The reigning National League Rookie of the Year has had an incredible second year so far. He has consistently held a batting average around .290, and has destroyed some baseballs along his way.
This All Star could become only the fifth player in MLB history to join the elusive 40-40 Club. To join this club, a player must hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases within a single season. The only players to do so are Jose Canseco in 1988, Barry Bonds in 1996, Alex Rodriguez in 1998, and Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Acuña could very possibly be on his way to joining these elite ball players.
After the game early on Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins, Ronald Acuña has 29 home runs and 26 stolen bases. He has 46 games left in the season to rack up 11 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Can the young phenom join one of the most elite clubs in all of baseball in only his second season?
The Atlanta Braves have signed free agent pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, to a one year, $13 million deal. Atlanta has been going after Keuchel for a few weeks now. It has been between them and the New York Yankees to see who would land him. The Braves won that duel and Dallas Keuchel will make his Triple A start in Gwinnett on Saturday. This will likely be his only start before being called up to Atlanta.
Keuchel is coming off of his 7th season with the Houston Astros. He had a 12-11 record last year with a 3.74 ERA. Keuchel is a two time all star and a World Series champion. He also won the 2015 American League Cy Young award winner. That year, he had 20-8 record with a 2.48 ERA. If Keuchel can even come close to returning to his former Cy Young self, he will improve the Braves rotation tremendously.
Austin Riley has been a top prospect for the Atlanta Braves for a couple of years now. He was drafted in 2015 with the 41st overall pick. He started with the Gulf Coast Braves but was quickly promoted to the Mississippi Braves. He dominated there and got promoted to the Gwinnett Stripers in May of last year. He started the 2019 season in Gwinnett on fire. In the first 37 games of the year, Riley’s batting average was at .299. He had already hit 15 home runs with an OPS of 1.057. Fans were starting to question why he hadn’t been called up yet. The answer was simple, Riley plays 3rd base, and Atlanta has former MVP, Josh Donaldson, in the hot corner. Riley eventually got his time as he was called up to Atlanta on May 15 to play left field due to Ender Inciarte being put on the injured list.
Austin Riley’s first career game was a home game against the St. Louis Cardinals. It didn’t take long for Riley to continue his dominance. After striking out his first at bat, Riley hit a 438 foot bomb to left-center field. Since, he has played four more games for Atlanta. He has had a total of 19 at bats. He has 8 hits, 2 of them being home runs, for a batting average of .421 and an OPS of 1.211. Riley has also scored 4 runs and knocked in 4 runs. Riley even has an Atlanta Braves record for the most hits in a players first four games with 8 hits. If Atlanta keeps him up, Riley could ride this wave until the end of the year. The Atlanta Braves could be looking at back-to-back rookie of the years.
The Atlanta Braves have themselves a special player down in Gwinnett by the name of Austin Riley. Before the start of the season, many were wondering how he would find a path to the MLB this season after the Josh Donaldson signing. The answer came rather quickly when he got some time in the outfield during the spring. Nearly a month into the season, all the call u chatter had stopped, on April 24th, he was batting .213 with just two homeruns. Since that day, Austin Riley has been on a hot streak that has people wondering how much longer can the Braves keep him down.
Starting on April 25th, Riley has gotten his average up to .300 and has 12 homeruns and and 26 RBI since then. Video game type numbers for such a short span of games. That’s about as good as a 16 game stretch that you will see. The most intriguing thing about that stretch is that Riley has found a new position, left field, where he got some run at during the spring.
When Austin Riley is called up, he will be playing everyday. There will be no point in calling him up and having him spot start and be a pinch hitter. He needs to continue to get at bats and continue to develop, especially if he is playing the outfield.
With Riley a hot as he is, it is hard to keep him down in AAA, but there has to first be a path to the MLB. Right now, there really isn’t an immediate one that would lead to quick playing time. However, a lot can change with this Braves team from now until the trade deadline which quickly change the path for Riley to the MLB.
