The Atlanta Braves prevented a home sweep Thursday, but holes in their lineup make it easy for opposing pitchers looking for outs.
Ronald Acuña Jr. continues to carry the Atlanta Braves offense with only sporadic help from Freddie Freeman, Travis d’Arnaud, and Ozzie Albies. Thursday’s win came only after A.J. Minter blew the save and courtesy of a pitcher who walked the bases loaded, then walked in the tying run.
The team grabbed the lead thanks to more pinch-hit heroics from Pablo Sandoval and won with one of Dansby Swanson’s patented late-inning clutch hits. However, winning can’t mask the significant deficiencies in the lineup.
The Atlanta Braves lineup ranks 16th in the majors and ninth in the NL, with a .219/.290/.418/.708 line and 1.2 fWAR, most of that provided by their dynamic leadoff hitter.
While Acuña Jr. will, barring injury, win NL MVP, I predicted on our podcast that Ozzie would wind up as the team MVP. I reasoned that, when he hits as we know he can, he makes the top of the lineup work; so far, he hasn’t done that.
His early struggles forced manager Brian Snitker to push Freeman up to the two-spot and slide Ozuna up to number three. The lineup showed life immediately after the lineup shuffle, but the improvement ended quickly, as Ozuna continued to look for his stroke and d’Arnaud isn’t right for the cleanup role.
TDA’s shown flashes of hitting well, but he doesn’t play every day, and as the year goes on will tire, which means he’s not the ideal guy for the cleanup spot. Albies seems to own the fifth spot, but the bottom of the lineup’s been a black hole.
The bottom half
Swanson flashed enough bat recently to suggest he’s coming around, but third-base and center field are problems with no easy answer. I expect Pache to figure it out, but hitting in the eighth spot isn’t easy in the NL; right now, he’s not hitting enough.
Ender Inciarte notched back-to-back two-hit games and has hit better in the past, but not the recent past.
As far as Drew Waters goes, David O’Brien answered that and a potential Harris call-up in The Athletic (subscription required), so I’ll give you that, and you can tell him how wrong he is; okay?
. . . the fact is, Waters has too much swing-and-miss in the minors (164 strikeouts with 39 walks in 573 PAs in 2019. . .) to believe he’s close to being ready . . . Also, he didn’t impress nearly as much at the alternate site last season or this year at spring training . . .
I still think the Braves are committed to letting Harris play every day when the minor-league season begins, and bringing him up to the big leagues so soon would seem like desperation — not to mention the signal it would send to Pache,
Heredia is a career .239 hitter and hits lefties better than that; you may see Inciarte and Heredia in some kind of platoon. Third-base is a much bigger problem.