LAKELAND, Fla. -- As a highly regarded American League scout watched the Braves take batting practice last week, he repeated the age-old adage that warns against placing too much stock on the statistics a player produces during Spring Training and September.Still, while Grapefruit League stats can often be misleading, Spring
LAKELAND, Fla. -- As a highly regarded American League scout watched the Braves take batting practice last week, he repeated the age-old adage that warns against placing too much stock on the statistics a player produces during Spring Training and September.
Still, while Grapefruit League stats can often be misleading, Spring Training's developments do at least influence expectations and give teams a chance to get a better feel for answers to questions that developed over the idle offseason.
So as the Braves prepare for Monday night's exhibition game against the Yankees at SunTrust Park, we'll take a look at how this year's Spring Training developments might affect the most pressing questions about this year's team.
When will Ronald Acuna Jr. join Atlanta's lineup?
Acuna entered his first big league camp regarded as the Braves' best prospect since Andruw Jones. He exited it with scouts and other talent evaluators regarding him as one of the best prospects the game has seen within the past couple decades.
Along with legitimizing himself as a five-tool phenom, the 20-year-old outfielder showed he is mature and mentally strong enough to deal with the daily rigors that await him in the Major Leagues. He could enrich Atlanta's lineup and become the everyday left fielder as early as April 14, which is the earliest date the Braves could give him his big league debut and also secure an extra year of contractual control.
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Will Luiz Gohara, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb take a step toward realizing their respective potentials?
Gohara could be regarded as one of this season's most significant camp disappointments. The big southpaw sustained a left groin strain during the first week of Spring Training before enduring a sprained ankle that will keep him out of Atlanta's rotation throughout the season's first month. He has a high ceiling, but this spring enhanced concerns about how durable he might be with his frame.
Foltynewicz seems to have comfort with the more compact windup he developed this winter. He displayed more consistent command as he surrendered just four hits and didn't allow a run through his first 15 innings this spring. His bid to escape Florida with a 0.00 ERA fell short, as he allowed seven hits and six runs during his final inning of Grapefruit League action.
Newcomb has battled control issues throughout his professional career, so it was encouraging to see him issue just two walks through his first 10 2/3 innings this spring. The young southpaw issued three walks during his final Grapefruit League outing, but he has shown the capability to spot his fastball more consistently, which should provide more opportunities to use his plus curveball as a weapon.
Where will the Braves generate power?
With the offseason departures of Matt Kemp and Matt Adams, the Braves lost two of their most capable power hitters. A full season of a healthy Freddie Freeman will help mitigate that loss, and Acuna has the potential to eventually provide some pop at the top of the lineup. But with their personnel, the Braves might gain more value from the running game. Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies and Acuna should all benefit from the presence of first base coach Eric Young Sr., who has been regarded as a baserunning guru.
Will Dansby Swanson rebound?
Swanson's homer off Max Scherzer on Feb. 25 reminded us he has little trouble handling pitches on the inner third of the plate. But as he recorded just seven hits through his first 37 at-bats this month, there's reason to wonder if he might be sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett again this year. If it's determined Swanson needs more development, Johan Camargo will likely become the everyday shortstop once he returns from the disabled list with back and right side discomfort. Austin Riley isn't quite ready for the Majors, but at some point this season he might have a chance to assume the third base role currently held by Camargo.
When will Mike Soroka join Atlanta's rotation?
Some scouts and evaluators believe Soroka was the most impressive pitcher in Braves camp this year. The 20-year-old Canadian will get a little more seasoning with Gwinnett, but there's certainly reason to believe he could join Atlanta's rotation in June. His arrival will further extend the weeding out process that will unfold within the rotation this year. Like Foltynewicz, Gohara and Newcomb, Julio Teheran will need to prove his value within a rotation that could include Soroka, Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard at some point within the next 12 months.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.