2020 MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves
Aug 9, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (right) celebrates with Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (left) after the Braves defeated the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The 2020 Major League Baseball season will be here before you know it. Now that a plan is in place and Opening Day is just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at what 2020 holds for the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta fell out of the playoffs heartbreakingly last year, but the Braves are looking to reverse their woes and made a deeper postseason run in 2020. Atlanta’s manager, Brian Snitker, has reportedly spent the COVID-19 shutdown increasing his analytical knowledge, which is a significant upgrade considering he was already dubbed the National League’s best manager in 2019.
The Braves gave out nearly $120 million in contracts this past winter over nine free agent signings. Atlanta’s top deals went to southpaws Will Smith and Cole Hamels and outfielder Marcell Ozuna. However, they also put pen to paper with catchers Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, right-handers Darren O’Day and Chris Martin, outfielder Nick Markakis, and infielder Adeiny Hechavarria.
Every team also goes through its fair share of losses, though. Atlanta’s subtractions were fairly substantial. Josh Donaldson was the biggest loss; he landed a multi-year pact in Minnesota. The Braves also parted with Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran, among others.
The Braves have a truly thrilling situation because they will be World Series favorites in a few years when their top prospects overlap with the current stars. Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies have already made huge impacts, and Austin Riley showed signs of dominance before a cold streak. The veterans shall not be forgotten, either, as Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman are always reliable for a clutch hit or defensive snag.
The mound is also ready for a postseason push. The rotation is shaky but the bullpen deserves more recognition; the relief staff is full of notable names and reliable arms, ready to take over mid-game and preserve a lead. Atlanta’s bullpen features names like Smith, O’Day, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Luke Jackson.
As for the starters, Atlanta’s rotation is comprised of Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz. Beyond them, Hamels would be a reliable No. 4 starter on any team but lingering injury concerns could push back his 2020 debut. Even if he is healthy, the next option at No. 5 would likely be Felix Hernandez, although Sean Newcomb will have something to say about that once teams report on July 1.
The Nationals, Mets, and Phillies don’t appear to be massive threats in 2020, nor do the Marlins. However, the first three teams could surprise the baseball world, especially in a shortened season. Beyond the National League, the Braves will get four games each against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees and Rays should provide exciting competition to the Braves but it will be challenging for the other three teams to pose as legitimate threats.
All in all, the Braves made up for their miserable postseason woes by dominating the early portion of free agency. Now, they’re in a fabulous position to compete when the season returns in late July.