After the MLBPA rejected the league’s 60-game proposal yesterday, the owners agreed to implement a 60-game season based on their original agreement back on March 26th. All that needs to happen now is for the players to co-sign, which they are expected to do today. Spring Training will begin sometime next week, and the regular season is expected to start in late July. It’s been a long, grueling process — some would even say ridiculous — but baseball is happening in 2020. While parity will be much more apparent in a shortened season, the Braves are built for it as well as any other National League Team.
Already prepared for the universal DH
While most National League rosters aren’t prepared for a DH in 2020, the Braves are built like a team from the American League, with a deep bench that will make their lineup even more dangerous. They have a power bat in Austin Riley that could turn into an incredible advantage if he bounces back from the sluggish ending to his rookie campaign. And even if he doesn’t prove to be the answer, the Braves have a pair of former All-Star outfielders they could platoon versus lefties and righties.
Adam Duvall put up freakish numbers in AAA last year before finally receiving a chance to redeem himself after a miserable 2018, and he was productive, posting a .267 average with 10 homers and 19 RBIs in just 41 games. He was also one of the most reliable bats in the Braves NLDS matchup against the Cardinals, coming up with two of the most clutch hits in the series.
Nick Markakis may receive a lot of flack from Braves Twitter, but he’s as consistent as they come at the plate, eclipsing 160 hits in 11 out of his 14 seasons. Anytime a righty starter is on the mound, Markakis is a safe bet to put in the lineup.
While many National League teams may have one somewhat reliable option to put at DH, the Braves have three, and that will undoubtedly play a role in capturing their third consecutive NL East crown amid a shortened season.
A loaded pitching staff
The Braves do not have the superstar household names among their pitching staff, but they are as deep as any team in the league after Alex Anthopoulos spent the last year revamping the bullpen. At the trade deadline last season, he acquired Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene, who helped put the Braves relief woes in the rearview mirror — for the most part. All three will be back in 2020 after Anthopoulos re-signed Chris Martin to a two-year contract this offseason. However, Anthopoulos didn’t stop there, inking the best reliever on the open market, Will Smith, back in November. He should be the Braves closer, but regardless, they have one of the deepest relief cores in baseball — a group that could look even better if high-powered arms like A.J. Minter and Chad Sobotka have bounce-back years.
The Braves are also equally as deep in their starting rotation. Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, and Cole Hamels are a fantastic 1-4, and they have a list of players that could win the final rotation spot. Felix Hernandez and Kyle Wright are the favorites after a stellar spring training, but Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint, and several other minor leaguers could start if needed.
Having a deep pitching staff is essential no matter how long the season is, but it will be particularly useful this year. First off, if a couple of pitchers test positive for COVID-19, which is totally feasible, they are going to be out for at least two weeks, meaning someone will have to step up. It’s also possible that more injuries take place because of the time off, making it even more important to have depth. Also, having a wealth of pitching that will only have to play sixty games will be quite beneficial in a playoff scenario. The Braves should have a boatload of arms fresh and ready to contribute, providing they can return to the postseason.
There’s no questioning how different this 60-game season without fans is going to be. So having a team that’s been together and genuinely loves being around each other is going to be vital. With such a short schedule, there is no time for a slow start, and every game will feel like it is the playoffs. The Braves have thrived in close games and pressure situations over the last two regular seasons, and now they have some experience. That will be a plus, with every contest being treated like a must-win.