MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – It is time for baseball.
Opening Day is Thursday, and there is plenty to be excited about the Braves for the 2018 season. Sure, they haven’t had a winning season since 2013, when they won the division. But they are now in year four of the rebuild, and the corner is being turned.
In a couple of weeks, we will see the best prospect in baseball – 20-year-old Ronald Acuna – come up and start his career as Atlanta’s left fielder. Then, we will likely see other young players come up during the season – pitchers like Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard and players like third baseman Austin Riley. The kids will be the story of this year’s Atlanta team.
But will that mean the Braves will have a winning record? It’s tough to say right now, since we don’t know the impact the kids will have – at least not yet. Most of the time, before a season, we can look at a roster and make a logical prediction of what a team might do. But since the Braves’ roster will be changing during the year, it’s hard to know. What we do know is that the Braves’ talent should be improved, and that should result in more wins.
The starting pitching should be better, especially with the trio of Dickey, Garcia and Colon long gone. Julio Teheran needs to pitch better at home, and Mike Foltynewicz needs to get over that hump and be a consistent pitcher. Sean Newcomb needs to take that next step in his first full season, and he had a great spring training to show he might be ready to do that.
The Braves need Luiz Gohara healthy, and he might not be ready until May 1. The bullpen needs A.J. Minter to shine. He is a left-handed version of Craig Kimbrel, and if he can assume the closer’s role, the Braves will be in good shape.
We need to see more from Dansby Swanson. He cannot hit .232 again. If he does, Swanson might find himself in Triple-A, especially with Johan Camargo breathing down his neck. Camargo will be the main third baseman, but if Riley shows he’s ready and Camargo does well, Swanson will have to fight Camargo off shortstop. It should be fun to see Ozzie Albies for the full season. He had a great spring training, and the Braves believe they have a really good player.
They also believe they have a star in Ronald Acuna, who will we see in mid-April. Once Acuna arrives, the Braves will be a completely different team. This is Atlanta’s best prospect since Andruw Jones, who played here in Macon in 1995 and was baseball’s best prospect before he made his debut in Atlanta a year later. Acuna is compared to Jones, and if we are getting a player like that for the next decade, we are in for a treat.
So this season will be all about the young players, which could make it frustrating at times but should provide some really good moments. Let’s just see the Braves get better. It would be great if they could get to the .500 mark, and they’d need nine more wins to do that. But let’s just see improvement. Let’s see more talent and let’s feel better about this team in October than we do now, with the hope that at some point soon, we’re going to be able to watch a Braves team that can be a consistent winner.
Thankfully, we’ve survived the worst part of a rebuild. Now, it’s time for the fun part – to watch a team become a winner.