After an offseason spent dealing away several starters, the Atlanta Braves have shown no signs of immediate improvement for the 2016 season.

Spring training could be the only thing Braves fans can look forward to this year, but for now, there’s a sense of optimism and promise for the future.

The 2016 Braves will be a very different team from their 2015 predecessors, and whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen. Center fielder Cameron Maybin, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and pitching ace Shelby Miller have all been traded, and the former two players will likely be replaced by Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar, respectively.

Atlanta’s most notable free-agent signings included a pair of Georgia natives—Roswell native Tyler Flowers (catcher) and former University of Georgia standout Gordon Beckham (third base)—neither of whom are projected to start at their respective positions.

While these are all players to watch during spring training, the Braves’ top minor league prospects will draw most of the attention and rightfully so. Three of Atlanta’s top prospects—Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb and Aaron Blair—received special recognition from Minor League Baseball’s official Twitter page:

After several years of gutting the team’s best players, President of Baseball Operations John Hart has quietly been assembling a deep, talented farm system. In fact,’s Keith Law even named it the No. 1 farm system in all of baseball, and placed six Braves prospects on its top 100 prospects list.

Another player to keep an eye on is pitcher Matt Wisler, who should crack the starting rotation again this season. Before the team left for Florida last Friday, he and a few other pitching prospects joined bullpen coach Alan Butts for some long toss:

A rapidly developing storyline this offseason is the possibility of Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez becoming an MLB manager. Perez coached the Venezuelan national team this offseason, bringing it to the Caribbean World Series championship game.

In an interview with David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Braves legend Chipper Jones expressed his support for Perez, believing that he will be an MLB manager someday:

I’m not surprised at all of Eddie’s success as a manager. It is just a matter of time before he is experiencing success as a big league manager. He’s learned a ton, as have many coaches, from the great Bobby Cox. Some of the same traits that made him an all-time favorite teammate for countless players, are also what makes him a great manager now, and in the future.

This is a very unique spring training for the Braves; it’s almost as if it has more of an impact on the 2017 season than this upcoming season. We’ve seen what established Braves veterans like Freddie Freeman, A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Markakis can do, and even newcomer veterans like Flowers and Beckham have already shown their modest potential.

Cultivating the young pitching prospects is by far the most important task of spring training. Four of the five projected starting pitchers for the Braves this season will be 25 years old or younger, and they have many more sprinkled throughout their farm system, including Newcomb and Blair. 

Overall, the Braves have shown little reason to believe that they’ll be a winning team this season, much less a playoff team. But with a strong coaching staff, the top farm system in the game, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft (another pitcher!) and another full season to develop its young players, Atlanta is on the right track to regaining its dominant form of the 1990s and early 2000s.

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