Coming into the season, I thought the Braves had one glaring issue — depth. If injuries arose, which they already have in this young season, I thought it could be the one thing that prevented this team from reaching the postseason for the fifth time in a row. However, so far, depth has actually been the reason the Braves aren’t sitting ten games under .500.
The most unexpected contributor has been Travis Demeritte. Entering 2022, he had AAAA player written all over him — a guy who dominated in AAA but can’t quite make it at the major-league level. Demeritte had a .932 OPS for the Stripers last season, but in his previous two stints with the Detroit Tigers, his OPS was .608, which led to his designation for assignment.
But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The Braves, who actually traded Demeritte to the Tigers in the deal for Shane Greene a few years ago, quickly scooped him back up when he became available, and now he’s playing a critical role for the team. In 16 games, Demeritte has a .314 average with three homers and a couple of doubles. He’s also flashed some leather out in the field and has a cannon for an arm. Eventually, the league will adjust and regression is surely in line, but the Braves don’t need this to last forever. Right now, Demeritte is helping the team stay afloat when they desperately need a boost.
Another surprising contributor has been William Contreras. Following the signing of Manny Piña, I wasn’t sure how Contreras would fit into the picture — not just this season, but in the future as well. How quickly things can change… Piña is now out for the season after undergoing wrist surgery, and in turn, he might have lost his job in Atlanta for good. Contreras hasn’t stopped mashing all year. He’s currently rocking a .300 average with four homers in just 23 plate appearances — good for a 1.291 OPS. His defense also looks much improved behind the plate, which was a concern following last season. The current pace is unsustainable, but Contreras has legitimate All-Star potential, just like his brother. I don’t see a reason for him to ever be in AAA again.
Finally, Orlando Arcia provided the moment of the season thus far on Wednesday night when he launched a ball into the left field bleachers, giving the Braves their first walk-off win of the season.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 12, 2022
Arcia is now up to a .355 batting average to go along with a .949 OPS in 37 plate appearances, proving to be a more-than-capable backup utility player.
Over the past five seasons, the Braves have received a plethora of contributions from unexpected sources. They often fizzle out, and they usually don’t get remembered in the grand scheme of things, but these moments today are just as vital as the ones that will be talked about forever in October. Without the contributions of these three men, the Braves would be gasping for air. There’s still a lot of obstacles in the Braves’ path, and plenty of season left, but this would be an entirely different conversation if Atlanta was much further down in the standings.