As we have said, Riley is really forcing the Braves hand. If Riley was doing this a month ago when Ender was struggling at the plate, you could have seen Ender be traded and Austin Riley be brought up while sliding Acuna to left. Now Ender has been on a nice little run at the plate, and his glove, as always, is one of the best in the bigs.
If the team finds themselves as sellers with the trade deadline approaching, no matter how Riley is doing, you will likely see a couple guys moved and see him brought up. Of course another scenario is if someone were to get injured for a significant amount of time and Riley could be called up at that time.
Riley impressed this spring, but as of right now, there really isn’t a place for him on the MLB roster, but he is basically forcing trying to force his way onto the roster, which is a good problem to have if you are the Braves.
Were Riley to keep up with this current pace, it will be hard to not see him on the Braves 25 man roster soon. He is a freakish talent with power that the Braves need, but it is just a matter of a clear path to reveal itself.
Heck, Austin Riley may just create his own path to the bigs.
It is every baseball fan’s favorite day of the year, OPENING DAY. The Braves came into opening day with a chip on their shoulders and feeling like they are still being doubted. Us fans know the team has holes, but when everything clicks, this is a dangerous ball club. We saw a little bit of it all on during Thursday’s 10-4 loss to the Phillies.
Julio Teheran looked pretty good during his 5 innings of work. He recorded 7 strikeouts over 5 innings and gave up 3 earned runs, although you could argue that two of those runs should have never happened. His fastball was sitting around 92, which is a good sign considering we saw it around 89-90 consistently last season. His slider was flat out filthy today, and if he has that thing working, he is tough to hit.
Newly acquired Matt Joyce hit a 2 run pinch hit bomb in the 7th. obviously just small sample size, and there is no telling how long he will be on the roster, but if he can provide the pop off the bench that we thought Duvall would last season, it will be huge.
Acuna’s plate discipline was great as he drew two walks. Freeman swung the bat well, and Nick Markakis drove in a run early on Nola.
There was a lot of bad. I will start with wild pitches/passed balls that sparked that 4th inning rally for the Phillies. Julio seemingly lost a little bit of control that inning after the throwing error on Dansby started things off (although we have seen Freddie pick that same ball in the dirt plenty of times).
Freddie Freeman trying to steal second with Acuna up while trailing by 2 was not a bright idea. I don’t know if it was Snit’s idea or Freeman thought he had Nola timed, but when you have a hitter like Acuna up and representing the tying run, your best bet is to let Acuna do his thing and not try to swipe a bag, especially with Freddie’s speed.
Inciarte just didn’t seem like he was seeing the ball well. 0-4 with 3 backwards Ks is not what you want from your leadoff hitter. It is just one game and Ender will for sure bounce back, but the Braves 1 and 2 hole hitters combined for 0-7 with a BB and 4Ks. Again, no need to panic, it is just one game.
The Bullpen… Parsons and Fried looked good but this unit as a whole needs help, and it is one of the holes I referred too at the top. We saw a throwing error, 7 runs coming on two homeruns, and 4 walks in 3 innings of work for the bullpen. That is just downright ugly.
Yes, keep the cries for Kimbrel coming. Keep them coming until there is some sort of move made to bolster this bullpen. Even when Darren O’Day and AJ Minter are back, this bullpen still needs some stability from somewhere.
All in all, it is just one game. We all knew the bullpen was suspect coming into this season, but moves will be made going forward in this department. The bats didn’t look bad at all against some tough pitching today.
Hopefully we see a better result on Saturday. Go Braves!
December 2017 was not a happy time for Braves fans. The team was coming off a season that saw them finish 72-90—their third consecutive 90-loss season—and rumors were swirling that interim manager Brian Snitker might soon find himself looking for a new job. Then things got even worse.
Seemingly without warning, John Coppolella announced he was resigning from his post as the Braves’ general manager. Coppolella’s resignation came on the heels of news that the Braves were the subject of an MLB investigation into potential rules violations in international recruiting. Not long after that, John Hart was reassigned from his position as president of baseball operations before himself resigning.
