Today is the day — Mailbag Monday is back! I’m super excited to start doing this column again, allowing me to answer some of your questions every week. Please DM us them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and some of the best will be featured on our Podcast as well as here each Monday. So without further ado, let’s get after the ones that made the cut this week.
What are the chances the Braves have a new third baseman before the season starts? (E.Hodges on Instagram)
I would say pretty low. The Braves seem to believe the third base situation will sort itself out internally. Camargo had a woeful 2019 but recorded a WAR of over three in 2018 when he was the full-time starter. Riley may not be considered a prospect any longer, but if the 22-year-old were still in the Braves farm system, he’d easily be the top guy across all lists — he’s that talented. So I’m not counting him out, and neither should the Braves. Riley has hit a bump with every promotion he’s been given; it’s normal. And if he can figure things out in year two, Atlanta just added another 30-40 homer guy into their lineup. You combine the potential that these guys have with what it would cost to land Arenado or Bryant, and it doesn’t seem all that likely that the Braves have a new third baseman — at least before the season starts. If the Riley and Camargo experiment flops, Anthopoulos will be much more inclined to trade the blue-chip prospects it will require to land a talent like Bryant.
What do you think about the Hawks young core? Will they be championship contenders in three years? (ZachMeyers22 on Instagram)
This year has been super disappointing for the Hawks, but that’s mostly been because they have played the youngest lineup in the league on a nightly basis and have dealt with a rash of unfortunate circumstances such as injuries and suspensions. Recently, with most of their young core healthy, they have been a much better squad.
Let’s start with the obvious. Trae Young is an absolute superstar, and I really don’t know where his ceiling is. I could see him averaging 30 points and 15 assists over an entire season — he’s that spectacular. His current running mate is John Collins, who has developed splendidly over the last couple of seasons and should be a lock for around 20 points and 10 boards his entire career. However, he’s probably best served as a #3 option on a championship-caliber team — unless he improves as an isolation scorer. Injuries have prevented Kevin Huerter from developing as we hoped in year two, but he’s a sniper with underrated playmaking skills — perfect for today’s NBA. I like De’Andre Hunter, but Cam Reddish is the rookie I’m most excited about. I think he has superstar potential, and we are starting to see that of late.
So will this core be competing for championships within the next three years?
They are going to need to make some additions, particularly in free agency over these next two seasons, but it’s fathomable for the Hawks to be competing for championships three years from now. The East is wide open after Milwaukee, and once things start trending in the right direction for Atlanta, the ascension will happen quickly.
Do you see Lloyd Pierce as a long-term fit as the Hawks head coach? (Jhop_73 on Instagram)
Excellent question because it’s something I often have wondered this season. I like Lloyd Pierce. He seems like a great guy, is a fantastic interview, and has proven his worth developing young players, but I’d be lying if I said I was sure he is going to be the coach when the Hawks return to the playoffs. You can’t put too much value into Atlanta’s record this season. This roster wasn’t built to win; that is not Lloyd Pierce’s fault. But in time, he’s going to have to show that he can do more than just develop players and start winning games. If that doesn’t happen next year, I could see him getting the boot.
How would you rate the performance by the Braves front office and ownership this offseason? (Willg4775 on Twitter)
When I initially read this question, I thought Alex Anthopoulos deserved an A. Then, we discussed it on the most recent podcast, and I think a B is a more appropriate answer. It’s clear the Braves are playing the long game here and want to hold onto all of their pieces. I can’t give AA a bad grade for doing that because, so far, many of these prospects have turned into young studs. Anthopoulos was also able to land Marcell Ozuna on a one-year pact, which is an absolute bargain, and he patched up the most glaring weakness for the Braves last season, which was the bullpen. All of that deserves recognition, but when I look at this roster, I see a legitimate championship contender ready to win now, in need of that one final piece to put them over the top. And to this moment, AA hasn’t done that. So while I think Anthopoulos has done a pretty damn good job with what he’s working with, it wasn’t quite good enough to give him an A.
Do you think we will see the same jump from the Falcons offense in year two of Dirk Koetter as we did with Kyle Shanahan and Steve Sarkisian in their second season as offensive coordinator? (Trevmcvey on Twitter)
I never thought I would have said this last year, but I found myself missing Steve Sarkisian throughout the Falcons 2019 season. I was sort of “meh” on the hiring of Dirk Koetter. At the very least, he seemed to have a good relationship with Matt Ryan, and I figured it would be easier for Ryan to adjust to Koetter’s familiar system. However, while the numbers don’t look abysmal on paper, Atlanta’s offense was a model of inconsistency with seemingly no real rhyme or reason to what they were doing. Also, Koetter’s inability to run the ball in the past stuck out like a sore thumb. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, which spells trouble. Perhaps with an improved offensive line in 2020, some of this improves, but my expectations are not sky-high for Koetter in his second year as the Falcons OC.