 2-1 wins in 17 innings, but whatever.
The fifth spot will be up for grabs in Spring Training, and it'll be one of the more interesting roster battles of March. Manny Banuelos, Michael Foltynewicz, David Hale, Wandy Rodriguez and a couple others figure to have a shot at it. The Braves also have some money left that could be spent on a 5th starter.
The bullpen is also in good shape with quite a bit of depth. It seems Craig Kimbrel won't be traded this offseason so we can pencil him in to pitch the 9th inning. Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson will look to bounce back after bad 2014s.
Guys like Shae Simmons and Arodys Vizcaino could emerge as late-inning options if they can stay off the disabled list.
Luis Avilan, James Russell, Ian Thomas and a couple others will be in the running to be the left-handed pitchers Fredi uses to pitch to righty hitters.
What else do you think the Braves do before the season starts? What's the opening day lineup going to look like? Could you be in the running to start in left field? Be sure to leave your thoughts below and vote in the poll.