By Drew Modjeski
After winning the NL East in 2019, the Atlanta Braves come into 2020 as the odds favorite to repeat as division champs. This team is young, fun and has a lot of upside, but will they be able to shake off the ghosts of the past and return to October baseball?
2019 Team MVP(s): Freddie Freeman & Ronald Acuna Jr.
2019 Most Improved: Josh Donaldson
2019 Team Cy Young: Mike Soroka
The 2019 Braves were a great team, but they had one of the single worst postseason games I have seen in my life. Game 5 of the NLDS at home against the Cardinals with a chance to advance to the NLDS, and the Braves got absolutely blown out. The Cards put up a 10 spot in the first inning, and with that the Braves promising season was over. Now we will have to see if these young stars can bounce back to take another division title.
Off-season Grade: A
Coming off a 97 win season, it would seem that the Braves would not have to be too busy in the off-season. However, that did not slow them down as they made a few signings that could push this team over the 100 win mark. Signing Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez will sure up their mid to back side of the rotation, and Travis d’Arnuad will fill the hole left when member of the 2017 cheating Houston Astros, Brian McCann retired. Still, the biggest signing the Braves made was getting Marcell Ozuna. Having an outfield consisting of Ozuna, Ronald Ocuna Jr. and Nick Markakis is almost unfair.
Projected Lineup & Rotation
C- Travis d’Arnuad
1B- Freddie Freeman
2B- Ozzie Albies
3B- Johan Carmago
SS- Dansby Swanson
LF- Marcell Ozuna
CF- Ronald Acuna Jr.
RF- Nick Markakis
2- Mike Foltynewicz
3- Max Fried
4- Cole Hamels
5- Sean Newcomb
Mark Melancon (Closer)
Roster Analysis and Key Players to Watch
The Braves have one of the best rosters in the NL, and one could argue, in the entire MLB. Losing Josh Donaldson is a blow to the team, not only because of his production, but also the leadership and experience he brought to this young team. Even with him gone though I still see this Braves team as having the most talented roster in the entire NL East.
Marcell Ozuna: As the big off-season acquisition, Ozuna was brought in to bring this Braves team over the hump. Hitting just one homerun shy of 30, Ozuna can be the power bat in the lineup the Braves need to replace the production they were getting out of Josh Donaldson last season.
Mike Soroka: In his first full season in the MLB last year, Soroka at only 21 years old was easily the ace of this Braves staff. A team best ERA of 2.68 over almost 175 innings pitched means the Soroka has all the makings to be the leader of the Braves pitching staff for years to come.
The Farm System
The Atlanta Braves already have used their farm system to create this stellar roster, but they’re still one player that can contribute immensly to this team in 2020.
Christian Pache (OF, 11th in Top 100)
Christian Pache spent most of his time last season in AA, but dominated so much that he got moved up the AAA for the last stretch of the season. Throughout the whole season, Pache slashed .277/.340/.462 with an OPS of .802. Pache won’t start the season with the Braves, but should be up at some point in the season.
Season Projection & Prediction
Projected Wins: 92
My Prediction: 98-64
The Braves return most of their team from the 2019 NL East winning squad, so there should be no problem with them repeating as champs. Ronald Acuna Jr. is still growing into the superstar he will be, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies highlight a stellar infield and the pitching staff added some players that will help with their depth.
The only big losses the Braves had from the 2019 team was losing Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchle and Julio Teherana, and while it will be hard to make up for the production those players brought to the team, Marcell Ozuna, Cole Hamels and the additions in the bullpen like Will Smith and Chris Martin should be able to fill that hole.