Season in Review: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves had a seriously decent 2019 campaign of 97 wins. They had a team of studs that is destined to compete for years to come. What I find to be rather interesting is that they lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS. 10 runs in one inning will guarantee a loss for most teams. However, with all the talent they had and all of the pieces they possessed, they lost some talent coming into the 2020 season. The largest piece that they have lost is Josh Donaldson. Josh has been year in and year out one of the better third basemen for the past 5-10 years. I find it interesting that the Braves would let him walk, considering he led the team with WAR but there might be more to that story. They may plan on moving over Austin Riley or utilizing Johan Comargo. I find it interesting to bet on the two youngsters, but we will see this upcoming season. Below you can see the top 8 position players for the Braves this past season.
|7||CF||Ronald Acuna Jr.||21||156||715||626||127||175||22||2||41||101||37||9||76||188||0.28||0.365||0.518||0.883||122||324||8||9||0||1||4|
I would be remiss if I did not mention Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies on this list. I believe that these three men will continue to carry the majority of the load for the Braves moving into the next season.
Ronald broke out in a big way this past season. He was almost a 40/40 player which is pretty impressive considering his age. At 22 years old, he could be the NL version of Mike Trout. He offers a rare blend of true power, contact, speed, and fielding to become a five tool guy. I believe that there may also be more in store for Ronald, as well. He seems to pummel any pitch that is thrown his way and has some discipline at the plate with an outside swing rate of 26.7%. I would like to see that latter number lower, but after all, he is 22 and adjusting to MLB pitching. What I truly love about him is his ability to barrel up baseballs. He has a barrel rate % of 15 and the MLB average is 6.3%. I am ALL IN on that. If you have a guy you are thinking of taking first in a fantasy draft consider my friend Ronald. Until then, check out some of his 2019 highlights.
Above is a list of the top 6 starters for the Braves in 2019. As most of know now, that Dallas Keuchel is no longer going to be seen in a Braves uniform and the same goes for Kevin Gausman. However, the Braves signed a veteran lefty, Cole Hamels to ride the tide until they get more young arms.
One of the starters that I would like to focus on would be Max Fried. In our latest podcast with @SPStreamer on Twitter and https://www.spstreamer.com/, he highlighted that Max could be one of the more underrated fantasy pitchers of the 2020 season. I believe that he could be the real ace of the Braves and let me tell you why. I believr in the 2019 season that he got a little unlucky with an ERA of 4.02 and an xFIP of 3.32. I believe that we may see more of a mid to low 3 ERA from him. Another thing to love about him was his ability to get groundballs. However, over the past three seasons, his flyball percent has gone up, so watch that trend, but I will tell you where the real value is with him. Last season he rolled out with a slider that he had never thrown before in his career that we can document in the MLB. He threw it 16% of the time and it was by far his best pitch, followed by his curveball. Probably this off-season Max is going over his stats from the past year and should recognize that trend very easily and work on getting his slider worked in the game more. I believe that would help the rest of his pitches and help him strike more men out, which is scary because he averaged 9.40 k/9. I like the stuff this kid has and think he will come out and shock some people this upcoming season. Just look below at his pitch repertoire for more information on him, he’s got the slider, he has the velo, he has a very nice curve, and a solid cutter.
|10||Jasseel De La Cruz||RHP||2021|
There is some serious talent in this farm system still. The names on here are more than enough to help the Braves run to the playoffs again. My favorite name on this last would be the guy named Cristian Pache. One thing about Pache is that he does not possess true power yet. Does he have some power? Yeah, I think he does with a raw power grading of 50. I think the real value of him would be in the field. He is graded out at 70 on both fielding and throws, so it would make sense why that could expedite his journey to the show. He could be akin to others who have had special skills like Billy Hamilton (speed), Yadier Molina (defense), and Aaron Judge (power). When a player possesses a special ability like that it is extremely helpful in the race to the MLB. I think a realistic comparison for him would be a Harrison Bader type guy. He may not set the world on fire with his bat, but he does have a decent stick and he is amazing in the field.
The other name that I would like to mention is Williams Contreras. It seems as if he is very high inside the minds of the Braves organization and for good reason. He falls in a similar boat to that of Pache except he may have a little more hope with the bat in my own mind. I think the real value of him comes from his arm and blocking ability, but over time we will see. For a few clips of both of these guys check out below. Don’t forget about some of the rest of the guys on this list too such as Drew waters and Ian Anderson, they will be studs in the future as well.
#1: The Braves finish in First place in the NL East
#2: Ronald Acuna finishes top 3 in MVP
#3: Austin Riley becomes finishes with over 30 homers and a .265 average