Josh Donaldson was the gem of the Braves’ 2018-2019 free-agent class. Coming off back-to-back injury-plagued season’s, he was able to stay healthy the entire year and turn in yet another All-Star caliber campaign. From June on, Donaldson was arguably the best player in the National League. And he finished the season with nearly 40 homers, 100 walks and an OPS of .900. We at SportsTalkATL like to call that “worth every penny.”
Not only was Donaldson a pleasure to have at the plate, batting right behind Freddie Freeman, but I think he surprised most people with just how phenomenal he was in the field as well. Donaldson possessed quick feet at the hot corner with fantastic coordination and a laser for an arm. He may not win the Gold Glove, but he sure as hell looked like a Gold Glove-caliber defender the entire season.
With that being said, there was one area of his game that wasn’t quite up to par with the rest – his baserunning. According to Bill James, the owner of Bill James Online – a popular place for advanced analytics in baseball – Josh Donaldson was the worst baserunner in baseball with -30 bases added.
10 Worst ML Baserunners, 2019: 1. Josh Donaldson, -30 bases, 2. Josh Bell, -29, 3. J. Lucroy, -27, 4. E. Suarez, -26, 5-6. J. Abreu & W. Ramos, -25, 7. Avisail Garcia, -23, 8-9. M. Rojas & J. Winker, -22, 10-11. Justin Smoak & a player to be named later. Bill James Handbook, 2020
— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) October 13, 2019
This isn’t something that stood out to me throughout the year. While Donaldson surely isn’t the fastest player on the Braves, he never seemed like he was running in mud out there, and Statcast backs that up. He’s in the 28th percentile in terms of sprint speed, which isn’t abystmal, moving at 25.8 ft/second. But along with that sub-par sprint speed, Donaldson was notorious for running into too many outs. The irony here is the Braves as a whole were among the best baserunning teams in the majors, constantly applying pressure on opposing defenses.
Despite Donaldson’s hiccups on the basepaths, he remains the Braves’ top priotity this offseason. Alex Anthopoulos stated last week that their is mutual interest in him returning. However, plenty of teams will be lining up to offer him after the numbers he put up this year. Considering his age and injury history, the Braves have to be cautious not too overpay. They are not the Yankees or Dodgers. A mistake like that could cost them for years to come.
Other significant free agents Atlanta will have to make a decision on include: Julio Teheran, Nick Markakis, Dallas Keuchel, and Chris Martin.