Braves Breakdown: 2019

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Alex Anthopolous, GM of the Atlanta Braves (Photo credit: MLB.com).

The Atlanta Braves are currently 10-7 in Grapefruit League play down at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Kissimmee, FL. Typically after 15 appearances there are some key data and information to be gathered on your squad. From your starting big leaguers to the top talents that are on the cusp of breaking through to the Major League level, we ask the question:

After 17 Spring Training games what have we learned about the new-ish 2019 Atlanta Braves?

New Acquisitions

Josh Donaldson – Donaldson came to the Braves on the back end of his rehab from a nagging calf injury sustained in the middle of 2018. According to statistics on BaseballReference.com he only saw a grand total of 52 games last year. Needless to say, after the Braves invested $23 Million on his 1 year deal, they have been easing him into Spring Training. He did make his first appearance in Spring Training today and went 1 for 2 on three plate appearances with a single and a base on balls.

So, what does that tell us?

Well, for Josh it doesn’t really tell us much as it is only one game, but if we are speculating a little bit, it tells us that he is seeing the ball well and showing patience at the plate. Plus, no re-injury, but lets not jinx our Braves.

Brian McCann – McCann, a 6x Silver Slugger and 7x All-Star, comes from the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros organization and is likely planning on riding off into the sunset with the team that he grew up loving and came up with as a rookie. The homecoming is important for the Braves for a couple of reasons.

  1. With so many young arms waiting in the wings, having a veteran behind the plate is essential.
  2. Without any real offensive talent to speak of after losing Suzuki, we need his lefty bat (some say he has developed a lot of opposite field ability since his last DL stint with the ‘Stros).
  3. His deal is team friendly and he could potentially play above his “worth” (in dollars, of course).

So far, he is looking sharp in Spring Training, as he has an extremely respectable slash line of .500/.545/.600 in 11 plate appearances having only struck out 1 time.

“Young Guns”

Max Fried – In his 3 appearances has posted a respectable 3.68 ERA/1.09 WHIP. While he has only gotten 7.1 innings of work a lot can be said for his willingness to pound the strike zone and refuse to give up untimely walks. I think his command is improved from the spot starts we saw last year and he seems to have found some comfort level with the big league stage. He has given up only 2 walks, 1 home run while delivering 8 strikeouts over his 3 starts.

Touki Touissant – In his 3 appearances Touki has a whopping 10.50 ERA. Ultimately, this was due to the struggles he faced in his first 2 appearances, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits in 2 innings of work in his debut against the Mets and then getting touched up in the following start for 5 runs over 1 inning of work against the Tigers. However, since then he has only allowed 2 hits over his last 7 innings. A great deal can be said for a guy who can move on from a poor performance and reset himself at such a young age. He is certainly one to watch for the 5th spot in the rotation, but he may not even be the front runner.

Kyle Wright – Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Atlanta Braves this Spring Training and heading into the season has been Vanderbilt phenom and 5th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Kyle Wright. That’s right, just 1 full season removed from being drafted out of college Kyle Wright is already making his case as the top prospect within the Braves rotation in 2019, and that’s saying something. He gave up his first 2 earned runs in today’s game against the Pirates, but touched 100MPH with his fastball in the first inning. His scoreless 2 hit outing against the Yankees lineup featuring Tulo, Judge, Stanton, Voit, Andujar, Sanchez, Torres and LeMahieu was some of the best pitching we have seen to date in Spring Training. The Atlanta Braves 5th spot in the rotation is his to lose.

Emerging Position Players

Austin Riley – For Austin Riley this Spring Training was an opportunity for him to showcase 2 things since being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2015.

  1. Ability to play multiple positions (3B, 1B, OF)
  2. Showcase his plate discipline and raw power

So far in Spring Training, he has slashed a poor .256/.344/.286, but don’t let that fool you Riley has tremendous upside and will likely see legitimate playing time at the major league level next season. Hence the reason for the 1 year Donladson deal to give him a little bit more time to become major league ready.

Christian Pache – The rookie phenom center-fielder would be getting top of the headlines recognition if not for the superb display of Kyle Wright. However, Pache’s skillset and production thus far in Spring Training is no less important. If you think that Ronal Acuna Jr.’s prowess in the outfield is unreal, wait until you see this kid. His ability to jump, track and finish plays in the outfield is something we haven’t seen in Atlanta since Andruw Jones. Furthermore, in only 23 plate appearances his slash line is .476/.522/.905 and his team leading 1.427 OPS is eye popping. He hit 2 home runs in less than 24 hours in back to back games last week and quelled any rising questions that he may not have the power that was touted. The future is bright in Atlanta, who may be rivaling the Boston Red Sox next season (or maybe even mid-season this year depending on injuries) for the best defensive outfield in the game.

Key Injuries

Mike Foltynewicz – Elbow – Out indefinitely (no time table was given) with a bone spur in the elbow causing pain when throwing – Atlanta Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos gave an update this morning that the Opening Day starter was at least a month away from being ready to start again and would miss that start (at least), but they have him on a throwing program and will update us with information as it is made available.

AJ Minter – Shoulder soreness after a minor car accident and should be ready to go for opening week. Anthopoulos would not speculate whether he would make the Opening Day game, but said as a reliever he should be ready for that series.

Darren O’Day – Picked up late last season from the Orioles, the 35 year old submariner relief pitcher was already rehabbing his left hamstring surgery, but felt some forearm soreness in a bullpen session prior to Spring Training, he is expected to be ready for the first series of the season.

Mike Soroka – Shoulder soreness (same issue from last year flared up in a bullpen session) has kept the young reliever off the field in Spring Training and he is not expected to make his first appearance until the beginning of April.

Luiz Gohara – Shoulder – Optioned to AAA Gwinnett and is expected to hopefully get a start before the end of Spring Training. Another note on Gohara, it has been rumored that he is listed nearly 35lbs lighter than last year. Only time will tell if that translates to positive production on the mound for the big-league club.

While we know that the entire NL East division that we find ourselves nestled in all got better (except for the Miami Marlins, they just got new logos). The Atlanta Braves are optimistic that their massive influx of talented arms and young position players exceed expectations this year.

If I had my wish though, this team is a Craig Kimbrel away from repeating as NL East Champions in 2019.

Stay with ATLSportsHQ all season long for the best Braves coverage and all other things Atlanta Sports, for the fans, by the fans.

Clark Morrison |@atlcrapsandwhich Twitter | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG

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Phil Veasley
Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil

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