Braves outfield outlook nearing Rosario return – The Atlanta Braves are on a roll in the month of June. They’re 19-4 so far, and they’ve sliced the Mets’ division lead to five games. They’ll look to start off the month of July even stronger as Eddie Rosario nears his return.
Rosario started off the year horribly, hitting just .068, but it wasn’t his fault. He was battling blurred vision and eye swelling that required laser surgery.
He made his rehab return last night, beating out an infield single in his first game.
— Gwinnett Stripers (@GoStripers) June 26, 2022
Rosario return the Decision
His return will create an interesting scenario for Alex Anthopoulos to sort out. He will be the sixth outfielder fighting for three playing spots (four if you count the DH). Let’s examine how the Braves could utilize their many outfielders.
Acuña suffered a foot injury on a foul ball last night. While he remained in the game for a few more innings, he was removed in the ninth inning. He might miss a couple of games, but he’s the one guy you can be sure will be in right field every game.
Harris burst onto the scene in late May and has become an early Rookie of the Year candidate with his impressive .327/.353/.531 slash line. While he’s almost guaranteed to regress a little bit, his elite defense will keep him in center field. Braves fans shouldn’t expect him to miss many games for the rest of the year.
Duvall has had a disappointing season after his career-best 38 homes last year; his meager .611 OPS will prevent him from being an everyday player. However, where Adam’s offensive numbers have slipped, his defense has shined. He ranks in the 91st percentile in Outs Above Average (OAA). Expect Duvall to be a late-inning replacement and get spot starts against favorable matchups.
While the sword-wielding Cuban hasn’t had much punch from the plate this season (.587 OPS), his impact can be felt in the clubhouse. No one has more fun playing the game of baseball than Heredia, and he still holds value on defense. However, with the return of the offensively-superior Rosario, Duvall will likely take on the role as defensive replacement. If anyone gets cut from the squad, it’ll be Heredia.
Ever since his excellent 2020 campaign, Ozuna has been more than disappointing. Over the past two seasons, the big bear has only slashed .221/.283/.392, but he has solid expected stats and has been better over the past month. However, Ozuna’s noodle arm should never be in the field. He’ll likely spend most of his time sharing the DH role with Rosario and possibly William Contreras.
The return of the Dodger-killer bodes well for the Braves’ offense. Rosario has a similar pedigree to Ozuna: great power and contact ability to go along with horrendous plate discipline and outfield defense. Rosario’s half-decent speed and passable arm will grant him more starting time in a field position than Ozuna, but he should get his fair share of starts at DH if the Braves feel the need for a stronger defense.
If anyone knows how to effectively platoon outfielders, it’s the Braves. General manager Alex Anthopoulos’ trade-deadline acquisitions of Rosario, Duvall, Jorge Soler, and Joc Pederson last season will forever be legendary. As long as these ballplayers remain healthy, it’s a good problem for the Braves to have.
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