New faces abound in Atlanta

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Before the Atlanta Braves open their season Monday, April 4 against the Washington Nationals, their National League Eastern Division rivals, at Turner Field there are a lot of questions that must be answered.

Gone is slick fielding and clutch hitting shortstop Andrelton Simmons, arguably the best fielding shortstop in the major leagues.

Simmons was traded to the Los Angeles of Anaheim for shortstop Erick Aybar and two highly rated young minor league pitchers, left-hander Sean Newcomb and right-hander Chris Ellis.

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Also gone are ace right hander Shelby Miller, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for former Vanderbilt shortstop and Marietta native Dansby Swanson, the number one overall pick in the draft by the Diamondbacks, and hard hitting center fielder Ender Inciarte.

While the trades helped strengthened the Braves farm system somewhat, I don’t really think they did much to help the team at the major league level. Pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis have potential but they are possibly at least a couple of years away from helping the Braves at the major league level. Erick Aybar has been a good defensive shortstop, but he is a veteran who could only help the Braves for a couple of years at the most.

Center fielder Ender Inciarte is a good center fielder but I really don’t think that he is much of an upgrade from the Braves 2015 center fielder Cameron Maybin. Cuban native Hector Olivera, who played third base after being traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, will play left field and Nick Markakis will play right field. While Olivera is a good hitter, he has never played the outfield before and his defense is questionable.

Around the infield will be Adonas Garcia at third base, Aybar at shortstop, Jace Peterson at second base and hard hitting All-Star Freddie Freeman at first base. Freeman is the only legitimate power hitting threat in the lineup.

Behind the plate again for the Braves this season will be veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had a productive 2015 season behind the plate.All in all I don’t see any playoff berths in the Braves near future but I do think they could be respectable in the coming season.

One of the most intriguing young players for the Braves this spring has been young rookie outfielder Mallex Smith who played at Rickards High School in Tallahassee.

While Inciarte will start the season in center field, Smith may get a lot of playing time as the season progresses. He has been compared to former Braves and Cleveland Indians

All-star center fielder Kenny Lofton who had a knack for getting key hits to all fields.

There might be a lot of different players this season, but I am still hopeful that the Braves will have a decent season this year.