Biggest questions as the Braves take on the Rays

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After the Braves routed the Mets on Sunday night, they head south to take on the Rays for two games before their first homestand of the season. Following the news today of seven more Miami Marlins testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total for their team to eleven, there is a ton of questions about whether the MLB will resume the season. While the news regarding the Braves division rival is bleak, and extra precautions need to be taken — even if it means postponing some games — it looks like the league is continuing as planned, at least for now.

So here are the top storylines as the Braves prepare for their second series of this shortened season.

Can the back end of the rotation hold up?

The Braves know what to expect out of Mike Soroka and Max Friend. After that, it’s anybody’s best guess. Sean Newcomb didn’t inspire much confidence last night, and now, the Braves turn to Mike Foltynewicz and Kyle Wright for their two-game set against the Rays, who are one of the most underrated ball clubs in the game.

Folty looked awful in the Braves’ first exhibition game, allowing six earned runs to the Marlins in just 4+ innings. His slider was a little flat, but the most discouraging aspect of the start was his velocity, which sat in the high-80s for most of the night. After the game, he blamed the conditions and the radar being broken but assured us he was feeling fine. We’ll see if that’s the case tonight, but if he can’t sit in the mid-90s, it’s going to be challenging for him to succeed with his offspeed arsenal.

Wright is the Braves 4th ranked prospect and has some major-league experience, albeit without much success. He had a bloated ERA of 8.69 in 19.2 innings last year for the Braves. However, the former 5th overall pick has all the talent in the world to stick in the majors. It’s just a matter of putting it all together. Hopefully, his first start of 2020 puts him one step closer to becoming a permanent member of the Braves rotation.

Can Atlanta’s big three bounce back?

The Braves were able to take two out of three from the Mets thanks to tremendous efforts from Dansby Swanson, Marcell Ozuna, and William Contreras. However, those guys likely won’t be able to do it solely by themselves against a team as talented as the Rays. The Braves need their big three of Acuña, Albies, and Freeman to bounce back after a putrid opening series against the Mets in which they combined to go 6-38 (.158 average).

Who is going to be the Braves go-to catcher?

This should be answered once Brian Snitker puts together his lineup for tonight. The Braves two starting catchers — Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers — continue to test negative for the coronavirus. However, they have flu-like symptoms, and after what happened with the Marlins, I can’t imagine the Braves rushing them back. 

That would leave Alex Jackson and William Contreras as the two catchers for this series again. Against the Mets, Jackson received the first two starts, with Contreras catching on Sunday. However, Jackson has shown he can’t offer much with the stick. Meanwhile, Contreras had four hits in his first six major-league at-bats. It will be interesting to see if the Braves begin to favor Contreras after his hot start. It’s not like Jackson has done anything to earn the nod over him. In his MLB career, he’s 0-17 with nine strikeouts. This year, he’s 0-4 with four strikeouts. 

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