It may not feel like it based on how free agency has gone thus far, but things will begin to really pick up over the next month or so, and pretty soon, we will be talking about pitchers and catchers reporting. Given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, it’s too early to know exactly what the schedule will look like or what rules will be kept for 2020.
For now, things are expected to return to normal. It looks like there will not be a DH in the National League next season, and rosters will be 26-men again, so that is what I will base this prediction off of. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLB and MLBPA reached an agreement to bring the DH to the NL permanently or to keep rosters expanded for 2021.
- Ronald Acuña Jr., RF
- Ozzie Albies, 2B
- Freddie Freeman, 1B
- Marcell Ozuna, LF
- Travis d’Arnaud, C
- Dansby Swanson, SS
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Cristian Pache, CF
- Pitcher’s Spot
I don’t expect too much to change with the Braves lineup. Obviously, it’s a little weaker without the DH, but there is no way to get around that. As you can see, I have the Braves bringing Marcell Ozuna back. I don’t think he will cost as much as Josh Donaldson did last offseason, and I think he’s a better fit in Atlanta’s clubhouse. It would feel horrible letting him walk to another team.
I’m also assuming Cristian Pache starts the season as the starting center fielder. The team rode him over Ender Inciarte in the postseason, and he looked pretty comfortable when forced to replace Adam Duvall. I expect Duvall to get a lot of playing time, but eventually, Pache will be playing every day.
The rest is pretty much the same. Freeman moves back a spot since the pitcher is hitting ninth, and I don’t expect the Braves to attempt to replace Austin Riley.
I included six guys in the rotation for two reasons. First, I expect Mike Soroka to begin the season on the IL. The most recent reports suggested that he is ahead of schedule and aiming to be ready by Opening Day. That would be great, but I expect the Braves to take things extremely cautiously with him. Regardless, Fried, Soroka, and Anderson are the Braves Big 3.
The newly acquired Drew Smyly slots in right behind Anderson. He should help the back-end of Atlanta’s rotation out a ton, and he can also be used in a relief role if some of the Braves younger arms begin to gain confidence. The fifth spot will either go to Bryse Wilson or Kyle Wright, but assuming Soroka is not ready for the start of the season, both will probably start the campaign in the rotation.
This might ruffle some feathers. Perhaps the Braves attempt to upgrade their bench, but this isn’t a bad group of guys to have. Tyler Flowers will play as a backup until William Contreras is ready. The Braves should have no problem handing him another one year contract to backup Travis d’Arnaud. Adam Duvall might hit 30 homers next season. I still don’t think the organization has given up on Johan Camargo. Nick Markakis might not be a good starting option anymore, but he’s a high-quality player to have come off the bench, and his presence in the clubhouse is invaluable. Culberson is currently a free agent, but I expect the Braves to bring him back on a minor-league deal. I have him winning the battle for the final spot on the roster, but we will see who else Atlanta brings in.
Not too much change here, but there are a lot of guys that could fit in those final three spots. Will Smith, Chris Martin, and A.J Minter are the only arms I view as locks on this list. If the Braves bring back Shane Greene — like I am projecting — he will undoubtedly be apart of this group. This is also where I have Atlanta spending again. Considering the cost of starting pitching, the fact that Mike Soroka is coming back, and the Braves already signed Drew Smyly; I don’t expect them to spend much more on their rotation. However, I do look at the bullpen as a place the Braves could upgrade, so I have them acquiring Brad Hand.
Hand recently cleared waivers after the Indians declined his one-year, $10 million option. Frankly, that shocked me; this has been one of the better relievers in the game over the last half-decade. I still expect him to get paid, but it will probably be somewhere in the 3-year, $21-24 million range, which should be doable for Atlanta. Regardless, acquiring Hand is not the point. I just think the Braves could spend a little more money than Melancon will cost and upgrade their closer. I’m not against bringing Melancon back; I’m just not sure he’s a long-term option in the ninth inning.