Two biggest concerns for Braves amid struggles

MLB: JUN 08 Mets at Braves

Braves fans have had it so good in recent years, that they’ve forgotten what it feels like to see the team struggle for an extended period during the regular season. After being swept by the Dodgers over the weekend, Atlanta has now lost five of their last six and fallen three games back of the red-hot Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.

It’s not a position the Braves are used to as the six-time defending NL East champions, but the sky is not falling. The superstars in this lineup are eventually going to start playing like it, and hitting is contagious. Acuña, Riley and Olson are a primary catalyst for the Braves struggles right now, but they are also the reason this team will get scorching hot sooner rather than later.

But what about the aspects that could actually prevent the Braves from reaching the top of the mountain?

Back of the Braves lineup

I may not be worried about the top of the lineup, but I can’t say the same for a couple of spots in the back. Over the last few years, the Braves didn’t have a hole from 1-9 in the lineup. It was truly incredible, but I’m not so sure that’s the case this year.

I’ve never been a huge Orlando Arcia guy from an offensive perspective. His defense is elite at shortstop, and that’s more important than anything, but he leaves a lot to be desired at the plate. Following a hot start to the season, Arcia is also mired in a lengthy slump, bringing his OPS+ down to 97 (3% below league average). If he can keep it around there the entire season, that’ll play just fine because of his stellar defense. My worry is that it will be something more like the second half of last year when he recorded a .196 batting average and .537 OPS over the final 45 games.

One offensive under-performer shouldn’t affect the Braves offense as a whole too much, but two could begin to change things. Like Arcia, Jarred Kelenic got off to a red-hot start, but he’s reverted back to his old ways quickly. He’s hitting just .157 with a .380 OPS over his last 17 games. Even more worrisome, his new approach to the plate seems to be affecting his power, as he’s yet to hit a home run in 26 games. Kelenic has been a breath of fresh air defensively out in left field, but he’s got to be more productive with the stick, or the Braves may have to start relying on Adam Duvall a lot more often.


This is a cause for concern for every team, but the Braves, in particular, have been bitten by the injury bug early in the year. Spencer Strider is out and isn’t coming back after tearing his UCL. Atlanta’s rotation has responded brilliantly, but one more injury to that group could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sean Murphy has also been out since Opening Day with an oblique strain, Ozzie Albies has spent a stint on the IL, and most recently, Pierce Johnson and Tyler Matzek have both been added to the 15-day IL with elbow inflammation. The Braves are built to withstand injuries better than most, but every team has a breaking point.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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