Braves: Ten over-under predictions for 2020

Braves: Ten over/under predictions for 2020

Each spring provides its own new set of question marks for the upcoming MLB season, and there sure are a lot for the Braves this year. Between the team’s competition at third base, two unfilled spots in the starting rotation, and the yearly over exaggerating about poor play in Spring Training (looking at you Marcell Ozuna) — there’s enough doubt to make any fan worry about the upcoming campaign. 

But worry no more, as I’m here to calm those fears with ten over/under predictions for the Braves’ 2020 season, providing you with a list of answers to several of the more popular questions currently floating around. So just relax and enjoy the rest of Spring Training, and don’t act surprised when I turn out to be completely wrong by season’s end.

Note: this post was inspired from a league-wide over/under write-up at ESPN on Thursday, found here.


1. Braves All-Stars: 3.5

This one seems easy to me, especially if the Braves’ current roster performs as expected this coming season. Since 2018, the first year out of the rebuild, the Braves have been represented rather well with 7 total All-Stars, featuring four in 2018 and 3 in 2019.

  • Freddie Freeman (both)
  • Ronald Acuna (2019)
  • Mike Soroka (2019)
  • Nick Markakis (2018)
  • Ozzie Albies (2018)
  • Mike Foltynewicz (2018)


Thinking about this logically, this could reasonably be expected to be a historic season in terms of Braves’ All-Star representatives. Think about it. Freeman is just about a lock if he stays healthy. Acuna and Albies both have one trip under their belts already and those were as rookies. Soroka is arguably the most likely starting pitcher on the team to be chosen after finishing 6th in the NL Cy Young vote in 2019.

That’s already three right there and I haven’t even considered 30-HR, .280 AVG potential from Marcell Ozuna or lefty reliever Will Smith, who could surpass 30 saves if he takes over the closer role in 2020 (like most of us believe he will). 

The truth is the sky’s the limit with this year’s team, and solid bounce-back seasons from Foltynewicz and Ender Inciarte plus more strides made by Max Fried could make this a very well represented team at Dodger Stadium come July 14.

Verdict: OVER


2. Travis d’Arnaud games played: 80

This one obviously isn’t as flashy as the number of Braves’ All-Stars, but it comes with just as much significance. d’Arnaud will be a very vital part of the team’s lineup in 2020 as he’s projected to provide a solid bat overall — especially versus left-handed pitching — plus split duties with Tyler Flowers. However, staying healthy has been an issue for the 31-year-old catcher. 

Over the last 3 seasons combined, d’Arnaud has averaged just 73 games per season and that number drops to an average of  71 over his 7-year career, so reaching a number like 80 may be difficult. I like d’Arnaud’s chances, though, and since he signed I’ve been under the impression that he’ll ultimately wind up being the primary catcher anyways. Plus, skipper Brian Snitker is plenty familiar with managing a tandem behind the plate.

Verdict: OVER


3. Mike Soroka + Max Fried combined strikeouts: 314.5

It’s funny because the article over at ESPN was debating the over/under on whether Yankees’ starter Gerrit Cole would reach 300 strikeouts all by himself. It’s true Soroka and Fried don’t quite wield the same dominance on the mound that Cole does, but both are just as important to the Braves as Cole is to New York. 

Both Soroka and Fried posted career-bests in numerous statistics, including strikeouts, as each of them helped guide a Braves’ rotation that was hindered by a few setbacks (Newcomb, Gausman, Foltynewicz). But in order for them to hit the 315-strikeout mark in 2020, both Soroka and Fried would have to essentially repeat their 2019 punchout total of 142 and 173, respectively. I could see Fried doing that, but I’m not so sure Soroka will. Taking nothing away from how good of a season I think they’ll have, I think they just miss the mark.

Verdict: UNDER


4. Freddie Freeman + Marcell Ozuna combined HRs: 75

It’s almost as if Freeman occasionally gets bored with his style of hitting and decides to swap it up. One year he’s a gap-hitter, slapping 40+ doubles all over the field; the next season he’s a power-hitter, belting 35+ homers and knocking in 100 runs. Last season was full of power, as Freeman finished with career-highs in home runs (38), RBI (121) and runs (113); 2018 was all about doubles and contact, featuring career-highs in two-baggers (44) and hits (191). 

