We are just about a month away from the best time of the year. There’s still a lot of regular season baseball to be played, but we know one thing for sure — the Braves will once again be apart of October. It’s just a matter of whether they will be a Wild Card or NL East champions. Right now, they trail the Mets by one game in the division, but World Series champions come from everywhere. With Atlanta’s current roster, they have as good of a chance at repeating as anybody over the last two decades.
There aren’t many weaknesses on this Braves team. In fact, I believe this year’s squad is significantly better than the one that won the World Series. However, there are a few areas of concern that could prevent this team from raising the Commissioner’s Trophy again this October.
Who is closing?
I’m not concerned with the Braves bullpen. It’s been one of the best units in baseball all season, but Brian Snitker needs to figure out the ninth-inning situation before the postseason. To this point, Kenley Jansen has been the guy, and he’s done a pretty good job until recently. However, his last four appearances have gone abysmally, and the eye test is somehow worse than the stat line. It looks like he’s lost all control, and his go-to cutter has had very little movement. I expect Brian Snitker to give Jansen more save opportunities because that’s the type of manager he is, but they’ll have to adjust if Jansen continues to struggle. Thankfully, the Braves have three players capable of closing, so this certainly isn’t the biggest concern.
The return of Ozzie Albies
I’m not saying the Braves have to get a healthy Ozzie Albies back to win a World Series; just look at what they’ve done since he’s been injured. However, I think a lot of people tend to forget how good Albies is when he’s right. He started off this season slow, but he’s proven to be one of the best and most powerful hitting second basemen in all of baseball. Getting him back healthy this late in the season would be game-changing, giving Brian Snitker a lot more flexibility with his lineup.
Left field has been a black hole all season for the Braves. Marcell Ozuna is soon to be off the roster. Frankly, I have no idea why he’s still on the team, but Eddie Rosario hasn’t been much better, accruing -1.8 WAR this season. Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to his struggles because of an eye injury, but even since his return, he hasn’t been the same guy. I’m still holding out hope he can get hot at the right time, but the Braves have to figure out who the guy is in left field. Is it Rosario, Robbie Grossman, or perhaps even Vaughn Grissom?
Ronald Acuña’s health
You had to know this was coming. This is the single biggest concern for the Braves right now. Acuña has missed several games over the last week, and he can’t seem to stop talking about how much pain he’s experiencing in his surgically repaired knee. It’s become apparent that he’s just going to have to tough it out the rest of the way, but if he’s not feeling like himself during the playoffs, it’s hard imagining the Braves going back-to-back.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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