It hasn’t even been two weeks since Opening Day, and we are already over 1/5th of the way through the season. Today the rosters were trimmed down to 28 players, and after a recent agreement between the league and the MLBPA, they will stay that way for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. In a little over two weeks, the trade deadline will be here, and in no time, we’ll be talking about postseason races and rosters.
Before the year, I came up with seven bold predictions for this shortened season. Surprisingly, many of them are looking pretty good after 13 games, but there are a few that need quite a turnaround to come to fruition.
1. Dansby Swanson earns a contract extension
Swanson is off to a fiery start, which is making this prediction look good. He’s hitting .314 with a couple of homers and a team-leading 13 RBIs. He also has three stolen bases and is playing impeccable defense at shortstop. With that being said, it’s going to take a whole sixty-game stretch for the Braves to offer Swanson the substantial contract extension he will be eyeing this offseason. But I was confident in Swanson before the season, and everything he’s done to this point has only made me more confident. I’m sticking with this prediction.
2. Travis d’Arnaud proves to be a significant upgrade
You could argue this wasn’t much of a bold prediction. Still, it’s fairly obvious through five games (d’Arnaud missed the first series with coronavirus symptoms and splits starts with Tyler Flowers), that d’Arnaud is a considerable upgrade over what Brian McCann gave the Braves last year. He’s hitting .368 and already has a homer, a couple of doubles, and seven RBIs in just 19 at-bats.
3. Freddie Freeman hits .330 on his way to the MVP
I’m going to have to go ahead and take the loss on this one. I knew it was going to take a hot start for someone to win the MVP, and Freeman has been known for those over his career. That hasn’t been the case this year. He’s currently hitting below the Mendoza line (.190) with only three extra-base hits (one homer). Perhaps his bout with COVID-19 right before the season had something to do it, but either way, his MVP hopes are pretty much dashed at this point.
4. Austin Riley starts at third base and leads the team in home runs
Riley has started in pretty much every game this season, whether it be at third base, the outfield, DH, or even first base. His bat is off to a slow start, though, hitting just .129 in his first ten games. However, he does have a couple of home runs to his name, which is only one behind Marcell Ozuna, who has the team lead. If he can start to turn things around with the stick, this prediction still has a chance of coming to fruition.
5. Max Fried leads the team in ERA
I firmly believed this would be Max Fried’s breakout campaign after a solid first season as a full-time starter. So far, he looks unbelievable, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.04 ERA and 0.792 WHIP in three starts. Unfortunately, now that Mike Soroka is out for the season with a torn Achilles, you can pretty much lock it in. Fried will end the year with the best ERA among starters.
6. Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, and Cristian Pache make their MLB debuts
None of these guys have made their MLB debuts, but you have to think a few of them are just around the corner. Given the Braves concerns in the starting rotation, it’s highly likely that we see Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, or both very soon. And I’m not ruling out Cristian Pache. Ender Inciarte has been miserable at the plate early this season. The Braves have outfield depth, but if Inciarte’s struggles continue for much longer, I don’t see why they wouldn’t give Pache a shot.
7. Kyle Wright starts a playoff game
This one is still very much in the air, but after Mike Soroka’s injury, if Wright is anything more than serviceable for the rest of the year, he will almost certainly start a playoff game, assuming the Braves make the postseason. I still very much like the chances of this happening.