There’s no denying the main thing that separated the Braves from some of the truly elite teams out there, like the Dodgers and Red Sox, was their lack of depth. In their rotation, they didn’t have enough reliable pitchers that could handle the heat of the postseason. The bullpen needed more quality arms at the back-end, but most noticeably, their bench offered them little to nothing.
Preston Tucker and Ryan Flaherty were key to the Braves hot start before fading into the abyss by June. Alex Anthopoulos attempted to strengthen the bench by adding Adam Duvall prior to the deadline. We don’t need to talk about how much he struggled to acclimate. The only consistently reliable piece was Charlie Culberson, and he was forced to start in the playoffs because of Dansby Swanson’s injury.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers had the luxury of playing matchups, making early changes and not wasting any outs. That’s an ability the Braves are looking to have as the calendar turns to 2019.
The addition of Josh Donaldson allows Johan Camargo to transition into the super-utility man that has become so valuable in the MLB. His ability to switch hit makes him a threat off the bench at any point in the game, and his versatility as a fielder will allow the Braves to put the best lineup on the field on a nightly basis. If Albies continues to struggle against right-handed pitching (.231 batting average last year), it’s not as much of a problem. Camargo can slide in, who hit .272 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs against right-handed pitchers last year.
The Braves are also in the market for an outfielder. Whoever they wind up signing, Camargo can also serve as an option at left field some nights. Or perhaps, Adam Duvall could play the role the Braves hoped he could last year. Yes, 2018 was one to forget for Duvall. He hit .132 (7 for 53) with no home runs in Atlanta; however, he’s a season removed from back-to-back 30 home run campaigns. Average is never going to be Duvall’s thing, and playing in the confined yards of Great American Ballpark helped his power numbers, but there’s a decent chance he returns to being a quality option off the bench. His defense is also an underrated attribute.
Of course, Charlie Culberson will be back with the team. He has shown he can play literally any position, even pitch or play emergency catcher, and is a clutch bat off the bench. Brian McCann also makes his return to Atlanta. He may not be much of an upgrade, if any, over Kurt Suzuki, but the ability to play lefty-righty with him and Flowers is an advantage the Braves didn’t have before.
The Bravos still have some work to do this offseason. They need to shore up their starting rotation, and the bullpen still has yet to be addressed. But what Atlanta has done so far is shore up the state of their bench, and there’s still plenty of time for Anthopoulos to add to it. Not only will this no longer be a weak point for Atlanta, but it also has the opportunity to be a plus-group if Duvall can look more like his 2016-2017 self next year.