Are the Braves serious about using Dansby Swanson as a second baseman?
Swanson has made just one of his nine starts for Triple-A Gwinnett at second base, so let's not get overly excited yet. But yeah, there have been some internal discussions about whether he might be a better long-term fit there. This decision will be made as he continues to work on his hitting mechanics in the Minors and both Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies provide a better feel for what they can do at the big league level.
Before this season began, we knew Camargo was the best defensive infielder in the system. We didn't know he was going to hit .346 with a .902 OPS through his first 28 big league starts this year. Nor did we necessarily anticipate he would hit .227 with a .676 OPS over the 18 starts that have followed.
Just as we have to give Camargo time to show what he's capable of, we have to give Swanson time to gain the development he missed both offensively and defensively when he was rushed to the Majors last year. If Swanson can start to incorporate his legs a little more, the swing may improve and his defensive shortcomings might also fade with a few mechanical adjustments.
There's a chance the Braves could enter next season with Camargo at third base, Swanson at shortstop and Albies at second base. There's also a chance that Albies would be one of the big pieces included if the team opts to make a significant trade this offseason. This could set up the possibility of entering the 2018 season with Camargo at shortstop, Swanson at second and the third baseman being a guy we'll currently refer to as TBD.
If you had to guess now, will Brandon Phillips be in a Braves uniform next year?
Since this was going to be the natural followup to who might play third base, I'll say that it still seems highly unlikely the Braves will attempt to bring Phillips back next year. By proving he can handle third base, Phillips at least expanded his marketability as a free agent this winter.
How realistic would it be for the Braves to target Michael Fulmer during the offseason?
When Braves scout Rick Williams is at a ballpark, especially during the weeks leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, you take notice of who is pitching. This is why on July 15, I noted Williams was in Detroit that weekend to see both Justin Verlander and Fulmer.
Look, I'm not going to rule out the Braves being financially creative enough to make a potential Verlander deal make sense, but there's no doubt their more significant interest was pointed in the direction of Fulmer, who will not be arbitration-eligible until 2019 and could be controlled through the '22 season.
It would require a strong prospect package to get Fulmer and any other attractive controllable starter who might be available this winter. But if the Braves are serious about attempting to make a postseason run next year, they will need to pair a frontline starter with Mike Foltynewicz. This would allow them to show some patience while the likes of Mike Soroka and Luiz Gohara experience inevitable growing pains during their early days at the Major League level.
Do you think we will see Ronald Acuna this season?
As intriguing as it might be to promote the young phenom, who might soon be widely regarded as the game's top prospect, I'm not expecting to see him until next season. The Braves don't have to protect Acuna from this year's Rule 5 Draft by placing him on their 40-man roster, but they will have to do some crunching to reserve space for other highly-regarded prospects, namely Gohara.
Thus, I think the only question now is whether the Braves will be willing to enter next season with Acuna in their Opening Day lineup. Like with Jason Heyward in 2010, this answer might not be revealed until Spring Training.
What value is there now for guys like Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler? Is there any fear that bringing up too many young prospects devalues them?
When the Braves revealed last week that Wisler will likely be used solely as a reliever for Triple-A Gwinnett, I tweeted that I was actually more intrigued by how Blair's slider might play as a reliever. However you cut it, if either has a future in Atlanta, it will likely be spent in the bullpen.
Wisler's four-seamer touched 96.8 mph and averaged 94.5 mph during an April 26 relief appearance against the Mets. He certainly possesses the capability to enhance his velocity as a reliever, and we have to remember, per Statcast™, opponents have hit just .172 against his slider since the start of 2016. Before giving up on Wisler, it makes sense to get a feel for what he could possibly do while focusing on those two pitches.
Because Blair didn't get a real good feel for the slider (he calls it a slider and Statcast™ data labels it a curveball) until late last year and has made just one appearance this year, we don't have a lot of data to analyze the potential value of this pitch. But he got a swing-and-miss with 28.9 percent of the sliders he threw during the 10-strikeout game against the Tigers last Oct. 1 and with 34.4 percent of the sliders he threw during his July 26 start in Arizona. The latter percentage ranks as the second best recorded in a game (min. 10 swings and misses) since the start of 2016 and the former ranks as the 11th best.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.