Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 Braves Potential Lineup

I listened to an interview on 680 the Fan this morning here in Atlanta, and the Front Row Show had Brian Snitker on to talk about the team. One of the most interesting discussion points was Ronald Acuna, and how impressive he is coming off his rookie season. So impressive, in fact, that Brian Snitker said he's planning to bat him in clean-up spot for opening day.

I tried to remember the last time a Braves player went from his rookie year to batting clean-up for the team. The one that immediately jumped to mind was David Justice, who in 1990 after his rookie year hit in the 4th slot in many of his games (42), but he also batted 5th and 6th quite a bit that year. That may not be the most recent one, but it was certainly the name I though of easily.

The conversation got me thinking. If I'm Brian Snitker, how would I set the lineup today?

Here's my thoughts of who to put where, and why.

  1. Ender Inciarte/Ozzie Albies - Of the 4 guys who have some speed, Ender has the best on-base percentage with the lowest slugging. He's not going to be a home run hitter, but he can get to first and possibly stretch that into a double while driving the pitcher crazy on the bags. Ozzie can go here against Left handed pitching, which I'll explain later on.
  2. Josh Donaldson - This is where he wants to hit, and in his last full season he hit 33 homers with .560 slugging. I want him to get as many ABs this year as we can for his $23M
  3. Freddie Freeman - That's his spot, fight him.
  4. Ronald Acuna - He had highest OPS on the team, and he was a rookie last year. I think this is the perfect spot for him to have his 26 homers he hit in a shortened 2018 season to turn into a lot more 2 and 3 run homers.
  5. Nick Markakis/Ozzie Albies - I want a guy who can hit for higher average here, and drive in the runners with possibly 2 outs. Nick is the best contact hitter we have on the team (who also has no speed and thus won't hit lead-off), and his .308 average and 35 RBIs with 2 outs really put a dagger in teams psychologically. When you can score runs instead of ending up with nothing for an inning, that's a big swing in every game. Case in point, the 2018 World Champion Red Sox were TERRORS with 2 outs, and that made a big difference in why they won the title. I've put Ozzie here as well but I'll explain why in the #6 slot
  6. Ozzie Albies/Johan Camargo - Ozzie can go in either the 5-6 slot until he can figure out how to hit Right handed pitching, which is the majority of the ABs he's going to get. His splits there are .696 OPS against RHP, and .905 against LHP, which is a huge difference. Against lefties he will move up in the order. Also, until somebody tells me we're going to have somebody else play 3rd, I'm assuming Camargo gets the job. He's a fine hitter, .800+ OPS last year, and he can play most positions in the field.
  7. Brian McCann/Tyler Flowers - The two catchers will rotate, but I think putting them in the 7th slot makes sense. Tyler is a mediocre hitter at best, but Brian if he can revert to 2017 form before the 2018 injuries is a lot more dangerous with his bat. 
  8. Dansby Swanson - I've seen nothing that says Dansby is getting benched, but this is a make-it-or-break-it year for him. Otherwise, one of the younger upstarts will eventually replace his spot on the infield by either taking it directly, or rotating somebody else like Ozzie or Camargo into SS. 
  9. Pitcher - Because it's still the NL until they force the DH on us.

Thoughts? How would you rank them heading into the season?


EDIT: Left out my commentary on Ozzie, stupid.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Two weeks to Braves opening day

In a weird twist of timing and fate, the Braves get to open up the their 2019 season at SunTrust Park this year on March 29th. I say weird twist because the Braves got to open up their 2018 season at home on the exact same date, March 29th, last year. You may say, okay so what? Well, in 2017, the Braves didn't even play a home game until April 14th, after 8 regular season road games in a row. In 2016, we opened at home but it was on April 4th.

In fact, except for these last two years, I couldn't remember a time when the MLB season was opening in March. Turns out that this is true, this is the earliest opening day for the MLB ever. And the prior year it was the earliest opening day before that. Why did that happen? Because in 2017, the players union and the MLB agreed to different scheduling, with one more weekend on the front end of the schedule, but 3-4 additional rest days in the middle of the schedule. Riveting stuff!

Now that I've thoroughly bored you with scheduling talk, on to the actual team! The Braves are set to come out of Spring Training with a roster that includes some of your old favorites like Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis (mostly because Nick is old, I don't know if he's a favorite of many).

The other old guys to round things out are Tyler Flowers (33), Josh Donaldson (33), Adam Duval (30), and...that's about it unless we're talking about a few pitchers. The rest of the team is a bunch of young guns, and frankly I'm old enough now to be older than every player on the roster. Which is both fun and depressing. I'll spend time in later blogs going through the roster and the players as we get through the week.

As we get closer to opening day, I want to know the answers to a few questions:

  1. Which players, especially pitchers are going to make this roster
  2. Who is going to be at the back end of this rotation and can we dump Julio Teheran please?
  3. Will Ronald Acuna break every record, hit for the cycle, heal the sick, and raise the dead?
The hype is real this year since the Braves won the division last year, and I'll go into detail what that means in the rest of the division as other teams spend dollars and we hold onto pennies like those "owners" in Denver want to make a profit or something. Jerks.

The best news is, we're back! A new season is coming!