Three questions facing the Braves in 2024

MLB: JUL 21 Braves at Brewers

Opening Day is finally here! At least, it was supposed to be. Braves fans will have to wait one more day to see the 2024 squad take the field for the first time after today’s game was moved to Friday, as Spencer Strider will toe the rubber against Zack Wheeler of the Phillies.

There’s not much to dislike about the Braves Opening Day roster. It’s about as perfect as a general manager could hope for heading into the season. This was a team that won 104 games a year ago, but Alex Anthopoulos didn’t sit on his hands during the winter. He was aggressive in patching up the few holes the Braves did have, because despite winning 205 regular season games over the last two seasons, they’ve failed to make it out of the Divisional Round in October.

Something had to change, and if the Braves want to get back to the top of the mountain, these are the three questions that must be answered.

Can The Rotation Hold Up?

Recently, Ken Rosenthal said he isn’t sold on the Braves rotation. While I vehemently disagree with a lot of what he said, health is a concern for every rotation, and the Braves are no different, especially with what has transpired over the last two seasons.

In 2022, Spencer Strider missed the end of the season with an oblique strain. He attempted to return for the postseason, but he wasn’t the same dominant pitcher he was the entire year before the injury. Max Fried also came down with a severe illness and looked nothing like himself in Game 1 against the Phillies. With them fully healthy, who knows how that series would have ended, but we do know the Braves postseason chances will plummet if either of them isn’t available in October.

In 2023, Max Fried most most of the season with an elbow injury. He returned, but he never quite looked like himself. Kyle Wright also essentially missed the entire season. He wasn’t even available come October, and then Charlie Morton went down with a finger sprain right before the playoffs were set to begin.

When it comes to the Braves rotation over the last couple of seasons, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. Fully healthy, this year’s rotation will be the best in baseball, but can all of them be healthy when it matters most?

Can Orlando Arcia Be A Competent Shortstop?

A lot of people will look at the Braves roster and immediately point to left field as the weakest link based solely on Jarred Kelenic‘s poor Spring Training.

I don’t see it that way. In fact, I’m predicting big things from the Braves in left field. I have a lot of confidence in Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer helping Kelenic figure it out. Being conservative, he’ll be a comparable player, in terms of WAR, to Eddie Rosario. At best, he’s got the potential to be an All-Star.

However, even if Kelenic turns out to be a gigantic bust, Adam Duvall is a more than capable option to start in left field. He’s a plus-defender that’s capable of flirting with 40 homers. That’s a pretty damn good backup plan. The Braves shouldn’t have any issues there.

By far the biggest concern heading into the season is Orlando Arcia. He was an All-Star last year, because in the first half of the season, he performed like an All-Star. We know what he can do with the glove, and he’s improved with the bat since joining the Braves, but he was dreadful over the last couple of months of the season.

Arcia’s been in the league for eight years and has accrued 4.4 WAR. He owns a career .679 OPS and 79 OPS+. The numbers have been better with the Braves, and perhaps that continues, but it could become a scenario where the Braves are searching the trade market for a shortstop at the deadline if one is available.

Who Will Step Up As The Leader Of The Braves?

After falling in the NLDS to the Phillies for the second consecutive season, it was refreshing to see several of the Braves take ownership that something was missing.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. It’s overwhelmingly evident the Braves are a far more talented team than the Phillies. They finish 10-15 games in front of them in the standings every year. However, that hasn’t mattered in the postseason.

A number of factors could be pointed to, like injuries and the new playoff format. Both of those are very valid excuses for why the Braves haven’t performed well in October. However, the players haven’t said much of anything about those. They’ve put it on themselves, and many have pointed to a lack of leadership and competitive fire.

It’s not that the Braves don’t want to win, but as A.J. Minter put it best, they need a little more “F-U” attitude.

I think several members of the team know what needs to be done from a leadership perspective, and I’m excited to see who establishes himself as the leader of this next wave of Braves.

Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire


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