2017 Braves Positional Preview Series: The Outfield

The Atlanta Braves enter 2017 with reasons to be carefree about a destiny of a franchise. A rebuilding slight has taken place over a past dual years, replenishing a teenager fasten complement and infusing a tube with scores of gifted players. However, that took a fee on a large fasten club. After pang by a span of 95-plus detriment seasons, a Braves seemed to spin a dilemma collectively in a second half of 2016. As they pierce into SunTrust Park and start essay a new section in a franchise’s abounding history, Atlanta is anticipating that clever finish was a pointer of things to come. This five-part preview array will concentration on a opposite aspect of a bar over a 5 weeks streamer adult to open training. Braves pitchers and catchers news to Disney on Feb 14 and a initial full patrol work-out is Feb 18.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves

Matt Kemp supposing core of a sequence prolongation following an Aug trade.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Matt Kemp |LF | Age: 32 | Contract Status: 3-years, $54 million

The merger of Matt Kemp was many things. For starters, it was unexpected. The former All-Star core fielder of a Dodgers did not suffer a same success following a trade to San Diego dual years ago, and maybe that led to a rejuvenated Kemp fasten Atlanta. He took to The Players’ Tribune to coop an open minute to Braves fans in that he affianced to spin over a new root and make a many of his event to play for a group he grew adult watching. The early earnings were encouraging. Kemp batted .280/.336/.519 with 12 homers and 39 RBI as Atlanta went 31-25 in his 56 games played. He seemed to fit right in with his new teammates and was an critical square of a incomparable turnaround for a offense, that ranked fifth in MLB with 4.8 runs per diversion in a second half after ranking passed final in round with 3.4 RPG before a break. Kemp supposing a stabilizing force in a clean-up symbol and much-needed insurance for Freddie Freeman. That core of a sequence twin seemed to bond rather quickly, that was another enlivening sign. The understanding with San Diego also authorised Atlanta to deprive itself of Hector Olivera, a Cuban star who was arrested in Apr and handed a longest cessation to date underneath a league’s domestic assault policy. It was a change of view trade for Kemp, who staid into his new home, yet a Padres immediately designated Olivera for assignment once his 82 diversion cessation was served. In essence, Atlanta was means to route a supports earmarked for Olivera and spin that income into an tangible left fielder. It helped that a Padres usually so happened to be looking for any taker for Kemp during a time.

What can be approaching of Kemp as he enters a initial of 3 full seasons in a Braves uniform? That’s an glorious question. One thing that came adult roughly immediately on his attainment was a state of his earthy conditioning. It was transparent he was personification during his heaviest in 2016, something GM John Coppolella pronounced would need to be addressed over a march of a winter. Billed during 210 lbs, Kemp was simply 25-plus pounds above that weight. That aside, it’s transparent that Kemp’s bat still provides some value, yet he is no sabermetric darling. Defensively speaking, he has been during or nearby a bottom when it comes to a modernized stats. Kemp’s days as a core fielder are behind him, yet improving in left margin would go a prolonged approach toward stabilizing his altogether value to a team. At a finish of a day, he was acquired to urge a offense. That is something Kemp should be means to do annually. After entrance to Atlanta, Kemp’s walk-rate softened and he posted a 126 OPS+, his best given vacating L.A. Kemp’s conditioning will pull clear courtesy this spring. If he comes to stay in softened shape, as he affianced in a open letter, afterwards he could be primed for a successful run with a Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Kansas City Royals

Ender Inciarte warranted his initial bullion glove endowment in 2016.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Ender Inciarte | CF | Age: 26 | Contract Status: 5-years, $30.5 million

The Braves got a firsthand demeanour during Ender Inciarte in 2016 and it’s protected to contend they like what they saw. Inciarte won his initial career bullion glove while portion as a matter atop a sequence in Atlanta’s resurgent second half. Slowed by a hamstring damage over a initial few weeks of a season, Inciarte scuffled during a image and shuffled between core and left margin as well. Following a exclusion of manager Fredi Gonzalez in late-May, new skipper Brian Snitker commissioned Inciarte in core field. That pierce resulted in large extraordinary plays and all-around excellence. There’s no doubt a damage and a time it cost Inciarte contributed to his delayed start during a plate, yet a approach he finished a deteriorate was enlivening to contend a least.

