Atlanta Braves: 5 players entering a make-or-break season in 2020

We take a look at five players for the Atlanta Braves who could be entering their make-or-break season with the team.

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Ender Inciarte #11 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

While no team would ever come out and say it, there are certain players on the Atlanta Braves who are entering their make-or-break season with the club.

What we mean by that is, if they don't show improvement -- or at least consistency -- they could find themselves not being a part of the future.

Going into the 2019 season there were two players who were thought to be entering their make-or-break seasons in Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson.

Dansby had been with the Braves for two seasons and wasn't great in either of those seasons.

Ender had been with Atlanta for three full seasons and had some great moments, including three Gold Gloves, but he was coming off a 2018 in which he really struggled at the plate (mostly in the first half) hitting just .265 on the season.

Both suffered injuries in 2019 that really delayed their make-or-break seasons another year and you just may see them on this list again.

The writing seems to be on the wall for Ender as he only has one guaranteed year left on his contract after the 2020 season, and he has Cristian Pache and Drew Waters knocking on the door to take over his position.

But the guys we're going to focus on are players who have spent a couple of years in the big leagues but haven't quite reached their potential.

We need to see them reach that potential this season or the team could start looking to move on from them.

Dansby Swanson

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Dansby Swanson #7 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

We start with the obvious, and one I already talked about, but this is undeniably a huge year for Dansby Swanson.

Again, I thought last season was going to be his make-or-break season, but because of the nature of his 2019 season here we are again.

It looked as if we had our answer in the first half of 2019 that Dansby was undoubtedly the shortstop of the future in Atlanta.

In the first half last season, he hit .270 with 17 home runs, 57 RBI, and 58 runs scored to go along with a .330 OBP and .822 OPS.

That was pretty much everything we were hoping Swanson would become one day. And for those that remember, Swanson was hitting the ball even better than his numbers were showing in that first half.

But then he really started to slow down even before a heel injury that cost him over a month.

In the second half of the season, he only played 38 games and hit just .204 and didn't hit another home run.

However, he finished the season on fire giving us hope that he was turning the corner. He picked up 9 hits in his last five games of the regular season, and then he was 7-for-18 in the postseason with 3 doubles.

On top of his up-and-down 2019 season offensively, he also took a step back defensively.

Going into 2020 he still has a lot to prove in order to show he's the future shortstop of the Braves.

He still has three seasons under arbitration before he becomes a free agent.

But if he doesn't show consistent improvement in 2020 the Braves could start looking for another long-term option at shortstop.

On the other hand -- and what I really hope happens -- if Dansby finally has that full breakout season, we could see Atlanta lock him up for a while with a contract extension.

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Sean Newcomb

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Sean Newcomb #15 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The 2020 season might not be a make-or-break one in terms of Sean Newcomb remaining with the Braves, but it certainly could be make-or-break for his chances to be a starter.

After a solid 2018 season in which he posted a 3.90 ERA in 164 innings with 160 strikeouts, he struggled mightily out of the gate as a starter in 2019.

Through three starts he had an ERA of 4.38, which isn't terrible, but the walks continued to be a problem with eight of them in 12.1 innings.

The Braves sent him down to work on his command and brought him back as a reliever where he excelled for Atlanta in 2019.

Honestly, I thought the Braves pulled the plug on him as a starter a little quick last season.

Yes, his command issues were obvious, but we knew that going into the season. And he was only given three starts.

But once he went to the bullpen and looked much better with his command, it made it really hard for them to move him back to a starter role considering the struggles in the team was having in the bullpen.

But Newcomb has made it pretty clear he wants to be a starter and he'll likely get that chance once again at least to start the 2020 season.

Everyone knows the issue with Newcomb by now -- he has to be able to command the fastball.

If he does that, then the lefty has one of the better curveballs in baseball.

Braves fans may never be pleased with Newcomb because of what we gave up for him, but if ever puts it all together over a full season, there is no doubt he has the stuff to be a top of the rotation pitcher.

However, if we don't see that in 2020 and he continues to struggle with his command, his future is most likely in the bullpen or with another team.

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Mike Foltynewicz

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Mike Foltynewicz #26 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

I've really come to love Mike Foltynewicz the person. He seems like such a chill and positive guy off the field.

