Atlanta Braves have the talent for third straight NL East pennant

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Nine innings. The game is nicknamed America’s favorite past time and continues to entertain all generations. With a delayed season everything right now is on hold but the Atlanta Braes will come up ready to play. With a team based on younger athletes with few veterans, the organization is looking good to get their third straight NL East pennant.

Kayleigh Emberton, Sports Editor

Baseball is America’s pastime. It is a game that dates back hundreds of years, but never ceases to amaze Americans. This season, however, has provided a serious learning curve to the league. 

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Commissioner Rob Manfred said in an interview with an ESPN broadcaster that he is hopeful the season will return in May. They have been exploring many options like double headers and even seven-inning games, which the commissioner had spoken against prior to the pandemic. Though it will be difficult to have a complete 162 game season, the Commissioner and Players Association have been in constant contact discussing options. One option would be a season that ran from May to October then playoffs sometime in November with the World Series being in December in a warm weather city. Another option the league thought about adopting is the NCAA World Series bracket. Recent reports have shown that Manfred has even considered continuing the season in Arizona. Manfred hope that returning to baseball will be a mark of normalcy and getting back into daily life. The game will open the community back up and spread positivity. He went on to compare it to the game after 9/11 in Shea Stadium. 

Reports came out this week, May 10, updating the public on the major league baseball situation. The league has cancelled the 2021 World baseball Classic. The Classic is a baseball tournament where players in the MLB are split into teams based on their home country. There is then a giant tournament held where each country competes against each other for the championship. The classic is not a main concern and the league wants to focus more on bringing back the regular season. Other reports have shown that this week is an important factor in the decision abut what to do with the season. The league worries about hotspots in certain areas of the country as well as financial struggles within the clubs. The commissioner has suggested to start playing around July 4th but is waiting on a response from the MLB players union. In response to a idea issued earlier in the pandemic, Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona just announced that he will allow sports to be played starting on Saturday without fans. There are lots of ideas and suggestions being thrown around in this time of uncertainty. Manfred, along with the Players Union and other clubs, have been working countlessly to find a solution and bring back baseball.

During this time off, the Atlanta Braves have been training and working to better the organization. The Braves have signed Dansby Swanson and Mike Foltynewicz to a one year deal. Folty struggled last year, but was able to come back and save the organization after he was sent down to Triple AAA to rebuild his strength and gain control over his pitching. However, Folty has given up many runs the last two years in the postseason. After his work in the off season as well as in Triple AAA, I believe that Folty will be crucial in our pitching line up this season. 

Dansby Swanson is a key defensive player in the Braves lineup. He hit 17 home runs last year after missing 30 games due to right foot contusion. His age and skill are a factor that makes him a clutch player. Though his hitting is not the best on the team, his skills in the field have proven very helpful to the Atlanta Braves defense. In his total of four years in the league and 3771.1 innings played he has only 48 errors and a .972 fielding percentage. His experience playing at Vanderbilt will continue to fuel his defensive stats. Swanson has struggled since he came up due to many injuries but he has continued to work. Swanson will continue to be clutch and if he stays healthy his hitting could live up to his defensive work. 

The Atlanta Braves also signed Adam Duvall, Luke Jackson, Johan Camargo, and Grant Dayton to an extended contract. Each with their own strengths to add. Johan Camargo has been with the Braves for a while and each year he improves as an athlete. After releasing Josh Donaldson, Johan has a spot set up for him at third base. Though it has been a while since he played in a game, he is a younger athlete who shows much promise to the organization. However, he will have a little bit of a rough start at the beginning of the season. Adam Duvall is a promising outfielder with a big bat. With Markakis getting older and Ender Inciarte’s health problems, Duvall has stepped into the limelight and not disappointed. Duvall, in 2019, had 120 at bats with 32 hits and 10 home runs. Both are great resources to the Atlanta Braves organization and as Markakis and Inciarte get older the Braves outfield will not retire with them. 

