Image via Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
The Talk Sports Team Predictions:
@Jb_Brinkley 92-70 2nd NL East
@cameroneanes 62-100 5th NL East
@carterhutchison 74-88 4th NL East
@astonhutchison 75-87 3rd NL East
@stetsonmarlin 88-74 2nd NL East
The Talk Sports Preseason Outlook
The Atlanta Braves were a surprise team in 2018 to which many people thought that they were one or two years ahead of schedule. After posting a 90-72 record and winning the NL East for the first time since 2013, the team started to receive attention and rightfully so. With young stars like Ozzie Albies, and Ronald Acuna Jr. paired with consistent veterans Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis, the Braves seemed poised to post a similar mark this year. With the players I just named most likely batting in the top five of the Braves batting order, they should produce an abundance of runs and create fear for all opposing pitching staffs they face this year. If Braves Pitchers Mike Foltynewicsz can build on a solid year where he posted a 2.85 ERA with 13 wins and 10 loses. I expect the Braves Fans to be Tomahawk Chopping their way to a wild card game at the end of the season. We will Need Pitchers like Julio Teheran, and Sean Newcomb to Pitch much better for this to come true
The Braves return all 8 of their position starters from 2018 and add Veteran 3rd Baseman Josh Donaldson who struggled with injuries for most of the 2018 season. If the Braves can get increased productions from shortstop Dansby Swanson, and Third Baseman Josh Donaldson, the team will have one of the scariest lineups in baseball, and be a threat to win the NL east regardless of the lack of a dominant pitcher. If Mike Foltynewiscz can step up and become this “dominant” pitcher that the Braves believe he can be, it would put the braves at a huge advantage going into any wildcard match up or playoff series. The Braves have also retained many key bench players; Charlie Culberson, Johan Camargo, and Adam Duval while adding veteran back up catcher Brian McCann, who should be an upgrade from Kurt Suzuki. If Ronald Acuna Jr. can continue to play at the same pace he did after the All-Star break when the Braves switched him to the leadoff Position where he hit 8 leadoff HRs, a franchise record, he will be a real threat to contend for The NL MVP. The same goes for veteran Slugger Freddie Freeman if he can stay healthy again this season, and get off to a hot start which will help lead the Braves to win the NL East. If this happens, his name will definitely be apart of the MVP conversation. Expect pitchers Sean Newcomb, and Julio Teheran to improve this year in order for the Braves to make a historic playoff run; while also having Arodys Vizcaino improve on his save number from last year as well. The Braves will also need improvement from pitcher Kevin Gausman who posted a 3.92 ERA with the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves. The Braves hope for increased production from young 22-year-old pitcher Touki Toussaint, who appeared in 7 games with 5 starts under his belt. If the team can get everything going in the right direction, expect them to win their 14th NL East Title, and make a run for their 4th World Series bid.
If Braves players such as Ronald Acuna Jr. experiences a sophomore slump and Ozzie Albies slumps after his first full Season with the Braves, then their lack of production will be felt in the win column. Freddie Freeman has had two seasons since 2015 where he missed at least 40 games. The Braves will need him to play in at least 150 games for them to have the type of season they are envisioning. The pitching staff has been more than suspect throughout the past few seasons with Mike Flotynewicsz being the only Braves starter to post a sub 3.00 ERA in the 2018 season. If the Braves pitching cannot improve this year, I would expect a wild card loss, or for the team to slightly miss the playoffs this year.
- Infield Grade- B
The right side of the infield is solid with Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies at 1st and 2nd Base they will provide spectacular defense, and high averages at the plate, while also being a solid duo for power as well. The left side of the Infield has something to prove this season, and hopefully, they will. With Dansby Swanson entering his 3rd full season with the Braves everyone should expect an uptick in his batting AVG after he posted a .238 in last years season. Swanson Is a tremendous fielder however which gives him an irreplaceable quality. Josh Donaldson is somewhat unpredictable coming off a season with injuries, but if he can return to the same player he was in 2017 and post another 30 HR season then the Braves Infield Grade could shoot up to an A in no time.
- Outfield Grade = A
With three players who are all spectacular on defense and efficient with the bats, it is hard not to give this group an A. Ender Inciarte is arguably the best Defensive Center fielder in all of baseball, posting three consecutive Gold Glove Awards. Ronald Acuna Jr., coming off of his Rookie of the Year campaign, is expected to improve and build from what he did his rookie year. In only 111 games, Acuna Jr. hit 26 HRs and posted an AVG of .293. I believe I speak for everyone when I say I am really excited to see what this young man can do in a full seasons work. Nick Markakis is a solid veteran presence who played in all 162 games last season. Markakis is a wonderful fielder and great middle of the lineup hitter. He is not a world beater at the plate, but he did hit 43 doubles and 14 HRs last season while his batting AVG was a .297.
- Pitching Staff = C
This Pitching Staff has a lot to prove this season. A mix of young talent and veterans with a lot of experience has hopes to build a solid rotation. while Mike Foltynewicsz and Sean Newcomb need to lead this staff and both post 15 win seasons for the first time in their careers. While Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman MUST give the Braves good starts and lots of innings to get the game to their bull pins with a chance to win. Touki Toussant needs to take in all that he can this year and learn from Braves veterans while also going deep into games and always giving his team a chance to win.
HOT TAKE PREDICTION:
Ronald Acuna Jr. wins NL MVP while batting over .300 and also has a 30 HR season bringing in more than 100 RBIs