Few expected the Braves offense to be the best in the National League heading into the All-Star break. Rather than re-thinking their hypothesis, most still believe Atlanta’s offense will eventually regress with guys like Nick Markakis and Ozzie Albies eventually cooling off in the second half. After all, 35 home runs for Albies to go along with a 200 hit season by Markakis is something nobody would have predicted.
But even if they do come back to the mean a little bit in the second half, there is still reason to believe the Braves offense can be better after the break. This does not include a hypothetical trade, just a few underachieving bats, and help that might be coming from the farm in the near future.
Ender Inciarte‘s second-half success
In the dark ages of the Braves, Inciarte was one of the lone bright spots in the organization, reaching his first All-Star game a season ago behind his hot bat and elite defense. Outside of last year though, first halves have not been Inciarte’s forte. He is a career .264 hitter in the first half of the season compared to .318 after the All-Star break. This year Ender is off to a poor start, hitting .246 out of the leadoff spot for Atlanta. The offense would benefit immensely from a more productive leadoff man with the bats of Albies, Freeman, and Markakis waiting behind him. Inciarte has been that for the majority of his career, especially in the season’s second half.
Acuna shows why he was a favorite to win Rookie of the Year
Acuna was a public favorite to take home the National League Rookie of the Year award at the beginning of the season. He spent the first few weeks of the season in AAA, and just a month after his long-awaited arrival, he suffered a heart-stopping knee injury. Thankfully, it turned out not to be too serious and he has since returned. Acuna has only been able to appear in 40 games for Atlanta and has not exactly been the world-beater that he was in the minors.
He is hitting .259 with 7 homers in 158 major league plate appearances. For a rookie, that is not anything to complain about. However, those certainly are not the expectations for Acuna in the majors. A consistent .300 bat throughout all levels of the minor leagues, he should be a better hitter going down the stretch. There is also no questioning the crazy power he possesses. If Acuna stays healthy and gets hot through the final seventy games of the season, Atlanta’s offense will be a headache to face.
Austin Riley gets his first taste of the majors
The onslaught of young talent and new faces arriving in Braves Country is just beginning. By season’s end, fans will become much more familiar with some of the organization’s most-hyped prospects, perhaps none more hyped up than Austin Riley. Riley is currently the best bat in the Braves farm system and knocking on the door of the big leagues.
Since being drafted in 2015, he has raked at every level, showing off incredible power. The Braves could really use a power bat in the middle of the lineup or coming off the bench. Nick Markakis has done all you can ask for as the cleanup hitter, but he will never be a power guy. Younger players like Riley and Acuna will be occupying that role in the future, and they both could be playing in the postseason together as early as this October.