But for whatever reason, on the mound, he looks like a pouty child and a lot of times that carries over into his performance.

Part of the issue with Folty is just controlling his emotions.

Like Newcomb, Folty had a great 2018 season -- an All-Star season - and looked like the ace of the future in Atlanta.

But he got a late start to the 2019 season because of injury and he struggled out of the gate with a 6.37 ERA in his first 11 starts before being sent down.

He came back up in August and was good, but then he was one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball in September with a 1.50 ERA in five starts.

In the postseason he was brilliant in game two pitching 7 shutout innings. But as we all know, things unraveled on him in game five.

He honestly should have been out of that inning only giving up 1 run. But that's not how things played out.

I really believe that injury bugged Folty at the beginning of 2019 and he couldn't shake it mentally. Once he got over that hurdle he was more like the pitcher we saw in 2018.

However, because of the up-and-down season, we now go into 2020 wondering what version of Folty we can expect going forward.

He's only controllable through 2021, so this is certainly a big year for him. A good one and he could be looking at an extension with the Braves -- if that's what he wants.

But a bad or mediocre season and he could be on the trading block next offseason.

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A.J. Minter/Chad Sobotka

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A.J. Minter #33 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

I'm combining A.J. Minter and Chad Sobotka here because I think they both enter similar make-or-break seasons.

They each entered 2019 thought to be big parts of the back-end of the bullpen, and both fell flat, eventually getting demoted.

Minter closed 15 games for the Braves in 2018 with a 3.23 ERA in 61.1 innings with 69 strikeouts.

You could argue Sobotka was the Braves' best reliever at the end of the 2018 season and going into the postseason. He had a 1.88 ERA that year in 14.1 innings with 21 strikeouts.

However, Minter posted a 7.06 ERA in 2019 over 29.1 innings, while Sobotka had a 6.21 ERA in 29 innings.

The issue was obvious for both of them -- walks.

Sobotka walked 5.9 batters per nine innings in 2019 while Minter walked 7.1 per nine.

For whatever reason, both of them went down to Triple-A and did a great job limiting walks with BB/9 rates under two.

Sobotka continues to struggle with walks this Spring issuing four free passes in 3.2 innings. But he also shows why he's such a promising arm with 5 strikeouts.

Minter has yet to make his Spring debut in 2020 but is expected to on Saturday.

With the stuff these guys have, we just need them to throw strikes. But if they can't, it may be time to give them a change of scenery even though both have four years of control left.

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Johan Camargo

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Johan Camargo #17 of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Johan Camargo is not someone I was considering for this list until a couple of days ago when I heard the comments from Brian Snitker about not wanting to put him in a bench role.

Snitker doesn't explicitly say this, but it sounds like Camargo was not happy with his move to the bench last year. And I totally get that after the 2018 he had. I would have been a little ticked off if they replaced me after putting up the numbers he did the season before.

But if he's not really willing to be a team player, then is that really the kind of guy you want around?

Now, I'm certainly not trying to take a shot at Camargo here, and I'm making a judgment based on bits and pieces -- not first-hand, and that's not fair to him, but that's all I've been given.

But he does play with that Robinson Cano-type of attitude where everything just looks lazy. And while that might not be the case, it comes off that way when you're not playing well.

Putting all that together, if Camargo doesn't win the third base job out of spring training, or if he loses it at some point during the season, you have to wonder what kind of attitude he'll have towards the team.

And at that point it may be best to trade him to a team where he can play every day because I do feel like he can be an everyday player, I'm just not sure that's with the Braves.

I would love for Camargo to be that super-utility guy, but if he's unwilling or unhappy to play that role, then I'm not sure what his future is with this team (assuming he loses the third base job).

Hopefully I'm wrong and Johan doesn't have that kind of attitude/mentality that I described. I really do like Johan and want to see him with this team long-term.

But I also feel like his most valuable role on this team long-term is as a super-utility guy. And if he's not happy in that role, then maybe the Braves look to satisfy him with a trade.

Next: Catcher Preview

Those are the five Braves players who I think are entering a crucial season in their career. Let me know your thoughts below and if there is someone you think I missed.