Braves need to continue stressing defense

Bill Shanks

With the great Braves teams of the 1990s, they all had great defense. John Schuerholz stressed that when he became the general manager in 1990, and it continued through his run as the team's lead executive.

He brought in Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard and Otis Nixon in that first season. They instantly improved the team defense.

Mark Lemke was also good at second base. That infield defense helped the young pitchers like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz reach that next level.

They were a marked improvement over players like Jim Presley, who had been a horrific defender in 1990.

Walt Weiss and Andres Galarraga were added later in the decade. Then, of course, Andruw Jones took over in center field and became one of the best defensive outfielders of all-time. 

So, can the current Braves team have that kind of defense? Several players have won Gold Glove awards - Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis and even Marcell Ozuna. 

Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are candidates to win a Gold Glove moving forward in their careers.

Plus, the Braves have two position player prospects - Cristian Pache and Drew Waters - considered elite defensive players.

Many believe Pache could be the best defensive player in the game today - minor leagues or major leagues. He and Waters are expected to begin the season in Triple-A Gwinnett his year, after finishing last season at that level.

With the Braves still wanting to have pitching lead the way, just like in the 1990s, it is imperative the defense be solid. And it looks like the Braves have plenty of candidates to make that a reality.

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