The Atlanta Braves are one of the biggest surprises in the MLB this year sitting 1.5 games up of Washington after a 4-0 shutout last night. A lot of people before the season saw the Braves as a team that would improve but most likely would still finish around the .500 mark due to their youth. We are now two months in and Atlanta is 11 games over .500 and have the second best record in the National League. The Braves could keep this up and follow in the footsteps of the past three world champs in going from one of the worst teams in baseball to World Champs.
You may recall in 2015 when Kansas City won the World Series after a decade of finishing in the bottom third of the standings. A year later Chicago broke the curse and won 103 games in the regular season three seasons after they won 66 a year in which the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros won just 51 games.
MLB seems to be shifting from a model of signing free agents to win to a model of developing players from within for long term success. While it hasn't been as good in terms of long term success for KC, the Cubs and Astros look to be here for a while behind a core of young players including an MVP on each team under the age of 30.
The Braves look to be a team that could follow the model that Houston and Chicago used in which they developed position players from within for the most part and then once they became ready add on veteran pitching for a post season run like how the Cubs and Astros did with Lester and Verlander.
The Braves remind me so much of the 2015 Chicago Cubs right now. They have a guy in Freddie Freeman who is an experienced but still young leader on offense similar to Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and a few blooming superstars in Dansby Swanson, Ronald Acuna and Ozhaino Albies just like how the Cubs had Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell break onto the scene that year. Chicago won 97 games that year and made it to the NLCS before losing to the Mets and Atlanta could very well hit that 97 win mark if they keep this up.
The key for Atlanta will be at the trade deadline. The Braves don't have the offense that Houston had last year so they will need to make it up on the mound. In 2016 Chicago won the World Series with a staff ERA of 3.15 which was far better than any other team in baseball. Right now the Braves have 2 very good starters in Mike Foltynewisz who now has an ERA of 2.22 and Sean Newcomb who sits at 2.73. The problem is the next two starters have ERA's of 4.03 and 5.02. Getting to the post season with those numbers won't be difficult but the Braves need at least one of those guys to step it up and be closer to the 3.5 mark and sign a #1 or #2 pitcher come the trade deadline, preferably a veteran with some post season experience.
Either way the Braves are a team to watch this season and if their hot young bats can stay hot and add a veteran or two at the deadline they could be the latest version of the 2016 Cubs or 2017 Astros and continue the trend of rebuilding from within that the MLB is going through now.