Catchers - Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers
Infield - Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson
Outfield - Ronald Acuna, Charlie Culberson, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis
So if you're keeping score, you'll see that a grand total of not much changed from 2018 to 2019. We added Donaldson and McCann, we lost Kurt Suzuki and sent Adam Duvall to the minors where he belongs right now. Also we released Ryan Flaherty who had a lot of ABs off the bench in 2018.
Where does that leave us with pitching? Well, according to the Braves depth chart we have seven possible starters right now:
Starters - Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran, Brice Wilson, Kyle Wright, and Max Fried.
The reason we have seven guys is that Folty and Gausman are currently injured so the actually starting five won't include them for the opening weekend and subsequent Cubs series.
Bullpen - Vizcaino, Minter, Venters, Sobodka, Biddle, Winkler, Carle, and Jackson.
Obviously when Folty and Gausman come back, Wilson and Wright likely go to the pen. Then we'll see after a month who gets to start games or who is healthy. One thing I know for sure, you can never have enough starters up in the big leagues. They are all made out of balsa wood in my opinion, so if you think you'll have one play the entire season, don't bet on it.
On to the BOLD PREDICTIONS! Let's go
- The Bullpen is still a problem - We've got a bunch of young guys who will be taking over positions that were occupied either by cheap older guys, or younger guys who couldn't hack it. I don't expect this to be a strong point for our organization.
- The Braves WON'T sign Craig Kimbrel - Craig wants a bunch of money, and we're a day away from the start of the season. I don't think he's coming to town and I don't think the Braves need him honestly. The problem for the bullpen isn't the 9th inning, it's innings 6-8. Doesn't matter if we get to the 9th down 3 runs whether we have Craig or not.
- Markakis will be a disaster late and get benched in August - I want Nick to succeed, but we barely wanted him around enough to be a stop-gap cheap option in RF. Nick will be fine for 2 months, and look very good. Then the wheels will come off at the All-Star break. He hit .877 OPS in the first half of 2018, and .701 in the second half. He's 35 years old. He's making $6M and is an easy person to sideline if we're in a playoff run at the end of the year and need a bat. Father time will get him this year.
- Max Fried will emerge as a regular starter - Fried has the makings of a guy who has figured things out in spring training, and he'll be competing with his fellow young arms for a real shot at a starting spot this year. I think the 15 innings we saw of him in training with a 2.35 ERA tells me a little, but the fact he had only 5 BBs to 16 Ks tells me a lot more about his control.
- Julio Teheran will get released or traded - This is Julio's last year on his deal, and as you well know he's terrible and he will continue to be terrible into this season. Assuming ANYBODY else shows up with a pulse that can keep the ball in the ballpark? They should take his starting spot, and the Braves will have no problem dumping off his small amount of money if they don't need him for a playoff run.
- Ronald Acuna will post better numbers than Bryce Harper - Acuna is the real deal, a young future superstar in the making, and if he can stay healthy I think he'll eclipse the numbers posted by Bryce, who will be feeling fat and happy under his new contract in Philly. Think I'm crazy? In 2018 Acuna was better than Bryce in OPS, Slugging, and Average. He also didn't play in about 48 less games. If they both play full seasons, I'm convinced Acuna is the better player right now.
- We're going to have issues at catcher - Brian McCann is old. So is Tyler Flowers. Neither guy is exactly in the stage of life where they can swing the bat well, and I'm not sure Tyler Flowers could throw me out if I was stealing second base. His Caught Stealing % last year was 23%, the league average last year was about 28%. I'd be running all day on Flowers, and he's likely to get most of the starts since he's the younger of the two.
- Braves Home Record will dramatically improve - In a weird anomaly last year the Braves were an amazing road team and an very mediocre home team. Second year in a new stadium may have taken some of the shine off the home field advantage, but bigger than that I think our lack of power really made SunTrust Park one of the worst home run parks in baseball (it was 27th according to ESPN). The addition of Donaldson, a full year of Acuna, and Freddie Freeman getting protection I think helps that.
- Braves will hit 200 or more homers - We hit 175 last year, and for the reasons I listed in #8 I think we'll crest the 200 homer club in 2019
- The Braves will win under 90 games - Vegas put the number at 90, and I'm going under. I'm not bullish on this year at all because I don't think we did enough in the off-season to secure a team that can compete with Philly and the Mets in the pitching department. It will be VERY tough to win the division again with a bunch of younger players, and despite signing Donaldson, the Braves spent next to nothing (when they said there WERE going to spend money and basically lied) to improve our playoff positions. When everyone else gets better and we basically stand pat I don't have a lot of confidence we can win the division. However, I do think we can win 86-88 games, which might be enough to get us into a Wild Card position. In 2017, that would have been good enough, in 2018 it wouldn't have been close at all. We'll see how this thing unfolds.
I'm excited about this season, but I'd be lying to you if I didn't feel like the ownership has screwed us over here on having a chance to go for a title. We were promised big things with the opening of the Battery and the new revenues. Right now we're projected to be 21st in opening day payroll at $111M total, which is actually less than the $112M we opened SunTrust park with back in 2017. Go figure. However, that won't stop me from watching, cheering, and hoping we can become one of those lower spending teams that make a run like the Houston Astros.