Braves: How much worse is the current roster than last year’s?

Soroka's postgame reaction

First off, I want to preface this by saying there is absolutely zero chance the Braves don’t add more pieces to their roster before the start of the season. They will probably sign at least one more bullpen arm, and Marcell Ozuna remains available. However, if the recent report regarding the Dominican slugger’s demands is true, he may end up playing in a different uniform next season, leaving Alex Anthopoulos with few places to turn. He could always attempt to find the right blockbuster trade, but at the very least, the Braves will bring back a bat like Adam Duvall to replace him.

Atlanta won’t end up totally empty-handed. Still, losing out on Ozuna would leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths after the Braves were so close last season to their first World Series berth since 1999. However, Anthopoulos did make a couple of significant moves earlier this offseason, signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to one-year contracts. There is an argument to be made that this roster — as it is currently constructed — isn’t in as bad of shape as many believe.

 

Lineup

  1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
  2. Ozzie Albies
  3. Freddie Freeman
  4. Travis d’Arnaud
  5. Dansby Swanson
  6. Adam Duvall
  7. Austin Riley
  8. Cristian Pache
  9. Pitcher’s spot

 

Obviously, Atlanta’s lineup takes a bit of a hit with Marcell Ozuna’s loss, but it was always going to be less potent without a designated hitter. In his place, I put Adam Duvall because I think — at the very least — they will get a player of his caliber if Ozuna signs elsewhere. I didn’t want to frighten fans by putting Ender Inciarte there. He won’t start in Atlanta next season unless he experiences a sudden resurgence offensively, which I do not expect. Regardless, this would still be one of the best offenses in the National League.

The top-five of the order can rival any in baseball. d’Arnaud still provides decent protection for Freeman, and Swanson keeps trending towards becoming an All-Star caliber player. After that, though, it is a lot of hit or miss. Duvall and Riley have the potential to be 30-40 home runs guys, but they could also bust and struggle to hit over the Mendoza Line. And, of course, we all know about the potential of Pache. Nevertheless, this will be his first extended stint in the majors. The success of this offense will depend on what kind of consistency those three can put together.

Rotation

  1. Max Fried
  2. Mike Soroka
  3. Ian Anderson
  4. Charlie Morton
  5. Drew Smyly

 

However, while the offense will be substantially downgraded without Ozuna, the starting rotation is in much better shape. Max Fried and Ian Anderson will be joined by Mike Soroka next season, giving the Braves a three-headed monster that can compete with any in the majors. The most recent reports suggest Soroka is ahead of schedule and aiming to be ready for the start of the season. That sounds a bit ambitious, but I don’t think it will be too long before we see him back on the mound.

Soroka’s return already makes Atlanta’s rotation infinitely better than it was when they faced the Dodgers a year ago. Still, Anthopoulos wanted to make sure that starting pitching issues are a thing of the past, so he inked Morton and Smyly. The hope is that Morton can provide what Cole Hamels couldn’t. Morton was an All-Star in 2018 and 2019 and has had plenty of success in the postseason. Smyly may not possess the lengthy track record that Morton has, but he’s a high-upside player that gives the Braves one of the best fifth-starters in baseball.

Even if Atlanta isn’t as good offensively as they were last year, the reality is that pitching wins in the postseason. They didn’t have enough of it last year to put away the Dodgers, but this is a championship rotation that can rival any in the majors. I could easily make the case that the upgrades they made in this area far outweigh the possible loss of Ozuna. In fact, I’ll say it — Soroka, Morton, and Smyly combined are undoubtedly more valuable than The Big Bear.

Bullpen

  1. Will Smith
  2. Chris Martin
  3. Tyler Matzek
  4. AJ Minter
  5. Jacob Webb
  6. Jeremy Walker
  7. Luke Jackson
  8. Sean Newcomb
  9. Touki Toussaint
  10. Bryse Wilson
  11. Kyle Wright
  12. Tucker Davidson
  13. Huascar Ynoa
  14. Kyle Muller
  15. Josh Tomlin
  16. Patrick Weigel
  17. Philip Pfeifer
  18. Victor Arano
  19. Carl Edwards Jr.

 

I know this is a bit excessive. The Braves will most likely only carry eight relievers; however, I wanted to show off just how much depth this group has. With Smyly and Morton in the fold, guys like Wilson and Wright could be used out of the bullpen. The Braves also have a host of prospects that may be ready to become full-time pieces to the major league roster. On top of that, Jeremy Walker and Jacob Webb are returning from injury, and as I said in the introduction, I expect Anthopoulos to add at least one more reliever before the start of the season. This bullpen has the opportunity to be one of the best in the majors once again.

Bench

  1. Johan Camargo
  2. Abraham Almonte
  3. Jack Mayfield
  4. Kyle Garlick
  5. Ender Inciarte
  6. William Contreras
  7. Alex Jackson

Of all the phases of the game, the bench needs the most work in Atlanta. Right now, this is simply pathetic. Each of these players could be on minor league rosters at some point next season. However, I will not spend too much time bashing it because I doubt it will look like this in a few weeks. There are still plenty of options available to help Atlanta improve in this area, and I expect that to happen before spring training.

Overall, the Braves aren’t in as bad of shape as social media would have you believe. A few upgrades to the bench and an addition to their bullpen, and this roster is arguably better than last year’s… even without Marcell Ozuna. Still, it sure would be nice to bring back The Big Bear and run it back a few times. There’s unfinished business in Atlanta; hopefully, that plays a factor in Ozuna’s decision.

 

 

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