Atlanta is knocking on the door of a World Series run again – this time with a much-improved roster and some more postseason experience. Even though they only managed one win last season against LA, their regular-season performance has netted them some better seeding and allows them to play a lesser yet still elite opponent. We’ve had some discussion regarding this on the podcast, but who is going to be the most important player for the Braves on this postseason roster? No doubt guys like Dansby, McCann, and Markakis are going to have to be steady and play some of their best baseball for this team to make a run at a championship. However, this is about who is going to carry the team – the straw that stirs the drink.
Let’s get this out of the way. At this point, Freddie Freeman will ALWAYS be the most important player on the Atlanta Braves. However, I don’t think we have to worry about Freddie’s performance fluctuating or wavering in big moments. He’s a career .333 hitter in the postseason. He just needs to be healthy and himself.
Mike is an interesting choice. We have a lot of pitching depth and offensive firepower, so we don’t necessarily need any of these guys to be their best on any given night, just be good enough to put us in a position to win. He’s been the alpha of this staff all season, but he’ll have an improved bullpen and veteran Dallas Keuchel to lean on. This goes Ditto for Mad Max.
Ozzie Albies quietly led the entire National League in hits with 189, scored over 100 runs, smacked 43 doubles and 24 home runs. Remember last year; Albies had an abysmal second half, and that carried into the postseason. He’s a different player this time around and could easily be the most valuable player in the postseason. I have full faith Ozzie will be a substantial factor in this lineup.
JD is a reasonable choice for this honor. He’s been in a funk lately, but his career .293 postseason BA is encouraging. It’s no secret Josh is the catalyst to this lineup in the four-hole. However, his power slump is quite disheartening heading into October. He had three doubles in one game against Kansas City, but outside of that, he has no other extra-base hits in his last 53 at-bats. I still have all the faith in the world in Donaldson, though. If he busts out of his slump against the Cardinals, it’s difficult to envision the Braves losing.
Ronald Acuña Jr.
But if we are talking about the best bet for the most important player of the NLDS, come on, who else would it be? If you want to win a World Series, your stars have to be stars. Ronald Acuña flirted with a 40/40 season before his injury shut him down for the final week of the regular season, but that’s in the past. What matters now is hoisting up that trophy. Ronald only hit .188 in last year’s playoff run including his epic grand slam against the Dodgers. However, we need more from him this time. He needs to be stroking doubles, stealing bases, making plays in the outfield; all of which he has done during his entire tenure in Atlanta. This is the guy who can carry the Braves to the promised land. Acuña is the X-Factor of the NLDS and the Braves’ entire postseason run.