Baseball has still yet to reveal a plan of how they will go about resuming the league this year, but I’m reasonably confident they will, at some point. Although I highly doubt it will occur with fans in attendance. Admittedly, that’s going to be weird, but at least we’ll have baseball back. And hey, the last time the Braves won the World Series was in a shortened season due to a player’s strike. Perhaps the writing is on the wall for an Atlanta breakthrough once again. But for that to happen, these players are going to have to thrive in 2020.
This is becoming a yearly occurrence, but I genuinely believe it is a make or break year for Dansby Swanson. If the former #1 overall pick wants to receive a contract extension and secure his place as the shortstop of the future, he needs not only to play well but stay healthy too. Swanson seemed to be on the verge of a breakout campaign in 2019, but it all came to a halt when a heel injury kept him out for over a month. He was a shell of himself when he returned; however, he did prove to be clutch in the playoffs. I believe in Swanson, and I don’t think the first half of last season was a fluke, but he’s going to lose a lot of the people in his corner if he doesn’t have a big 2020.
There’s a chance Newcomb is best fit to be a lefty reliever throughout his career, but the Braves are going to give him one last chance as a starter. He looked crisp in Spring Training, and hopefully, his control issues are a thing of the past. Max Fried learned wonders when the Braves made him a reliever, and he was able to take those lessons with him when he became a starter again. If Newk can do that, this rotation just got a whole lot scarier. If he can’t, it’s time to start talking about that Andrelton Simmons trade as one of the worst in Braves history.
Hernandez made a hell of a case for a roster spot in Spring Training. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to do it again when things start back up. The reason I put him on this list is a bit different. I don’t think the Braves need him to make a run at the World Series, but he needs to rebound in 2020 to solidify his Hall of Fame case. I think he deserves to be in regardless, but you never know with baseball writers these days.
If the Braves are going to go far in 2020, Marcell Ozuna is going to have to be a vital cog in the machine, replacing the production of Josh Donaldson. He wasn’t quite the same player in St. Louis that he was in Miami, but the talent is still there, and he’s in the prime of his career. The Braves are hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle, and Ozuna is hoping to cash in on his next contract after signing a one-year deal.
Folty is an extension candidate for the Braves. He has the type of arm that could command a contract north of $100 million. However, he hasn’t performed consistently enough to demand anything near that. After a bounce-back second half of last season, Foltynewicz could prove a lot to the organization by returning to his 2018 form. If that happens, he will be setting himself up for a pretty payday. The Braves also need him to perform well at the top of their rotation, alongside Mike Soroka and Max Fried.
A.J. Minter won’t start the year on the roster, and he doesn’t deserve to. However, I still believe in his stuff, and he’s shown he can be a productive reliever throughout an entire season. If Minter can return to form in 2020, an already loaded Braves bullpen becomes that much filthier. Even though he’s probably in the back of most fans’ minds, he is one of the players I’m most excited to watch this season.
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