What impact do you expect Ender Inciarte to have on this offense now that he’s the new center fielder?
A: Don’t forget that about half of Inciarte’s value in 2015 was his glove, albeit mostly from Right Field. He moves to center, though, and both his UZR and range numbers suggest that there’s not going to be a lot of drop-off there. That’s good, for he’ll have to cover a bit of extra space due to being flanked by a pair of 31+ year-old outfielders in Nick Markakis and Hector Olivera.
On the other side of the ball, Inciarte will likely lead off with Aybar behind him. He could stand to be a bit more selective at the plate (4.6% walk rate in 2015), but that’s one thing hitting coach Kevin Seitzer preaches, so if that works, he could be a nice on-base threat (.303 in 2015 with 21 steals). I do like the idea of Erick Aybar behind him. If either gets on base at their typical 30-35% of the time, then Freeman will have something to work with.
With a lot of new young pitchers in Atlanta, which pitchers do you expect to stand out in 2016?
A: Julio Teheran should be better, but the key might be Matt Wisler. He’s been working on a Tom Glavine-refined changeup, and while that’s still coming together, early reports seem good. That could give him 3 ‘plus’ pitches – all with different looks to them. The hope is that he and Teheran ignore whatever else may be going on in the rotation and just go out and pitch their games. If so, then there is a decent chance of offensive improvement to support them.
As for the rest – Williams Perez, Manny Banuelos, Mike Foltynewicz, and perhaps Aaron Blair or others – they have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and determine what roles they can take going forward. The Braves brought in a few veteran arms to eat innings and buy time for them to finish getting stretched out for major league competition and a major league season. We do hope that these “bridges” (Jhoulys Chacin, Bud Norris) can extend until at least July. If so, then they will have served their purpose and maybe the youngsters can take over from there.
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