In a recent interview with Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos answered a plethora of questions surrounding the team. Most of it surrounded the slow start and potential trades, but he was also asked about specific players that have struggled mightily early on, such as Marcell Ozuna, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Matzek.
Of the three, Ozuna is the one I’m most worried about. I talked about his standing with the organization earlier this week, and Anthopoulos essentially echoed what I said.
“His exit velocity is still really good,” Anthopolous said. “The biggest thing is his walk rate is down. He’s putting balls in play. If you’re swinging at a zone rather than swing-and-miss, you’re still alive in the at-bat. Slower start, obviously — him and some other guys. But he’s still hitting the ball hard. His average is down, but that’s because if you’re swinging a bit more outside the zone, it’s obviously not going to come off as well.”
Anthopoulos was also asked about Ozuna’s standing in the lineup, to which he said that it is up to Brian Snitker. However, as I said in my previous article, it’s not like many of the other players around him are lighting the world on fire offensively. Right now, basically the entire Braves’ offense is struggling. Once some guys begin to turn it around, we can expect Ozuna to move down in the order if he doesn’t follow suit.
Anthopoulos also doesn’t seem too concerned with Morton or Matzek. Both players have been off with their control so far, but it’s not much different than how they started off last season.
“His stuff is as good as it’s been,” Anthopoulos said about Morton. “He’s still pumping at 96, 97. It’s just command — his walks are up. But I think he started slow last year as well. I think he had 5 ERA the first month. You just ride it out. He’ll get back to where he was.”
With a veteran that has a track record like Morton, there’s nothing to be worried about as long as he is healthy and his stuff looks similar. At 39-years-old, there’s always a chance that his play could begin to fall off a cliff, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with Morton. His fastball is still sitting in the high 90s, and his curveball has the same bite that it did last season. In time, the Charlie Morton that was the ace of the Braves staff for a large part of 2021 should return.
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