Early returns on Braves offseason acquisitions is encouraging

MLB: MAR 30 Braves at Phillies

Coming into the offseason, the Braves had a couple of clear positions they could upgrade — left field and starting pitching.

Eddie Rosario and Kevin Pillar gave the club enough. The lineup featured so much talent that an average platoon in left field was more than adequate, but Alex Anthopoulos didn’t see it that way and wanted to improve the position in 2024.

The starting rotation was hammered with injuries. Kyle Wright and Max Fried missed damn near the entire season as Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider anchored the group while the back of the rotation was a turnstile of young, unproven arms.

Anthopoulos filled both with proven veterans and high-upside players. For left field, the Braves signed a proven commodity in Adam Duvall while acquiring Jarred Kelenic in a trade with the Mariners. For the rotation, Atlanta traded for Chris Sale and signed a reliever turned starter in Reynaldo Lopez.

Though it’s early in the season, the Braves GM has to be happy with the early returns on his offseason acquisitions.

Sale put together another impressive outing yesterday against the Diamondbacks as the club swept the reigning National League champions. The veteran went 5.1 innings with four hits, two runs, and six strikeouts with no walks. In his two starts, Sale owns a 3.38 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 1.031 WHIP with 11.0 K/9 across 10.2 innings. With Spencer Strider dealing with an elbow injury, Sale’s re-emergence is even more important.

Lopez has only started one game and is set to make his home debut this week against the Mets, but his Braves debut against the White Sox was stellar. The former reliever went 6.0 innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits and fanning five batters, good for a 1.50 ERA and 1.000 WHIP.

The Braves are betting on the upside of Lopez, but at worst, he’s another high-leverage reliever for Brian Snitker, one that can go multiple innings in a pinch. Right now though, his outlook as a starter is strong.

As for the offense, the lineup is picking up exactly where they left off last year in the regular season. The Braves lead the NL with a team average of .300 and lead the MLB with a .532 slugging percentage, .886 OPS, 27 doubles, and 41 extra-base hits. The last two are especially impressive because the Braves have played fewer games than the Dodgers.

And Jarred Kelenic is a driving force in that offense. The former no. 6 overall pick is leading the Braves in batting average (.579), on-base percentage (.619), and OPS (1.356). Kelenic struggled in Spring Training as he worked with Kevin Seitzer on his approach in the box but finished strong and is coming out of the gates in the regular season with his hair on fire.

The Braves invested in a talented, yet underachieving youngster in Jarred Kelenic, and if this start is just a sign of things to come, I feel safe in saying that Alex Anthopolous has done it again, finding a diamond in the rough.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
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