What is the Braves biggest concern right now?

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The Braves were riding high into their series with the Padres, which started with a bang at Truist Park on Opening Day. Atlanta was able to pull off the victory thanks to a walk-off single in the ninth courtesy of Orlando Arcia. The win was the sixth of the Braves young season to only one loss at that point; then, this weekend happened.

Atlanta lost a back-and-forth contest on Friday, which was followed by a 4-1 loss on Saturday and a 10-2 demolishing on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s way too early to make sweeping judgments, and the Braves are still in first place, but some of the concerns coming into the season are starting to show themselves.

The first is the Braves rotation. The battle for the fifth spot was always going to be an open competition, but the team felt confident with the guys they had in-house. However, with injuries to Max Fried and Kyle Wright, they are quickly running out of options. Ian Anderson is on the IL and might need Tommy John surgery. Kolby Allard is also on the 60-day IL, and Mike Soroka isn’t quite major-league ready after a hamstring injury delayed his Spring Training.

That’s left Bryce Elder, and rookies Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster forced into action. Elder was magnificent in his first outing against the Cardinals, but Dodd and Shuster don’t look like they are quite major-league ready. Thankfully, Fried and Wright should be back within in the next couple of weeks. However, there is still some reason for concern. If the Braves suffer more injuries to this group, they are going to need guys like Elder and Soroka to play a major role. I’m confident in both of them, but neither is a slam dunk.

The other issue is the Braves situation in left field/DH. To this point, Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna have handled the starting duties, but both of them have been absolutely dreadful at the plate, looking exactly as they did a year ago. The Braves were hoping for bounce-back campaigns from both of them, given how productive they have been over their entire careers, but that hasn’t been the case thus far.

Rosario is striking out in nearly 27% of his at-bats. He’s hitting just .160 with one extra-base hit over 26 plate appearances — good for an astoundingly low wRC+ of 1, which is 99% below league average. Marcell Ozuna hasn’t been much better, either. He only has two hits in 32 plate appearances. They did happen to both be home runs, giving him a wRC+ of 38 (62% below league average), but he’s striking out at an alarmingly high rate — 31.3%.

I’m not quite ready to pull the plug on these two just yet, mostly because the Braves don’t have any better options. They opted not to bring in another proven commodity this offseason, and they are just going to have to hope these guys can figure it out over the next couple of months. Rosario and Ozuna will be better, but this was expected to be a weak spot for the Braves coming into the season, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be moving forward.

Of the two, the situation in left field/DH concerns me much more than the starting pitching. I still think the Braves have one of the best rotations in baseball when fully healthy. Fried and Wright should be back before long, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Mike Soroka. I’m also excited to see Bryce Elder on the mound tonight. He was lights out to end last season, and he looked even better in his first outing against the Cardinals. If that’s the guy the Braves can come to expect, the rotation will be elite. The same can’t be said in left field and DH.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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