Braves have questions coming into Spring training

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 6, 2015

Springtime means it’s time for flowers to begin blooming and warm weather, but it also means the beginning of Major League Baseball’s spring training.


When the season starts, the Atlanta Braves roster will have several new players that weren’t with the team a season ago.


The Braves underwent a major overhaul in the off-season, dealing away top players such as Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis and Justin Upton.


The Braves will still have familiar faces on the roster with the flame throwing closer Craig Kimbrel and “Mr. Clutch” Freddie Freeman manning the bag at first. There isn’t much to say about these two guys other than they will clearly be the leaders and faces of the 2015 Atlanta Braves.


Also returning for the Braves, formerly known as B.J., Melvin Upton will likely be patrolling centerfield. Upton will need to change more than his name for Braves fans to forget what a disappointment the elder Upton has been since joining the Braves.


Andrelton Simmons, who has quickly become regarded as one the top defensive players in the game, will start at shortstop for the Braves. Simmons has won back-to-back Gold Glove awards.  There is no doubt that Simmons has the all the skills to be a five-tool player, but regression at the plate in 2014 has some concerned.


Braves’ prospect Christian Bethancourt will be given the chance to win the starting catcher job, but veteran newcomer A.J. Pierzynski will be available if Bethancourt needs more time to get comfortable with the starting role.


Bethancourt has been raved about his defense, but his bat has come along as quickly as the Braves had hoped.


There will be three new faces looking to earn playing time in the outfield. The Braves added Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes and Eric Young Jr.  Prospect Todd Cunningham has been mentioned as a possible fill in for Upton if Upton’s injury keeps him out of the lineup for any amount of time.


Markakis will be expected to make the biggest impact of the freshly added Braves players.


Gomes has crushed left-handed pitching during his career, and will likely platoon in leftfield with Young.


Young had his worst season at the plate last year with just a .229 batting average. Young is a speedster though, and managed 30 steals last season. Young led the NL in steals in 2013 with 46.


One of the biggest questions that should get answered in the spring is who will be starting at second base.


The Braves used a platoon at second most of last season with Tommy Le Stella, Ramiro Pena and Phil Gosselin get most of the time.


The Braves parted ways with Le Stella and Pena over the winter, and Gosselin appears to be more of a utility player than an everyday starter.


One possible replacement is newcomer Albert Callaspo, though Callaspo has never been known for his ability at the plate.


The Braves’ top-rated prospect Jose Peraza is another candidate for the job at second base. Last season, Peraza hit .339 with 11 triples and 60 stolen bases in 195 plate appearances in Single-A. Peraza is most likely the second baseman of the future, but the 20 year-old is probably another season away from the major league level. He will be given the opportunity in spring training to prove he is ready to make the jump.


One thing that is clear with the moves made in the off-season, the Braves don’t feel like they can contend for the next few seasons.


The goal appears to be to have a team that might be able to contend when the Braves move to their new stadium in 2017.