Braves that need a big 2021

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It is January. Usually, we would have almost a perfect idea of what the Braves roster would look like heading into spring training around this time. But unfortunately, the nightmares from 2020 are still lingering in 2021, and COVID is rearing its ugly head, which has left baseball’s free agency at a standstill. We know the Braves aren’t done yet. They still have to add a power bat to the middle of their lineup, some relief help, and a few bench pieces. But as of now, none of that seems imminent, so we will focus on the guys that are already on the roster. In particular, a group of players that desperately need to find some consistency in 2021.

Sean Newcomb

I may be in the minority, but I still haven’t completely given up on Sean Newcomb. Sure, the Braves will never look back on the Andrelton Simmons trade and view it as a win, and Newcomb may never get an opportunity to start a game in Atlanta ever again, but he can still be a productive piece to a winning club. Newcomb proved that by coming out of the bullpen in 2019, finishing that season with a 3.16 ERA over 68.1 innings. At this point, nothing is promised to the hard-throwing lefty — not even a spot on the roster. He will have to earn everything in 2021, and that begins in spring training. If he struggles, a DFA could be around the corner.

Will Smith

Another lefty that will be used out of the bullpen, Smith was the Braves prized free-agent signing last offseason, as Alex Anthopoulos inked him to a three-year, $40 million contract. At the time, I think all of Braves country was thrilled, given how badly the bullpen had struggled in 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, Smith’s 2020 was one to forget. He began the season on the shelf with COVID, didn’t make his first appearance until August 9th, and then was awful in his first month of action, giving up five earned runs over 8.2 innings. Smith did pitch much better to end the season and into the playoffs, but the Braves are rightfully expecting a lot more from him in 2021.

Johan Camargo

It’s no secret — Johan Camargo has been a massive disappointment ever since he put together an fWAR of above 3.0 in 2018. The Braves utility man has only played in 133 games since, managing to hit an abysmal .222 with just 11 homers. I thought there was a good chance the Braves would non-tender him, but they elected to hand him a contract. That won’t be the case for long if he doesn’t turn things around.

Ender Inciarte

This should go without saying because Inciarte was already left off the Braves playoff roster and has been miserable over the last two seasons. Brian Snitker also said that he will have to earn a spot on the team with his spring training performance. It’s a do or die year for Inciarte in Atlanta, and truthfully, it might already be too late for him.

Luke Jackson

Jackson was marvelous for the Braves in 2019 despite what a lot of the fan base might say. In 2020, however, he was as bad as it gets, posting a 6.84 ERA over 26.1 innings. Jackson is another guy I thought the Braves might non-tender, but they are sticking with him for one more year. Given how volatile pitching careers are, he could come back and be a reliable set-up man, or this could be his final ride in the majors.

Kyle Wright

Kyle Wright’s 2020 postseason perfectly encapsulated his entire season — some really good and some totally miserably. Remember, in Wright’s first playoff appearance, he went six scoreless innings, striking out seven in a win over the Marlins. Then he followed it up by collapsing in the first inning against the Dodgers, allowing seven earned runs in just 0.2 innings. Nobody is doubting his talent, but he’s running out of opportunities to become a permanent member of Atlanta’s starting rotation.

Touki Toussaint

Toussaint and Wright fall under the same category — a ton of upside, but they just haven’t been able to put it together yet. It looked as if Toussaint was going to be a critical part of the rotation for a second last year, but he quickly lost command of his pitches and was sent back to the alternate training site. I still have hope for him, but there is too much high-quality young pitching in Atlanta for him to keep receiving opportunities if he doesn’t improve drastically.


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