ATLANTA -- Whenever Braves fans look back at what transpired in 2017, they will remember the year as being anything but boring.The opening of a new stadium created excitement, and the arrivals of Ozzie Albies and other top prospects heightened hope for the immediate future. The realities of a rebuild
ATLANTA -- Whenever Braves fans look back at what transpired in 2017, they will remember the year as being anything but boring.
The opening of a new stadium created excitement, and the arrivals of Ozzie Albies and other top prospects heightened hope for the immediate future. The realities of a rebuild were evident, as the club endured its fourth consecutive losing season. But the on-field frustration was trumped by the off-the-field investigation in the offseason that overhauled leadership within the baseball operations department and led MLB to levy an unprecedented punishment.
Here is a look at the Braves' top events of this past year:
SunTrust Park opens:Ender Inciarte stole the show as he notched the first hit and home run when the Braves opened SunTrust Park with a 5-2 win over the Padres on April 14. Atlanta won each of its first four games at its new stadium, which provided better sightlines and countless entertainment options that had not been available at Turner Field. The Battery, a mixed-used development that surrounds the stadium with restaurants, bars and retail stores, has thus far provided revenue the team was seeking as it hopes to continue to increase payroll over the next few years.
Freeman's fractured wrist:Freddie Freeman was fashioning an MVP-caliber season as he hit .341 with an MLB-best 14 homers and a 1.230 OPS over 37 games before he fractured his left wrist on a pitch from Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Loup on May 17 at SunTrust Park. Freeman returned three weeks earlier than anticipated and spent most of July playing third base. The All-Star first baseman made the unselfish position change to allow the Braves to continue playing Matt Adams, a May acquisition from the Cardinals who proved to be one of MLB's best power hitters in June.
Arrival of the young arms: The Braves have long touted the impressive pitching crop they have created during the rebuild, and this past summer, they began introducing some of these top prospects to the Major League level. Sean Newcomb replaced Bartolo Colon in the rotation in June, and he enjoyed some initial success before struggling around the All-Star break. The rookie left-hander grew more comfortable with his changeup as the summer neared an end, and he finished the season in encouraging fashion. Max Fried, Luiz Gohara and Lucas Sims also got their first taste of the Majors. Their development during the 2018 season will greatly influence how quickly the Braves can once again become legit playoff contenders.
Albies' arrival: The most-anticipated prospect arrival of the season occurred on Aug. 1, when Albies made his Major Leauge debut and essentially began his reign as Atlanta's second baseman. He debuted less than a week after the Braves briefly demoted shortstop Dansby Swanson, whose time with Triple-A Gwinnett proved to be short, as he was recalled after Johan Camargo suffered a freak knee injury that sidelined him for a month. Albies heightened excitement about his future as he produced a .286/.354/.456 line for Atlanta.
Anthopoulos' arrival: The keys to the rebuild were handed to Alex Anthopoulos, who was named the Braves' GM and placed in charge of the baseball operations department on Nov. 13. Anthopoulos' departure from his role as the Dodgers' vice president of baseball operations was necessitated when MLB's investigation of rules violations on the international market and dealing with the domestic draft forced the exits of former general manager John Coppolella and former president of baseball operations John Hart. The club's punishment included the loss of 13 international prospects and strict restrictions on the international market through the 2020-21 signing period.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.