With 16 games down, the Braves are about to enter its last full week of spring camp before opening up the 2021 regular season on April 1. With Friday’s win over the Twins (which I also detailed today), Atlanta heads into Saturday’s matchup with Boston holding onto an 8-8 record in Spring Training.
This past week — running from Sunday, March 14 to Friday, March 19 — was a productive one as the Braves bats woke up a bit and the team’s starters stretched out some. Filling in for Chase this week, here are the standouts from Week 3.
Since some of these performances are better than others, mostly due to discrepancies in playing-time, I’ve ordered them from most-standoutish (yep, just made that up) to least-standoutish. To avoid a novel, I’ve chosen seven to detail below, with the rest in list form:
4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 9 K
Perhaps it’s a bit of recency biased given I was able to witness his dominance live on Friday night, but Anderson wins Standout Performance of the Week for me as he mowed down nine Twins batters in his 4.1-inning outing.
Coming off a 2020 that featured Rookie of the Year votes and a 1.95 ERA over six starts, a lot of us were filled with hope heading into this spring that the 22-year-old righty would be able to build off an incredible MLB debut. So far it appears Anderson is plenty capable, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he winds up shattering numerous rookie records this coming season.
4 G, 4 for 11 (.363 AVG), HR, RBI, 3 K, BB
Albies went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in Friday’s televised game against the Twins on FOX, although it didn’t ruin his weekly performance considering how well he played at the beginning of the week. He was 4 for his last 8 entering last night’s contest, including his second home run of the spring back on Wednesday and a two-hit performance against the Rays on Sunday.
I recently wrote about Albies and what he’s headed for in terms of franchise greatness in 2021, and so far he’s checking every box as he’s currently maintaining a .250 AVG this spring. Albies is a guy the Braves have to have bounce back this season.
4 G, 2 for 9 (.222 AVG), 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 K, 3 BB
RAJ is still hitting below .200 for the spring (.172 entering Saturday), and even this week he only picked up two hits over a four-game span; however, both hits were home runs, one on Sunday and one Monday.
Souvenir to be collected by the Perseverance rover next week.
Courtesy of Ronald Acuña Jr.pic.twitter.com/yy8hwX0shL
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) March 14, 2021
Spring Training isn’t all about numbers, but more about getting things going for the regular season. Acuna started camp just 1 for his first 14 (.071 AVG), though it just feels as if he’s close to his regular season form. The two dingers this week have me feeling really optimistic.
2 IP, H, 5 K (picked up win on Friday)
Smith picked up the win on Friday in the Twins game as part of the Braves dominant bullpen performance. Smith started his outing last night with a few bounced offerings but quickly dispatched Minnesota with 15 pitches in the 7th, highlighted by a fastball that sat at 93 MPH. He also worked an inning on Sunday, striking out three and allowing just a single hit. After Smith’s 2020, it’s crucial he gets back to his Giants days this coming season. So far he’s there, allowing just a .047 AVG from opposing batters and logging four scoreless frames in camp.
5 G, 5 for 10 (.500 AVG), K, 3 BB
Sandoval enters Saturday’s game against the Red Sox with a .370 AVG and .827 OPS through his first 12 games this spring, thanks to a current five-game hitting streak. The Kung Fu Panda, despite his… unique build… can still swing the stick, folks.
Per the eye test: Pablo Sandoval has no business playing professional sports.
But I love watching him play baseball.
— The Daily Braves (@thedailybraves) March 20, 2021
And they are quality hits too. On Friday against the Twins, Sandoval swung at the first pitch he saw from Minnesota reliever Robinson Leyer and swatted a rope in between first and second for an opposite-field single. I’m not sure he’ll make the 26-man squad, but five hits and three walks to go along with just one strikeout over a five-game stretch is a helluva week for a player many didn’t think would even garner a minor league deal this offseason.
4.1 IP, 4 H, BB, 4 K
In his Wednesday start versus Baltimore, Morton dominated before a both a passed-ball and a four-pitch walk in the 5th inning ended his day with runners on the corners.
Lost in the NFL free agency madness — Charlie Morton is dealing. Four scoreless innings against the O’s. Hopefully he’s 2021’s dArnaud signing
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) March 17, 2021
That’s 7.1 scoreless innings to start Spring Training for the veteran, and all indicators are pointing toward Morton becoming a damn good signing by Atlanta this offseason. Opposing batters are hitting just .214 versus the 37-year-old. With his most recent outing going into the 5th, we may see Morton operate with very little restraints next time out.
4 G, 2 for 8 (.250 AVG), HR, 4 RBI, 2B, 2 K, 2 BB
Like Acuna, Ozuna is below the .200 mark overall this spring, but we shouldn’t overlook his strong performance this past week, including his first two extra-base hits of camp (a double on Monday and a homer on Tuesday). There’s no need to worry about guys like Ronald and Marcell, for they’ll both get it going in time for the regular season. One little nugget that came during Friday’s broadcast was Braves first base coach Eric Young speaking about the work Ozuna is putting in to become a better defender in the outfield, even challenging him to perform better than Austin Riley with the glove. That insight from Young was gold, and it certainly is comforting to know that the team’s slugger is committed to getting back to his Gold Glove days in Miami.
Other Week 3 standouts
Here are a few other Braves that enjoyed some success this week. The following stats are from Sunday, March 14 to Friday, March 19:
- Sean Kazmar Jr.: 4 G, 2 for 3, HR, 2 RBI
- Dansby Swanson: 3 G, 2 for 7, 2B, RBI
- Jason Kipnis: 2 G, 2 for 5, HR, 2 RBI
- Shea Langeliers: 1 G, 1 for 2, HR, RBI
- Bryse Wilson: 4 IP, 5 H (will start on Sat.)
- Nate Jones: 2.1 IP, H, K
- Chris Martin: 2 IP, 3 K
- Daysbel Hernandez: 1.2 IP, H, 2 K
- Touki Toussaint: 3 IP, ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Just two more weeks until Opening Day!