The injury bug has bitten the Braves this week, which is never good but is especially worrisome in a 60-game season. It started with Mike Soroka, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles. And today, two more Braves were added to the IL — Matt Adams and Ozzie Albies. Thankfully, Brian Snitker has some high-quality options to fill in for both players while they heal up.
Adams will probably miss a few weeks with a pulled hamstring. He’s been the Braves primary DH hitter against right-handed pitching and already had a couple of home runs. His position should be pretty straightforward to fill, though, as Nick Markakis was reinstated from the restricted list and added to the active roster. The 15-year veteran has been as consistent as they come with the stick and should have no problem stepping right in for Adams and might even take his job altogether, especially with the rosters set to trim to 26-men in just a couple of weeks. If Adams isn’t back by then, we might have seen the last of him in 2020.
The other decision Snitker needs to make with Markakis is whether to utilize him in the field. But after seeing Marcell Ozuna play left field, I’m assuming Markakis will take his spot there, with Ozuna serving as the DH — at least against right-handed pitching. Ozuna’s off to a scorching start at the plate, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. Markakis will undoubtedly be an upgrade in left field whenever he’s in the lineup.
As far as second base goes, Snitker has three options, and I imagine he will utilize all three of them. Johan Camargo has played well so far this season, racking up 0.5 bWAR in just ten games. He has experience playing second base, and using him there would allow Austin Riley to play every day, giving the Braves their best possible lineup. However, after the way Camargo struggled to play shortstop last season, Snitker could be quick to pull the plug on this experiment if Camargo can’t show some improvement with his glove. But it’s worth noting that Camargo lost a significant amount of weight this past offseason, which could help him better play defense up the middle. When he was first called up, his glove was his calling card. If Camargo proves unable to play a quality second base, Snitker will probably turn to Adeiny Hechavarria, who Alex Anthopoulos added in August of last season after Dansby Swanson was injured.
In Hechavarria, the Braves knew they were getting a gold glove-caliber defender, but they didn’t expect him to swing the bat the way he did. In 24 games, he hit .328 with four homers and an OPS of over 1.000. However, his career OPS is only .641, and in his eight at-bats so far this year, he’s looked a lot more like that guy at the plate. Still, Snitker would like to get Hechavarria some more consistent at-bats. Expect to see him in the starting lineup at least a couple of times a week.
The other option is fan-favorite Charlie Culberson. He can play every position on the diamond, and he’s yet to have an opportunity to make an impact this season, recording just two at-bats and striking out in both of them. I’m sure Snitker would like to get him a few more plate appearances, but it’s probably not the top priority. With rosters set to trim to 26 in 13 days, Culberson’s most likely not going to make it the entire season because there simply isn’t as great of a need for pinch hitting with the universal DH now in place.