On November 21, 2017 Major League Baseball announced that the Braves would be stripped of more than a dozen prospects and handicapped in the next several international signing periods. Coppolella was banned from the sport for life due to his role in circumventing international signing rules between 2015 and 2017.
Enter Alex Anthopoulos, hired away from the Dodgers to serve as the Braves’ new GM. Despite being just 40 years old, Anthopoulos brought a fair amount of experience to the job, having previously served as general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and most recently vice president of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Predictably, Anthopolous almost immediately swung a deal sending overweight and overpaid outfielder Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in return for Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson, Scott Kazmir, Adrian Gonzalez, and cash. The trade allowed the Braves to shift all future liability for Kemp’s contract to the Dodgers in return for taking on the 2018 salaries of McCarthy, Kazmir, and Gonzalez, two of whom would never play an inning for the Braves.
The rest of the offseason, though, was relatively uneventful. The Braves made several minor trades and signings, picking up the likes of an aging prospect outfielder named Preston Tucker, a journeyman starting pitcher named Anibal Sanchez, and a reliever named Shane Carle. Those Braves fans who hoped the team’s new GM would make more big changes were sorely disappointed.
As the start of the new season approached, national baseball writers largely picked the Braves to again challenge 90 losses in 2018. In picking the Braves to finish 4th in their division, Carlos Collazo of Baseball America lamented that the team “did nothing to improve the team or advance a rebuild entering its fourth year.” Vegas oddsmakers also were unimpressed, with some predicting the Braves would win just 74 games on the season.
Then the season started, and something magical happened as the Braves raced to a 19-11 start and found themselves in first place in early May. Freddie Freeman continued being Freddie Freeman. Young second baseman Ozzie Albies began to hit bombs. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb, both of whom came over in trades during the rebuild, began to resemble quality starting pitchers.
Ender Inciarte pushed through some struggles at the plate to again provide Gold Glove offense in center field. Johan Camargo showed that he wasn’t just as good as he showed in 2017, but better. Nick Markakis remembered how to hit for power and looked 10 years younger in the field.
A.J. Minter showed why the Braves had drafted him in the 2nd round out of Texas A&M in 2015. Anibal Sanchez became one of the better starting pitchers in the National League. Charlie Culberson, thought by many to be a simple throw-in of the Kemp deal, became known as “Charlie Clutch,” with good reason.
There was also another guy you may have heard of: Ronald Acuña. Though his coming-out party was briefly delayed by a scary moment, Acuña escaped significant injury and came back swinging. Suddenly, what had been a feel-good season was perhaps the most fun stretch for Braves fans in recent memory.
So here we are in December once again. New Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has already proclaimed the Mets the “team to beat” in the NL East after some seemingly shrewd offseason moves. The Nationals and Phillies have made moves of their own. Already, some Braves fans are complaining about the Braves’ perceived passivity in the trade/free agent market this offseason (though Anthopoulos signed 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson for $23 million in 2019 and added catcher Brian McCann alongside Tyler Flowers).
Even without more moves — and certainly, more moves should be expected before the 2019 season begins — the Braves’ lineup will again feature at least Albies, Acuña, Freeman, Camargo, and Inciarte alongside newcomers Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann. Foltynewicz, Newcomb, and midseason acquisition Kevin Gausman will have the chance to show that their solid performances in 2018 were no fluke.
Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and other young guns likely will get a shot at increased roles in the pitching staff. Despite promoting so many good players the last season and a half, the Braves still have the 2nd highest rankedfarm system in the major leagues.
It’s December again, and I can’t wait for baseball season to get here. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.
ATL Sports HQ members Phil, Bob, Daric and Tushar will be live for episode 5 of the show. They will be talking about Atlanta United and their playoff performance so far, SEC Championship, the Hawks, Falcons poor performance, Braves and end with Buy or Sell segment. Make sure you tune in for the live show at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday.