The Braves are heading to the postseason for the first time since 2013. On the way there, a multitude of players have been asked to play a lot of different roles. However, now that the playoffs are nearly upon us, here is what the lineup and role of each player should be:
1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
6. Kurt Suzuki
7. Ozzie Albies
9. Pitcher’s spot
Even though Acuña could probably hit third or fourth, you can’t move him now considering how hot he has been in the leadoff spot. The two-hole has been a rotating door of players, but I think Inciarte has more than earned his way back towards the top of the lineup with his hot second half. In 19 starts batting second, Inciarte is hitting .361 with a .440 on-base percentage.
No surprise with Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis occupying the middle of the order. Johan Camargo has been fantastic as an RBI machine ever since Brian Snitker placed him fifth. The catching combination of Suzuki and Flowers will either be occupying the sixth or seventh spot in the order. However, I like Ozzie hitting further down because of his ability to create runs with his speed. Dansby Swanson rounds out the order as he has for the majority of the year.
3. Sean Newcomb
Mike Foltynewicz is the ace of this staff and will be used as much as possible in a playoff series. Gausman has been lights out since his move to Atlanta. With Sean Newcomb struggling in the second half, it makes sense for Gausman to take over the #2 spot in the rotation.
Speaking of Newcomb, despite his aforementioned woes, I still opted to give him the third spot in the rotation. Obviously, the start will come with a short leash, but Newcomb has the stuff to shut down any lineup on any given night. There is a high chance that the Braves will matchup with the Dodgers in the NLDS. All Newcomb did was come within an out away of a no-hitter last time they faced.
The fourth spot belongs to Anibal Sanchez, who has been flirting with a sub-three ERA for the entire season. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Sanchez would be starting a playoff game, I would have said you were nuts, but the veteran has earned every bit of this opportunity. He’s also one of the few Braves with playoff experience.
Long Relief: Julio Teheran, Touki Toussaint
Middle Relief: Shane Carle, Jesse Biddle, Brad Brach, Jonny Venters, Daniel Winkler
Set-up man: A.J. Minter
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino
It’s close, but there is a legitimate chance Julio Teheran does not start for the Braves in the playoffs. It likely depends on matchups, but the veteran pitcher has been wildly inconsistent all season. Even if he doesn’t start, he is still going to have a major role in this run. Someone in the rotation is going to get pulled early, and Julio will have the critical job of trying to weather the storm.
The most intriguing among the rookie pitchers is Touki Touissant. He has been so fantastic the first time through lineups, I could see him being used in a number of different ways.
The middle relief has become much deeper with the additions of Johnny Venters and Brad Brach plus the return of Arodys Vizcaino. A.J. Minter will be the team’s set up man, but that can change if he begins to falter. His youth could force Snitker to use pitchers like Biddle, Winkler, Venters, and Brach in the later innings.
Arodys Vizcaino appears ready to return to his closing role. And boy, did Braves country miss this guy. Hopefully, he can find the same mojo he had prior to hitting to the disabled list with a 1.65 ERA.
Super Utility Man- Charlie Culberson
Special Runner- Lane Adams
Power Bat Versus Right-Handed Pitching- Lucas Duda
Power Bat Versus Left-Handed Pitching- Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki
Charlie Culberson is an extremely valuable piece to this team. He can play literally every position on the diamond. He even pitched and was clocking fastballs in the mid-90s. Not to mention, his clutch bat off the bench is going to be critical in the postseason.
Lucas Duda will be the bat the Braves turn to when they need a home run, but will only be used against right-handed pitching. If the Braves need a big hit late against a lefty and they have already used Charlie Culberson, whoever is not catching, Flowers or Suzuki will be up next.