Marcell Ozuna, on the other hand, is a little more one-dimensional, though he has shown flashes of elite contact. However, despite the fact that Ozuna is one of the game’s hardest hitters (Hard-hit% wise), his game-power lags behind Freeman (he hit 37 HR in 2017; his only time in the 30s). 

Unfortunately, for both players to combine for 75 dingers, it’s going to take damn-near career years from both players in the HR department, which considering Freeman’s desire to prioritize all-fields contact I just don’t see happening in 2020. However, I do see a total in the mid-60s.

Verdict: UNDER


5. Ronald Acuna Jr. HRs + stolen bases: 79.5

This particular over/under was featured on ESPN’s post as well. Their verdict was that Acuna wouldn’t quite make it, but I believe I disagree. Combining for 80 home runs and stolen bases doesn’t necessarily mean a 40/40 season (duh!).

But Acuna has already called a 50/50 season in 2020, and though I have my doubts on him actually pulling that off, a 40/40 season is more likely. The kid was just 3 stolen bases away from that mark in 2019, and I most definitely see more upside in Acuna’s game… even if he is just slashing .095/.136/.095 in 8 games so far in Spring Training. Yikes.

Verdict: OVER


6. Austin Riley home runs: 29.5

I’m jumping on the Austin Riley bandwagon this spring, as it’s obvious his work this winter has paid off. Riley hit another home run on Friday off Eduardo Rodriguez (one of Boston’s 2020 starters) and has now surpassed the 1.000 OPS mark with a .333 AVG / 1.030 OPS.

But will his strong spring performance carry over to the regular season?… and can he put together a complete season?

In 2019, Riley’s 16-HR first-half featured a home run every 3 games, putting him on track for another 22 homers if he could’ve maintained his crazy hot streak after the All-Star break (meaning a total of 38 if he would’ve played all 119 possible games). Obviously Riley didn’t do that, only hitting 2 homers in the second-half. 

I’m hoping Riley prioritizes on limiting strikeouts this coming season more than anything, and perhaps trades a few homers for more base-hits. If he wins the job this spring I think 30 homers is a great goal to have, but ultimately I think he comes up a little short.

Verdict: UNDER


Let’s go lightning rounds for the last four…

7. Mike Foltynewicz ERA: 3.00

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little worried about Folty. He still lacks consistency out there on the mound, though his start on Saturday looked much better (yes, it’s still early March). 

Foltynewicz’s lowest ERA while in the majors was 2.85 in his 2018 All-Star year. His career ERA with that ’18 season removed… 4.93.

Verdict: OVER


8. Cristian Pache games played: 49.5

Pache’s spring hasn’t been quite as good as 2019’s, but he’s hanging in there with a .250 AVG and .673 OPS, with 1 homer and 3 stolen bases. His plate-discipline is still lacking (10 K / 1 BB), but I’m still not too worried.

I could see the Braves doing to Pache what they did with second baseman Ozzie Albies in 2017, bringing him up in the first week of August (I’m not too high on Inciarte this season). Depending on how early in August it is, Pache should be able to get 50 games in (Albies totalled 57 in ’17). 

Verdict: OVER


9. Will Smith saves: 23.5

If you average Smith’s 2018 and 2019 season’s saves total you get exactly 24. As of right now he isn’t the closer, given manger Brian Snitker named Mark Melancon as the Braves’ 9th-inning guy to start the 2020 season. 

Although, I see Smith closing out games by May. His slider is too filthy and he generates strikeouts better than any reliever in the Braves’ bullpen.

Verdict: OVER


10. Dansby Swanson wRC+: 107.5 

Swanson hasn’t exactly lived up to his first overall pick from 2015, as he owns a career 81 wRC+ in his 3 full seasons (he played 38 games in 2016). But consider his wRC+ in each of his last three seasons:

  • 2017: 64 wRC+
  • 2018: 80 wRC+
  • 2019: 92 wRC+

Achieving a 108 wRC+ is a rather arbitrary accomplishment, but it would be Swanson’s first 100+ wRC+ season as a full-time starter. 

Verdict: OVER


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