Following last night’s loss, the Braves are now 5.5 games back of the New York Mets for first place in the NL East. It’s still June, and over half the season remains; that’s far from an insurmountable task on the surface. However, when looking at the roster’s current state, it feels like the Braves are 10-20 games back. Atlanta has glaring holes in all three phases, and right now, it looks like they’ll need a blessing from the baseball gods if they want to make a serious run at the division.
Starting pitching might be the strongest point on the whole team. They have an array of ultra-talented arms to choose from… when they are healthy. Unfortunately, the injury bug has plagued this group all season. It started with Mike Soroka and has affected almost everyone else. Huascar Ynoa won’t be back until August at the earliest after breaking his hand in May. Max Fried is currently spending his second stint on the 10-day IL. Even Tucker Davidson, who looked promising in his first few starts, was just added to the 60-day IL after leaving his last start with forearm tightness. Now, they could be relying on the likes of Jesse Chavez and Tanner Roark to make spot starts moving forward. It’s brutal, but it is even more disappointing because this team actually had the potential to have a dominant rotation.
The offense has many of the same excuses. At the beginning of the season, this looked like it could be one of the best units in baseball, just like it was in 2020. However, piece by piece, it has slowly fallen apart. Cristian Pache never found his footing in the majors; Travis d’Arnaud suffered a torn ligament in his thumb and won’t play again until August; and, of course, Marcell Ozuna is currently dealing with legal issues following a domestic violence incident. He won’t play again this season, and he may never play again in a Braves uniform after signing a lucrative four-year contract this past offseason.
Because of that, this is the lineup Brian Snitker rolled out Thursday night.
Here’s how the #Braves will line up tonight vs. the Reds.
Presented by @TruistNews | #ForTheA pic.twitter.com/hDrbaqgiU2
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) June 24, 2021
Now, I know Acuña will likely return tonight, but that looks eerily similar to the lineups the Braves were sending out in 2015. This isn’t a playoff offense; it isn’t even close. Ehire Adrianza, Abraham Almonte, and others have been admirable, but regression is currently hitting them square in the face. If the Braves can’t add at least one bat by the trade deadline, a winning streak will be hard to come by.
The bullpen is the one area that is just plain miserable. The only excuse they have is that Alex Anthopoulos simply didn’t add enough pieces. I mean, seriously, who would have thought Luke Jackson would be the Braves’ best reliever ever again, especially with how dominant this group was a year ago. Anthopoulos didn’t account for potential regression, and it’s the biggest reason why this team is four games under .500 today. Will Smith isn’t a closer; A.J. Minter can’t be trusted in high-leverage situations; Chris Martin is struggling, and Shane Greene can’t find his groove since being signed in the middle of the season. The rest of the bullpen probably shouldn’t even be on a major-league roster. It’s that bad, and I doubt it gets any better unless the Braves add significant help at the trade deadline.
For the most part, I am an optimist when it comes to the Braves. The baseball season is long, and there is an unbelievable amount of talent in this organization. But when you’re 5.5 games back and have so many guys sitting out with major injuries, it just doesn’t feel like this team has enough juice to go on a run. I hope I’m incorrect, but making the playoffs with this roster is nothing more than a pipe dream.
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