  • First Half: .227/.294/.306 with 13 XBH, 11 RBI, 26 R and 8 SB
  • Second Half: .341/.396/.440 with 21 XBH, 18 RBI, 59 R and 9 SB

Now let’s speak about defense. Inciarte was a tellurian prominence tilt during his initial deteriorate with Atlanta. With clearly no round strike out of his strech and a clever and accurate arm, Inciarte is discerning building a repute as a run-deterrent with hostile bottom runners. He led National League core fielders with 12 assists, among his 14 altogether (two some-more as a left fielder). Those 14 assists ranked second usually to Pittsburgh left fielder Starling Marte among a NL outfielders. According to FanGraphs, he ranked among a tip 3 among all NL outfielders with 15 defensive runs saved (3rd), a 13.4 ultimate section rating (2nd), a 16.0 UZR/150 (3rd) and led a fasten with an 8.6 ARM (outfield arm runs, that is a volume of runs above normal an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing). While modernized metrics positively grin on Inciarte, he also had a aptitude for a thespian that helped him pass a eye exam with drifting colors. Inciarte’s implausible leaping locate in New York to repudiate Yoenis Cespedes of a game-winning home run on Sep 21 was one of a highlights of a 2016 season.

“I suspicion that round was left off a bat,” Inciarte told reporters afterwards, “but it was a final play of a game, so we was going to try for it. This is substantially a best locate I’ve ever made. we was unequivocally pumped up. we held a round and we knew we had it, yet a fans were watchful until we took it out of a glove.”

While that squeeze opposite a Mets competence good be a climax valuables of Inciarte’s prominence tilt final season, his heads-up fake play on May 10 opposite a Phillies was another excellent instance of next-level instincts. Inciarte’s behaving was so good that it not usually fooled Carlos Ruiz on a basepaths, yet also his associate outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Nick Markakis. Inciarte circled underneath a shoal pop-fly in right center, motioned as yet he’d mislaid it in a lights, afterwards recovered immediately to locate a round and double a maestro Ruiz off initial bottom with a good throw. It’s something we don’t see everyday. Check it out.

Ender Inciarte’s defensive brilliance.
MLB.com

Inciarte has discerning determined himself as one of a best outfielders in round over 3 years in a large leagues. He spent a initial dual patrolling all 3 spots for a Arizona Diamondbacks and bounced between core and left final year before eventually settling in as Atlanta’s core fielder in late May. A hard-worker who takes honour in his invulnerability and base-running ability, Inciarte is usually a kind of actor a Braves wish when it comes to building a contender. That’s a pierce that could compensate off for years to come. After signing a five-year prolongation with a sixth year option, Inciarte is strictly a large partial of this team’s future.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

Nick Markakis enters a third year of his four-year deal.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Nick Markakis | RF | Age: 33 | Contract Status: 2-years, $22 million

It has been an engaging integrate of years for Nick Markakis, who seemed to be rather behind to normal in 2016. Soon after signing with Atlanta dual offseasons ago, neck medicine cost Markakis many of that winter and sent him into a unchanging deteriorate with little-to-no time to prepared himself. Thrown into a brew with about a week’s value of at-bats in a spring, he finished adult posting a sincerely prolific deteriorate in 2015. The important difference was a home run column. After attack usually 3 homers in his initial year with a Braves, Markakis strike .269/.346/.397 with a many some-more excusable 13 prolonged balls in 2016. He also collected 89 RBI, his many given 2009, and was another male who benefited from a merger of Kemp. That pierce authorised Markakis to slip into a No. 5 symbol in a order, where he batted .278/.349/.415 with 43 RBI in 73 games on a year. That gives him a unchanging symbol in a sequence after bouncing around in any of a tip 5 slots. Markakis posted a .397 SLG final season, his tip symbol given 2012 interjection to his 51 extra-base hits that were his many given 2010.

