As a Cubs fan in Braves country, I see a lot of similarities in the Braves to the 2015 Chicago Cubs team. They offensive pieces are falling in place as they have a couple MVP candidates. One being a veteran 1B in Freddie Freeman and the other is an exciting young player that is the future of the franchise, but the rotation may not be there yet. They have plenty of nice prospect arms coming from the minors, however, I’m not sure they are ready to carry the team yet. Atlanta does have the pieces in the farm system to make some trades if they need to as well.
The NL East is likely the most competitive division in baseball. It is the only division projected with 4 teams over 80 wins per the THOME projection system. Currently, the Braves are the front runner per THOME, the Nationals and Phillies are tied per PECOTA, and Vegas odds favor the Phillies. Regardless, it’s going to be a fun season for Braves fans and they have a lot to look forward to, not only in this season, but for the future.
|4||Ronald Acuna Jr.||LF||143||651||580||162||28||94||81||57||158||24||0.279||0.347||0.491|
Ender Inciarte – He got to the numbers you were expecting in roto, but in the first half, Ender was the lead off hitter and had 23 stolen bases with a .241 average. He got moved back in the lineup in the 2nd half of the season and only stole 5 bases while getting caught 6 times, but hit .302. Right now he’s projected at the top of the lineup, at least versus righties, but he’s been an avoid for me in drafts as the season split in speed and batting order is too much risk for me inside the top 150.
Josh Donaldson – A 30+ HR threat hitting in the middle of the lineup. There is upside if he can stay healthy. While I don’t have many shares, I will say, it’s really only 2018 that he didn’t get to his 30 HR number in the last 4 seasons, which includes a 33 HR effort in only 113 games in 2017.
Freddie Freeman – Top 75 in barrels per plate appearance (top 100 per batted ball event), 107th in hard hit rate, 121st in hard hit rate. I give you those stats to say, no, I’m not worried that he only hit 23 home runs last season. He’s my #2 ranked 1B and I’m happy to take him in the third round, although ADP says if you want him, it’s in the second.
Ronald Acuna Jr. – The man, the myth, the legend. #4 in Grey’s rankings and mine. Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to be a monster this season. Not much room for him to move up in the rankings, but he just might do it in 2020.
Nick Markakis – Markakis had a resurgence in the 1st half hitting .323 with 10 home runs, but dropped back to earth after the All-Star break batting .258 with 4 homers. He can give you playing time, but he’s better in a points format where his good walk rate and low K rate matter.
Ozzie Albies – .281/20 HR/9 SB vs .226/4 HR/5 SB. First half Albies vs second half Albies. It can take time for young switch hitters to figure out the non-dominant side, in addition to the normal learning curve at the major league level. How did the Braves offense function in the second half if everybody on the team fell off? O right, Acuna went off. With Albies, we may be looking at a situation where he could lead off vs righties and be dropped to 6 or 7 against lefties with his .335 vs lefties and.231 batting average vs righties split.
Dansby Swanson – Quietly hit 14 home runs with 10 stolen bases last season with great defense at shortstop, but the fantasy community and Atlanta fans seem to be done with Swanson. Well, it may be for a good reason as those HR and SB came with a .238/.304/.395 slash line. I also like taking a late shot on Johan Camargo in deeper leagues as I don’t believe Dansby has 100% job security as he did last season.
Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman – Pitchers who have flashed upside in previous seasons, but likely looking at a 4+ ERA, bad WHIP, and not much upside for Ks. They have their place in deeper leagues, but use your roster spot elsewhere in 10 or 12 team leagues.
Sean Newcomb – Newcomb is a guy that I seem to be drafting later in drafts after I’ve front loaded with a couple pitchers. It appeared he had turned a corner in the first half, but fell back to earth post All Star break. Newcomb has the stuff to give you the strikeout upside, but you should probably prepare to compensate for his WHIP.
5th pitcher – I have no idea who ends up with the 5th start job between Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, and Max Fried. Fried may get the job out of camp for service time reasons, but I believe he eventually ends up in the bullpen or back in the minors.
Touki is the top arm in the system with a ridiculous curve ball and a solid splitter that may become more than that, but there is some concern on the command despite showing some improvements in 2018.
Kyle Wright may not have the upside of Touki, but has 4 pitches that he can use at the major league level and has flown through the Braves system. I’m not going to be against him, but as with Touki (and most young pitchers), it’s about the control. Having a couple experienced catchers behind the plate should benefit all of the young pitchers.
Mike Foltynewicz – After 4 seasons of waiting, we finally got to see the Mike Foltynewicz we thought could exist given high velocity fastball, nasty slider, an improved sinker that induced more grounders, and the change and curve to keep hitters off balance. He’s expected back in late April to May. If you have the space on your IL, Folty could bring you top 30 value once he’s back.
Arodys Vizcaino – Viz has pushed through 2 seasons of trade rumors and got 16 saves last season with a 2.11 ERA. He’s likely more of a mid to high 3s ERA guy, as Steamer projects, but with A.J. Minter having injury problems this spring, there’s nobody pushing him for the job, so, he should still enter the season as the close. Whether he can maintain the job all season… let’s just say that A.J. Minter has better stuff.