Few teams win a World Series and then improve, but I think most people can agree that’s exactly what the Braves did. A lot of that has to do with the return of Ronald Acuña, who is arguably the best player in the game today. He’s expected to be back by late April or early May as a designated hitter, which will make this Braves lineup even scarier than the one opposing pitchers had to face last postseason.
I also believe Atlanta upgraded their pitching staff significantly this offseason, particularly their bullpen. Gone are the days of blown leads, which has been kryptonite for this team in the past. The Braves now have arguably the best relief core in baseball, which should pay substantial dividends in the win column.
|Eddie Rosario||Ronald Acuña Jr.|
|Jorge Soler||Matt Olson|
|Freddie Freeman||Austin Riley|
|Austin Riley||Marcell Ozuna|
|Adam Duvall||Ozzie Albies|
|Joc Pederson||Adam Duvall|
|Ozzie Albies||Eddie Rosario|
|Travis d’Arnaud||Travis d’Arnaud|
|Dansby Swanson||Dansby Swanson|
On paper, these lineups are pretty similar, especially considering what Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson were giving the Braves during the playoffs last year, but over 162 games, give me Ronald Acuña and Marcell Ozuna every day of the week. Obviously, Acuña is a no-brainer, but I think people are sleeping on what Ozuna will add to this lineup. Remember, the man nearly won the triple crown during the shortened 2020 season. He’ll have a huge impact on how far the Braves go this year.
|Max Fried||Max Fried|
|Charlie Morton||Charlie Morton|
|Ian Anderson||Ian Anderson|
|Drew Smyly||Kyle Wright|
|Huascar Ynoa||Huascar Ynoa|
|Tucker Davidson||Tucker Davidson|
|Kyle Muller||Kyle Muller|
The rotation is almost exactly the same as it was last season, but there is one key difference — experience. Ynoa, Muller, and Davidson all have another year under the belts, which is enormous. Kyle Wright also looks to have regained his confidence, and there’s no doubt he has much more upside than Drew Smyly ever did. Finally, watch out for Spencer Strider. Like most people, I thought he was destined for the bullpen, but he’s shown a lot of progress this spring, and it looks like the Braves will continue prepping him as a starter. If Strider ever finds a comfortable third offering, this Atlanta rotation has a chance to be explosive. I also couldn’t totally leave out Mike Soroka, either. I’m not sold on him even pitching this season, but there’s a chance, and he’s optimistic that he will be back around July/August. If that happens, the Braves rotation becomes one of the best in baseball overnight.
|Will Smith||Kenley Jansen|
|Tyler Matzek||Will Smith|
|Luke Jackson||Collin McHugh|
|AJ Minter||Tyler Matzek|
|Chris Martin||AJ Minter|
|Jesse Chavez||Luke Jackson|
|Jacob Webb||Darren O’Day|
|Josh Tomlin||Dylan Lee|
This is undoubtedly where the Braves’ biggest advantage lies over last year’s team. Atlanta’s bullpen was lights out during the postseason, but they weren’t a very deep group, which is why they struggled mightily for most of the regular season. This year’s relief core is like 15 deep. There will be several high-quality arms that don’t even make the Opening Day roster, but I did want to include one extra name — Kirby Yates. He’s currently on the 60-day IL, and the Braves don’t expect him to be back until August at the earliest. However, if he is able to come back healthy at any point this season, I’m not sure how any team is going to score on the Braves bullpen. It is that elite.
You must log in to post a comment.