The start of the 2020 Major League baseball season has been put on hold but it will begin at some point. We may see games with no fans at the start of the season but still, that is better than no baseball at all. MLB will not have a full season but we should see at least half of the season being played. I will be posting a team preview right here at East Coast Sports Investors, with one team previewed every one-two days. Be sure and check back each day. I will get them all out before the start of the season.
Atlanta Braves (From David Hess)
World Series Odds: 16-1 NL Pennant Odds: 7-1 NL East Odds: 9/4
2019 Recap: The Atlanta Braves won the National League East last year by four games over the Washington Nationals. Despite posting 97 wins on the year, the Braves were still ousted NLDS for the 2nd year in a row. The Braves lost eight of the final 12 games of the regular season last year, so they did not go into the postseason with any momentum. Atlanta then went on to lose to the Cardinals in the NLDS three games to two. The last one was a 13-1 loss which left a terrible taste in the mouths of the Braves. They have a lot to prove this year.
The Rotation: The Braves had a decent staff last year as they ranked 10th in the league in ERA at 4.19. That is despite the fact that they had Kevin Gausman, who posted a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts. Gausman is now in San Francisco and the Braves brought in Cole Hamels, who was 7-7 with the 3.81 ERA for the Cubs a year ago and Felix Hernandez, who was 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA for the Mariners last year. The question is, how much does King Felix have left as he has declined in each of the last three seasons. Hamels was slated to be out until mid-April but with the season expected to start after that, he will be ready by their opening day. Hamels also will give the Braves some experience in the postseason. The ace of the staff is Mike Soroka, who was 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts last year while Max Fried was 17-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 33 games (30 starts). Mike Foltynewicz was at one time thought of as a possible ace of the team, but after going just 8-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 21 starts last year, he could eventually be headed to the pen once some of the younger players come up from a loaded farm system. The starting pitching will again be solid but will it be enough for them to make a deep run in the postseason? We shall see. Mark Melancon came over from San Francisco last year and he had 11 saves in 23 games for the Braves. He will be their closer this year.
The Offense: The Braves were 9th in the league in hitting at .258, 8th in homers with 249 and 9th in stolen bases with 89. This is an offense that put plenty of pressure on opposing pitchers. The one area of concern was getting clutch hits as they were 27th in men left on base at 1138. The big loss to the offense is Josh Donaldson, who had 37 homers, 94 RBIs and walked 100 times. He is now with the twins. Still, the Braves will have a strong offense that is led by leadoff man, Ronald Acuna Jr (OF), who had 41 homers, 101 RBIs and 37 stolen bases a year ago. Ozzie Albies (2B) should bat 2nd after hitting 24 homers and driving in 86 runs, while Freddie Freeman (1B) had another strong season with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. The Braves have replaced Donaldson with Marcell Ozuna (OF), who will bat 4th and had 29 homers, along with 89 RBIs for the Cardinals last year. Travis d’Arnaud (C), Dansby Swanson (SS), Austin Riley (3B), and Ender Inciarte (OF) round out the projected starting lineup. Riley is the one to watch in the bottom four of the lineup after smacking 18 homers and driving in 49 runs in just 80 games in his rookie season a year ago. The defense was strong for the Braves as they ranked 4th in the league in fielding percentage at .987%.
Conclusion: The Atlanta Braves posted 97 wins last year but they will not reach that number this year as MLB will have a shortened schedule. Still, they are the best team in a loaded National League East. The Braves have perhaps the most feared one-through-four lineup in the league and they will finish in the top five in scoring this year. The Pitching will be solid, especially with the addition of Cole Hamels. They could use another solid starter at the backend of the rotation, especially if Hernadez has another rough season. The farm system is loaded with young talent and it will be just a matter of time before their young pitching makes its presence felt. All-in-all, the Braves will win a tight race in the East.