Team Preview #20: Atlanta Braves
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2018 Record: 96-66, 1st Place NL East, Lost World Series to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2018 looked to be the season of destiny for the Braves and their fans, but everything came crashing down in the World Series against the formidable Angels. Still, 96 wins and a third straight playoff berth is nothing to sneeze at. Will 2019 see a peachy outcome for the team?
RF Wendell Ayers (NYY via Trade)
SP Chris Gray (NYY via Trade)
SS Chad Scott (NYY via Trade)
SS Logan Watkins (BOS via Waivers)
CF George Springer (COL via Trade)
3B Melvin Grun (COL via Trade)
RP Hector Cantu (FA)
SP Matt Barnes (NYY via Trade)
CF Jeffrey Moore (LAD via Trade)
CL Dennis Moore (COL via Trade)
CF Hideaki Abe (COL via Trade)
SP Matt Cain (FA)
CF Anthony Gose (FA)
SS Miguel Rojas (FA)
RP Lester Ontiveros (FA)
1B Geraldo Rodriguez (FA)
C Yasmani Grandal (FA)
RP Christian Frederch (FA)
The juggernaut Braves won the NL last year and look poised to do it again in 2019. Offensively they were a bit more middle-of-the-pack than you’d expect from a 96-win team, but still boast a deep and talented lineup. Headlining the team, and perhaps the NL, is RF Armando Cabanas (.299, 28 HR, 37 SB). He’s put persistent trade rumors behind him that nearly took him to Houston and seems poised for a monster year. Due to the pickup of Chad Scott (.270, 29 2B) to play SS, Jose Rosario (25 HR, 70 RBI) slides to 2B. Behind the plate is Greg Bird (22 HR, 81 RBI). Kung-Fa Panda, Pablo Sandoval (.312) mans the hot corner, looking to rebounding from a season he only played 108 games in. At 1B is the powerful Keon Barnum (18 HR) and in RF is the talented young OF George Lunn (.266). They dealt away last years CF, Hideaki Abe, but brought in George Springer (.260). Springer never found a consistent job in Minnesota, but he has the ability to be an above-average player in CF.
The Braves make their money though, on the mound. Last year they had a team ERA of just 2.98 and allowed 10% fewer runs than any other NL Team. Mark Appel (13-4, 2.44 ERA) is the ace, and the loss of Barnes hurts, they’ll have a full year of Trevor Bauer (9-13, 4.24 ERA) in the 2nd pot. Tyler Pill (13-4, 3.19 ERA), Martires Cadet (15-9, 2.75 ERA) and Casey Kelly (8-9, 3.43 ERA round out the starters. The bullpen figures to be the Braves possible Achilles Heel, having a number of blown saves last year and dealing away embattled closer Donnie Jones. This year, Anthony Zych (22 Hlds, 1.59 ERA) will get the closers job and have Ramon Lebron (17 Hld, 4.08) setting him up. In the middle innings will be lefty Hideaki Hirata (4.54 ERA) and righty Hector Cantu (4.81 ERA). The club likely will have two real longmen, Carlos Villanueva (3.92 ERA) and former Yankee Chris Gray (4.52 ERA)
The Braves should be up to their old tricks in 2019. I think the lineup should outpace last years, possibly by quite a solid margin, but that pen stinks to high heaven. Jones had his issues, but it was certainly a better unit with him than without him. Still, that’s likely a fixable problem for the team as they march through the regular season and onto the playoffs.
Yes, the Braves will be back in the playoffs after a nice 95-67 campaign where they narrowly clip the 2nd place Mets. I even think Atlanta will make it through the NL medicore-fest and on to the World Series again. But it will be heartache once more for the Braves, as they’ll lose again to our eventual champ.