We have yet another offseason list, as MLB Network’s research and production team released their annual Top 100 Players Right Now. The Braves were represented well again this year, with four players named for the second-straight season. At first glance, four may not seem like such a great turnout, but trust me… it is compared to just a few years ago.
- 2020: four
- 2019: four
- 2018: one
- 2017: one
- 2016: zero
So now that Freddie Freeman has a few pals to join him for hopefully the foreseeable future, let’s take a look at all four Braves’ players listed in Thursday’s rankings.
#12, Ronald Acuna Jr., OF
2019 rank: #35
I realize it’s already quite an accomplishment to be thought of as one of the 12-best players in all of baseball, but I think Acuna’s ranking is a bit low. He should easily be inside the top 10.
I have no grievances against the top-9 on this list (Trout, Yelich, Bellinger, Betts, Bregman, Rendon, Cole, deGrom, and Arenado, respectively), but I think Acuna’s already better than Francisco Lindor, at no. 10. Of course, I believe Acuna will also be better than a few others currently listed inside the top-10 very soon, but as shown by the title of MLB Network’s list, this ranking is for right now.
Even more ridiculous is the fact that the Nationals’ Juan Soto is ranked higher than Acuna, at no. 11. Both Acuna and Soto have practically played the same number of games, but the former offers more production in both the power department and on the bases, not to mention the fact that Acuna has been more than twice as productive defensively (according to FanGraphs’ Def WAR).
Soto: 133 G, .287 AVG, 28 HR, 28 2B, 8 SB, -8.4 Def, 4.25 WAR
Acuna: 134 G, .285 AVG, 34 HR, 24 2B, 26 SB, -3.15 Def, 4.65 WAR
You would’ve thought that Acuna being just three stolen bases away from a 40-40 season in 2019 would’ve finally proved that he’s more talented than Soto, but I guess not. Oh well.
#15, Freddie Freeman, 1B
2019 rank: #17
MLB Network already showed some love to Freeman earlier this month when they ranked him as the top first baseman in MLB, ahead of Max Muncy and Pete Alonso.
Freddie Freeman moved up to No. 1 in MLB Network’s 1B rankings, with the computer (“the Shredder”) and also with every human they had ranking them. pic.twitter.com/wfgMZT1lq5
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) January 19, 2020
I agreed with their choice then, and I agree with it now, as Freeman sits just behind Justin Verlander (#13) and Max Scherzer (#14), and right in front of Aaron Judge (#15) and Jose Altuve (#16) in this most recent list.
Since 2011 (his first full season in the majors), Freeman has averaged a .294/.380/.505 slash-line, plus 25 homers, 35 doubles, and 89 RBI. This is his fourth consecutive time making the Top 100 Right Now list.
#55, Ozzie Albies, 2B
2019 rank: #85
Like Acuna, this is Albies second time making MLB Network’s list, as the Braves’ second baseman put together his best season yet in 2019, hitting .295 with 24 home runs (again), 15 stolen bases, and just like in 2018, provided excellent defense.
According to their Shredder list, The Network currently believes Albies is the third-best player in baseball at the keystone, behind Ketal Marte and DJ LeMahieu, which I can live with. Though for some reason they have Albies ranked 18 players behind the latter… which I do not agree with. Consider the players ranked ahead of Albies in Thursday’s rankings:
- #40, Rafael Devers / BOS / (yes, he had one very good season in 2019)
- #44, Michael Brantley / HOU / OF (you’ve got to be kidding me, right?)
- #45, Austin Meadows / TBR / OF (again… you’re kidding?)
- #49, Jeff McNeil / NYM / OF (….)
- #51, Nelson Cruz / MIN / DH (yes, lots of HRs… but what else?)
… and there are probably a few more that don’t make much sense. I’m not a big enough Braves’ homer to already declare Albies the best second baseman in baseball, but there’s no way he should be ranked that low.
#67, Mike Soroka, RHP
2019 rank: NR
Coming as close as he did to winning both the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the Cy Young will get you ranked within the top 100, as Soroka makes MLB Network’s list for the first time. Given last season was Soroka’s first full season in the majors, I’m not going to harp too much on his ranking, as he’s sandwiched in between pitcher Zack Grienke (#66) and outfielder Tommy Pham (#68), which is pretty good company to have after barely 200 innings of work in the big leagues thus far.
What about next year?
Dansby Swanson, SS: Another year of putting it all together at the plate (especially against breaking balls), while maintaining strong defense at shortstop, could allow him to crack next year’s Top 100 finally.
Max Fried, RHP: If the chronic blister problem is really in the past, then there’s no reason for Fried to fail this season. I believe he has just as much talent as Soroka, and I think he’ll soon show everyone that.
Christian Pache, OF: Hey, Acuna was able to crack the 2019 list after only 111 games in the majors in 2018. If Pache is projected to be the Braves’ next star, then this shouldn’t be the most outlandish prediction I’ve ever made.
Austin Riley, 3B: A lot would have to go right for Riley this coming season, but we’ve already seen that he’s capable. If he can pass Johan Camargo in Spring Training and then put together a complete year, there’s certainly a chance.