Some have wondered because a Braves handed Markakis a four-year, $44 million understanding shortly after trade divided Jason Heyward. Atlanta continued to idle a group over a past dual years. Given a instruction that was taken, it does seem a extraordinary move. However, a Braves have confirmed from Day 1 that Markakis not usually fills a purpose of right fielder, yet also contributes to a altogether group dynamic. A still personality who has a honour of a clubhouse, Markakis comes to a park prepared to go to conflict any day. He is a plain right fielder with an normal arm, who creates a slight plays. Flashy unequivocally isn’t his modus operandi. While a tenure “grinder” elicits eye-rolls in certain circles, Markakis takes honour in being in a lineup any day. The bottom line for any actor analysis is and should always be prolongation first, and he was means to make a plain grant to a club’s alleviation during a second half final season. It’s not out of a area of probability to design that to continue in 2017.

Dustin Peterson | LF | Age: 22 | Contract Status: Pre-arbitration

Perhaps no hitter in Atlanta’s teenager fasten complement did some-more to urge his batch than Mississippi outfielder Dustin Peterson. Awarded Organizational Player of a Year in 2016, Peterson took a large step brazen in his growth final season. In fact, he seemed to put it all together. The Braves acquired Peterson as partial of a Justin Upton trade with San Diego in Dec of 2014. Originally a third baseman, Atlanta immediately changed Peterson to left field, a position he has found many some-more agreeable. After display medium success notwithstanding being harmed in a group train pile-up with Carolina in 2015, Peterson unequivocally excelled in a Southern League final season. Batting .282/.343/.431 with 12 home runs and 38 doubles in 132 games, he led all Atlanta farmhands with 88 RBI and was second in both extra-base hits (52) and sum bases (226) while environment career-highs opposite a house offensively.

One thing that competence not be immediately clear when looking during Peterson’s career is that he has been one of a younger players in his fasten any season. He tallied usually 18 image appearances opposite pitchers younger than him in 2016, while personification his age 21 deteriorate during Double-A. Enjoying a small smoothness as he settles into his unchanging defensive position, Peterson has been means to concentration on creation strides during a plate. He does not form as a classical energy hitter, yet Peterson is discerning to a round and can tub pitches with regularity. That should yield unchanging extra-base strike ability as he climbs a ranks. Still disposed to a occasional representation and skip (100 strikeouts final season), Peterson has softened his representation approval annually. While his good play final deteriorate competence have culminated in a Sep call-up some years, Atlanta’s outfield became rather swarming with a further of Matt Kemp and stays sealed down streamer into 2017. Peterson will get a possibility to exam his things opposite Triple-A pitching in 2017. (Read some-more about a Braves Top 30 Prospects for 2017)

Other options: With Sean Rodriguez on board, a Braves have combined a actor who can literally fit anywhere. He has played 163 games in a outfield, mostly in left. That could meant he’ll change around in a late innings as a defensive replacement, yet he’s also a tip shelf choice should damage sideline one of a starting outfielders… Jace Peterson spent some time final year removing proficient with a outfield as well. He was one of a revolving doorway of left fielders, removing 11 starts out there before Kemp arrived in August. It’s rarely expected that Peterson will take to a outfield some in a open as a Braves try to try his flexibility some-more in 2017… As we mentioned in a infield preview, Chase d’Arnaud was in a right place and a right time final year. His ability to play some core margin competence come in handy, yet he’ll have to yield a small bit some-more unchanging prolongation (.299/.364/.393 over his initial 35 games and .190/.271/.276 in final 49 games) to aver a symbol on a roster… Emilio Bonifacio has had a integrate of stints in Atlanta, returning final deteriorate to see singular time with a large club. A career .258 hitter with 166 steals in 793 games for 8 teams over a 10 seasons, a 31-year-old will expected start 2017 in Gwinnett, where he batted .298 with 37 steals in 107 games final year … Micah Johnson was acquired from a Dodgers in mid-January to supplement another speedy, versatile choice in a top minors. Johnson, 26, was a White Sox opening day second baseman in 2015, yet unsuccessful to furnish and was dealt to Los Angeles in a Todd Frazier trade final winter. He’s batted .226 in usually 43 large fasten games, yet is a .292 hitter with 179 steals in 505 teenager fasten games. The Dodgers started relocating him around a solid final year, with starts during 2B, 3B, CF and LF. Johnson is immature adequate that he could work his approach into Atlanta’s skeleton if he stays productive.

Grant McAuley covers a Braves and MLB for Sports Radio 92-9 The Game in Atlanta. This essay initial seemed on 929thegame.com. You can allow to a “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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