The one area Braves must address before the season starts

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The Braves roster is just about set, and it is head and shoulders above the rest of the league. According to Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections, they will run away with the NL East for the seventh consecutive season, finishing with 101 wins. The Phillies are projected to finish in second with 84 wins.

PECOTA gives the Braves a ridiculous 99.8% chance of making the postseason. Of course, these models aren’t infallible, but you get the picture. It’s the Braves division to lose, and nobody else is really close. With that being said, there’s still one more acquisition that must be made before the start of the season.

The Braves let Eddie Rosario and Kevin Pillar walk in free agency, hoping Jarred Kelenic by himself will replace their production. That’s a fair bet; Kelenic is oozing with potential and recorded 2.0 WAR in just 105 games last season, which is more than Rosario and Pillar combined. Once Kevin Seitzer can get his hands on Kelenic, there’s hope that the 2018 6th overall selection can tap into his full potential, a scary thought for the rest of the league.

However, there’s also the possibility that Kelenic isn’t as productive as the Braves envision. Prior to last season, he hit a combined .168 with a .589 OPS over 147 games between 2021 and 2022. Regression from last season could be in line, and Kelenic has also struggled against left-handed pitching over his career, hitting just .189 with a .566 OPS in 270 career at-bats against southpaws.

I’m as excited for Kelenic’s future in Atlanta as anyone. He’s an incredibly toolsy player who’s only 24-years-old. Kevin Seitzer has been instrumental in turning careers around before, as he’s done with Orlando Arcia, Travis d’Arnaud, Jorge Soler, and others. The organization clearly sees that as a possibility with Kelenic, and there’s no reason to doubt them based on their track record.

Kelenic could end up being the starting left fielder in Atlanta for the next 5+ seasons, but it does feel like the final move remaining for the Braves this offseason is bringing in a fourth outfielder that can start in a pinch. It’s more of a must rather than a luxury. Every aspect of the 40-man roster is important to success over a 162-game season, and Alex Anthopoulos isn’t one to overlook the details.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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