LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After extending their rebuilding process with a couple of more significant changes this offseason, the Braves are looking forward to the opportunity to start anew with a different cast of characters who will attempt to push the organization toward the better days that should lie
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After extending their rebuilding process with a couple of more significant changes this offseason, the Braves are looking forward to the opportunity to start anew with a different cast of characters who will attempt to push the organization toward the better days that should lie ahead.
"It's a great time to be a Braves fan," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "We've got as much good, young talent as any team in the game, and we've got a new park coming. So it's a really, really exciting time."
Some of that excitement was felt on Friday, as Braves pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training and further filled an already crowded clubhouse at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex. Some familiar faces were seen as veterans such as Julio Teheran, A.J. Pierzynski, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson had a chance to reunite in anticipation of the club's first workout on Saturday.
Position players are not required to report until Wednesday, but top prospectDansby Swanson arrived earlier this week to begin experiencing his first big league camp. The heralded shortstop from suburban Atlanta was selected by the D-backs with the first overall selection in last year's Draft, and then he was traded to his hometown club via the blockbuster deal that sent Shelby Miller to Arizona in December.
Courtesy of that trade with the D-backs, the Braves also gained Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair. When Blair arrived in camp, he found himself sharing a locker with Sean Newcomb, a heralded pitcher who was acquired via the November deal that sent Andrelton Simmons to the Angels.
By the time the Braves welcome all of their players to camp, they will have 10 of their top 13 prospects present. Swanson (ranked 10th), Newcomb (19th), shortstop Ozzie Albies (30th) and Blair (61st) all rank among MLBPipeline's Top 100 prospects.
"You see just so much talent in the organization that it's incredible," Braves reliever Chris Withrow said. "You know that means your future is going to be bright. So, it's good to be a part of something like this."
Left fielder Hector Olivera and second baseman Jace Peterson were among the other position players who made an early arrival to Spring Training. Peterson is determined to bounce back after playing the final four months of last season with a torn tendon in his right thumb. Meanwhile, Olivera appears to be intent on proving that he can be much more productive than he was after he introduced himself to the big league level in September.
After splitting their first 84 games last season, the Braves endured a tough second half that left them with just 67 wins -- their lowest total since 1990. Some of their struggles could be attributed to a wrist injury that Freddie Freeman suffered in June and the dismantling of the bullpen, which began after Grilli ruptured his left Achilles tendon on July 11.
Like Freeman, Grilli will attempt to return to form as he accepts the challenge to recover from a ruptured Achilles tendon at 39 years old. His progress will serve as one of the many intriguing storylines that will unfold as the Braves spend the coming weeks getting a better feel for both their immediate and long-term futures.
"The way things ended for us last year, for our fans and all of Braves country, it was tough," Coppolella said. "[Going] 25-53 in the second half of the season isn't what we wanted, and it won't ever happen again with us. We're getting a fresh start."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.