The Braves have one of the most complete rosters in baseball, but if there’s one area of concern, it lies in left field. Or does it?
Spring Training results should always be looked at cautiously. With that being said, it’s alright for Braves fans to be cautiously optimistic about what they’ve seen from their left field options to this point.
Marcell Ozuna had two doubles on Monday, as his average creeps towards .300 for the Spring. Eddie Rosario hasn’t had as much success, but he did chip in a home run in Puerto Rico’s loss to Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Those are the Braves primary options, but several of the club’s new acquisitions could challenge for at-bats if their success from Spring Training continues into the regular season.
For his entire career, Eli White has primarily been a defensive replacement. That’s where most of his value lies, but don’t tell him that. He’s been on fire this Spring, adding two home runs yesterday in the Braves win over the Orioles. White’s average is now up to .435, with three homers over 23 at-bats. To put that in perspective, he only had three homers in 105 at-bats for the Rangers last season. I’m not sure if the production is sustainable, but perhaps the Braves have unlocked something with him offensively. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Sam Hilliard is another player enjoying a nice Spring. He’s recorded a .906 OPS over 25 at-bats, and I’m far more confident in his potential as an offensive player than I am in White. He possesses a lot of pop in his bat and has been plagued by the shift over his career. With that no longer an issue, I could see him having a breakout year of sorts with the stick. He should make the roster, and it wouldn’t shock me if he found himself in the starting lineup early in the season.
Those four options are enough for me to be encouraged about the position in 2023, but the Braves also have Jordan Luplow and Kevin Pillar. Luplow is a powerful right-handed bat that crushes left-handed pitching. An oblique injury held him out of the first couple of weeks of Spring Training, but he made his debut over the weekend and has a couple of hits over five at-bats in his first two appearances. Like White and Hilliard, Luplow also brings a lot to the table defensively.
Pillar hasn’t had the best Spring, recording just three hits in 19 at-bats, but the Braves know what they are getting in the veteran. He offers a little pop and plus-defense. Pillar is also on a minor-league deal, so he can be stashed in Gwinnett for depth purposes.
I wasn’t bullish on what the Braves did to address the position, but I’m beginning to change my tune a bit. Alex Anthopoulos has been a wizard when it comes to under the radar acquisitions, and it looks like he may have done it again this offseason. Spring Training results are often flukey, but I’m cautiously optimistic about the Braves situation in left field heading into the season.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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