Jim Bowden of The Athletic was responsible for The Athletic’s MLB Power Rankings last week. He had the Braves third, even after a dismal series against the putrid Oakland Athletics, but an interesting twist to the power rankings is Bowden also included each team’s trade deadline needs entering June.
Here’s what he had to say about the Braves:
3. Atlanta Braves
Run differential: +56
The Braves are the best team in the National League despite two straight losses to the lowly A’s. They have the apparent frontrunners for the NL MVP (Ronald Acuña Jr.), Cy Young Award (Spencer Strider) and rookie pitcher of the year (Bryce Elder). They have the speed, defense, power, starting pitching, and bullpen (with some help) to separate. There’s no reason they can’t win the NL East by 10 games.
Early trade deadline take: They could use a better all-around left fielder, a veteran starter to provide more rotation depth, and bullpen upgrades.
I actually wrote about this very topic last week, and my thoughts were similar. Left field might be the Braves biggest need leading up to the trade deadline, but that feels a little less necessary following Rosario’s tremendous performance over the weekend against the Diamondbacks. The Braves need more production out of the position, and hopefully, Rosario can heat up and provide that. If not, they’ll need to find a more consistent starting option at the trade deadline.
I also agree with Bowden’s take on the bullpen. Championship clubs can never have enough relief arms, and the Braves bullpen has been shaky at times, even if the group is likely due for some positive regression. AJ Smith-Shawver could provide a huge boost to that group, but even with him in the fold, I like the idea of upgrading the bullpen in some capacity at the trade deadline.
The only aspect of Bowden’s analysis I disagree with is the Braves targeting another starting pitcher. The Braves currently boast one of the most impressive rotations in baseball, and that’s without Max Fried and Kyle Wright.
Eventually, one or both of those two are expected to return. The Braves are also still hoping Michael Soroka can find his groove and become a piece of the rotation permanently. Jared Shuster has performed admirably when called upon, and if push comes to shove, the Braves also have a potential ace up their sleeve in AJ Smith-Shawver. This team has enough starting pitching depth, especially when healthy. They probably don’t need to part ways with more prospects for a veteran starter unless another injury arises.
Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire