The offseason officially came to an end on Tuesday morning as Braves pitchers and catchers officially reported to ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. While the full squad isn’t set to arrive until Sunday, Ender Inciarte and Lane Adams were already getting some extra work out in the complex earlier this morning. With a little less than six weeks until the team heads back north, here’s a few storylines to keep an eye on as Spring Training plays itself out in Central Florida:
Acuna Mania: Yes, the top storyline of the spring will be the progress of top prospect Ronald Acuna. Widely regarded as the top position player prospect in the game, Acuna’s every move will be closely watched to see if he’s ready to break camp with the Big League club. While it’s expected his season will start at Gwinnett, he could make the Front Office’s decision more difficult if he continues to build on an extremely impressive 2017. Afterall, the club did make a roster spot for him this offseason with the trade of Matt Kemp.
For Starters: The Braves starting rotation will have a much different look on March 29th than it did last year on Opening Day. Gone are Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia and RA Dickey and now it’s up to some of the young guys like Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims to show they’re ready to take the next step. Veteran right hander Brandon McCarthy will likely be one of the five starters, so long as he can stay healthy. Along with McCarthy, the rotation currently projects to have Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and then likely Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara. But lurking and inching closer are prized prospects Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard who could make their arrivals in Atlanta later this season.
What A Relief: The club is expected to break camp with an eight man bullpen that doesn’t feature a whole lot of veteran experience. Following Jim Johnson’s disappointing second half, he was traded to the Angels leaving Jose Ramirez and Arodys Vizcaino as the likely eighth and ninth inning guys. But the bridge to the back end could have a number of new faces this season. While there’s only room for five in the rotation, keep an eye on guys like Lucas Sims and Max Fried to potentially find roles in the pen if they don’t crack the starting staff. Also, hard throwing lefty AJ Minter is healthy and could serve a role in higher leverage situations as well. There should be some open competition to fill the remaining spots and that all starts next Friday when the Braves take on the Mets in Port St Luice.
There will be plenty for Braves fans to follow as things really ramp up tomorrow so stay with 680 The Fan as we’ll be live with the club for the duration of the spring!