Archive for February, 2021

195:Brave New World 2021

By: Vox O’Reasoñ

Feb 28, 2012

Jefferson, GA – Spring Training 2021 is now fully underway in CoolToday Park, the Atlanta Braves cool new training facility in North Port, FL. In fact, as of the time I type this, the Braves are less than 24 hours away from their first spring game of the new season. And so as we turn the page to another new chapter in the history of our beloved franchise, I think it’s fair to ask some necessary questions about the latest version of the team… or Braves V.2021.

When last we wrote a lead topic for the ol’ B&S, back around the turn of the yearly calendar, we made a lot of noise over the fact that there were still several holes on the team. As has become his norm, GM Alex Anthopoulos got out of the gate quickly to address the lack of depth and lack of experience in our rotation by signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly… the former whom has become the type of vaunted savvy veteran hurler every contending team needs, and the latter trying to come back from injury that has slowed him over recent years. Both of these signings appear to be pretty spot on and have been widely hailed as solid acquisitions for this ballclub. Obviously time will tell the whole story here, but this fan and part time writer tends to agree. Then, after those quick pickups happened nothing else followed. Alex was loudly quiet for weeks as all the other teams around us got better and better.

We here at the ol’ B&S continuously beat the poor old dead horse over and over again that the pitching looked solid but that we still had too many holes in the lineup and bench. So let’s revisit that assessment again and see if any of those holes still remain heading into spring game #1, shall we? Here’s the way we described it a mere month ago…

Lineup:
Acuña, RF (R)

Ozzie, 2B (S)
Freddie, 1B (L)
HOLE, LF
d’Arnaud, C (R)
Riley, 3B (R)
Swanson, SS (R)
Pache, CF (R)

Bench:
HOLE, C
HOLE, IF/OF (R)

HOLE, IF/OF (L)
Camargo, IF (S)
Ender “Hole” Inciarte, OF (L)

Then, after what seemed to be the entire Hot Stove Season, Alex finally tossed another log on the fire and made a big time move by bringing Marcell “Big Bear” Ozuna back to Atlanta to mix it up for another 4 years. And TBH, that was the only really big arrow Alex pulled out of his quiver, largely because he was given a pretty cheap quiver by ownership with a greatly limited arsenal of ammo. But the arrow he did shoot was a good one, and it shot true and straight. And it had a fairly nice ripple effect on the rest of the lineup. And after Alex scattershot a few lesser arrows and grabbed some guys off waivers, signed some on minor league deals, etc., we fans now know what we’re heading into the season with, and it looks something like this…

Lineup:
Acuña, RF (R)

Ozzie, 2B (S)
Freddie, 1B (L)
Ozuna, LF (R)
d’Arnaud, C (R)
Riley, 3B (R)
Swanson, SS (R)
Pache, CF (R)

Bench:
Alex Jackson or William Contreras, C (open competition)
Jake Lamb, 3B/1B (L)

Camargo, IF (S)

Bench #4

Bench #5

And there will be plenty of competition for the last 2 spots on the bench, where OF Ender Inciarte cannot be assured that he’ll have a job even if he does come with a $8M commitment, and OF Guillermo Heredia will have to show he can hit consistently. The biggest push will come from veteran hitter Jason Kipnis, a 2B by trade that has enough experience in the OF to be a useful bench piece. And there has to be at least one guy in the whole mix that can play SS, meaning IF Ehire Adrianza should get a good long look. Some of the other contenders for those last spots are OF Phillip Ervin, OF Abraham Almonte, and 3B/1B Pablo Sandoval. Minor leaguer Braden Shewmake, my dark horse candidate, should not be taken too lightly here as he adds a ton of positional versatility and an advanced bat for his pro experience. He may need a tad more seasoning down at AAA, but he’ll almost certainly get his cup of major league coffee sometime this season.

The way this fan sees it, the Braves have put together a contending team again for 2021, and should continue their reign atop the NL East as long as they can stay healthy, because past the starting group there are still some question marks. Three major questions I see for the 2021 season are: 1) Will Austin Riley take the next step in his development and show the type of consistency expected from an everyday starter? 2) Will Dansby Swanson repeat his 60 game success from 2020 over a full 2021 season? 3) Will Cristian Pache carry his 2020 post-season success into 2021 and cement his place in CF? Those are the keys to me for the overall success of this lineup. Otherwise we have an All-Star group atop it in Ronnie, Ozzie, Freddie, Marcell, and Td’A that will have any and every pitcher in MLB nervous when toeing the rubber against our home team all season long.

This should be a fun ride, folks. Let’s enjoy it.



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