The Braves first three games were filled with negatives, primarily concerning their pitching, which was a question mark the entire offseason. The bullpen is loaded with AAA-caliber players and relying on multiple rookie pitchers in the rotation is never promising. With that said, it was not all negative in what was an excruciating three-game sweep at the hands of the division rival Phillies.
Dansby Swanson stays hot
Dansby Swanson enjoyed an encouraging spring after recovering from surgery on his wrist that took place last November. He slashed .353/.421/.559 with a .980 OPS in 34 spring training at-bats, showing off improved power to all fields. I cautioned people not to get overly optimistic. After all, it’s only spring training, but Swanson had a productive series in Philadelphia.
The former #1 overall pick had two hits – both of which went for extra bases (double, home run). Swanson also coaxed two walks, and even his outs were hit with authority. It’s a small sample size, but I am beginning to believe Swanson will be a much better player in his third full major league season.
Ozzie Albies shows patience from the left-side
Everybody who keeps up with the Braves is well aware of Ozzie’s splits from the left-handed batter’s box. The All-Star second baseman hit .335 with a .905 OPS while hitting right-handed and .231 with a .696 OPS from the left side. That is a staggering differential, and one Albies will look to change dramatically in his second full season.
Ozzie saw straight right-handed pitching while in Philadelphia and recorded three hits in ten plate appearances. To add to it, he forced two walks – another promising sign in his development. Albies is an ultra-aggressive hitter. The Braves don’t mind that, but to reach his full potential, he is going to have to be willing to take a walk at times. He only had 36 free-passes in all of 2018. Hopefully, that number is much higher in 2019.
Julio Teheran looked rejuvenated in his debut
For all the talk about Julio Teheran being moved this offseason, the veteran showed on Opening Day why the Braves made the right decision in keeping him. His fastball was consistently sitting in the lower 90s instead of the high 80s. There was a ton of movement on his pitches, particularly his slider. For the most part, he kept a potent Phillies lineup guessing all afternoon, striking out seven batters in five innings of work. Teheran still has to work on preventing the long ball, but it was encouraging to see him pitch like that after a sub-par 2018.
There probably are not too many scenarios where a pitcher has a 10.80 ERA and is looked upon positively, but that’s the case with Wes Parsons. The former undrafted free agent made the major league roster and appeared two times in the opening series.
The first appearance was short-lived. He came in to record one out and did so by striking out the only batter he faced. Parsons then was asked to play a much more significant role on Saturday, relieving Bryse Wilson. After 1.1 innings of clean baseball, he was a strike away from retiring Jean Segura, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins in order. Unfortunately, Hoskins slipped away and walked followed by a J.T. Realmuto homer, but Parsons still showed enough to warrant some more looks and could be a reliable piece to the bullpen as the season continues.
Freddie Freaking Freeman
It’s time to start asking ourselves if Freddie Freeman is indeed human. The three-time All-Star goes about his business with such poise and casually begins the season with six hits in his first ten at-bats. He also walked three times, giving him an OBP of .692 with an OPS of 1.492. Freeman was already an MVP candidate last year. He finished fourth in the voting. But with Ronald Acuña now protecting him in the order, we could see Freeman obliterate his career highs in 2019.