One thing that has been taunting the Braves is pitching. Pitching is a component that continues to be an issue for the Braves. The past couple of years the Braves have only had two to three promising pitchers. This year the Braves have Mike Soroka, who debuted in May of 2018, Max Fried, who debuted in August of 2017, and Mike Foltynewicz, who played for the Astros for a year before being traded to the Braves in 2015. The Braves have drafted Cole Hamels, a veteran pitcher from the Chicago Cubs, to try and bring in a leader for the younger guys. I am excited to see what Hamels can do on and off the mound for the team. I am always a little nervous when a new guy comes up but I think that this trade was a great idea.  The Braves, after losing Teheran and Keuchel, need someone to keep the pitching staff together. The pitching in this organization has been getting us by the past couple years but we need it now more than ever. Most of our guys are young and powerful but they need a consistent pitcher to get through the postseason. It doesn’t lay completely on the pitcher but a bad start can ruin the attitude. I am excited to see where this takes us. 

Another powerhouse for this Braves organization is outfielder Ronald Acuna. Acuna is 22 years old and has put up tremendous numbers in his two seasons in the majors. Acuna was three stolen bases short from a 40-for-40 season last year. He was moved from cleanup to the start of the lineup in both of the seasons that he has played and he thrived there. Acuna has been able to kickstart the offense and Albies and Acuna’s bromance provides for a great overall environment. Though the fame is starting to get to him. Acuna is young and he got famous fast, it has most likely gotten to his head and he has been reprimanded multiple times due to his overconfidence. In a game against the Dodgers, Acuna started a home run trot but the ball bounced off the wall and Acuna, who could have ended up at second or third, ended up at first. He did it again in the postseason against the Cardinals even though he sat for the rest of the game when he did it against the Dodgers. He is an amazing player and I have confidence that he will be a key component to the Braves organization, but his attitude in certain situations is worrisome.  

 

 

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With Josh Donaldson gone the Braves have an empty spot at third base and Austin Riley would be a great candidate. But it comes to question what will the Braves do with Johan Camargo? Johan Camargo has been on and off the field but he shows much promise whereas Riley is a little newer but spent most of his 2019 season as an outfielder. He has been able to put up great number batting and fielding. In Riley’s first season he had 274 at bats with 49 RBIs and 18 home runs. He would prosper in the outfield but the Braves outfield is loaded so he will play at third most of the time.

The Braves organization has many players outfielders to choose from. Ender Inciarte came just came off of an injury that kept him out for the 209 season. Nick Markakis a tremendous player with consistent numbers but he is starting to reach retirement age. There are so many options for the Braves team but who will start? Markakis has been with the organization for about five years and has been a great player all around. His experience has proven helpful, especially with our younger team. Markakis has had 9 errors in his four years of playing for the Braves. He played a total of 733 games for the Braves and he has had an almost perfect fielding percentage for every year.

Ender Inciarte is a hardworking player. He is very dedicated and works hard in the offseason to prepare. The 26 year old player has been out for most of the 2019 season after a multiple problems in his back and hamstring. Coming off of a long offseason and multiple injuries, Inciarte may not be ready to start when MLB opens up. He should definitely have playing time it is just the problem of when should he start. Inciarte is a reliable athlete but I am not sure that he will get more playing time, especially with the other, younger players that we have.

Another option is Marcell Ozuna that the Braves got from the Cardinals in January. Ozuna has about 7 years of experience and is a promising player for the Braves. He also has a near perfect fielding percentage. There are so many options for the braves outfield this year. Ronald Acuna is definitely going to play. Ender and Markakis will probably be switched in and out with Ozuna and Duvall. Our starters for the outfield will be Acuna, Duvall, and Ozuna. Ozuna wasn’t a very good deal because of the fact that we have so many outfielders to begin with. I also do not like when newbies start over veterans of a ball club but I have a feeling that will be the case this year. The situation will be Acuna, Duvall, and Ozuna starting outfield and Riley starting at third base. Johan Camargo will come in and play as a utility where he is needed in the infield.

The organization is loaded this year. With the new players, the Braves will be able to win the National League East pennant. The Braves have a strong organization and the other teams have struggled in past years. Though the postseason has been a struggling point for the Braves the last two years, Hamels, Soroka, Fried, and Folty will carry us into the postseason and make us a stronger team. This is a fairly young team with a couple of intelligent veterans to lead and this upper hand will continue to take us farther and farther. The biggest thing that needs to happen is that the Braves need to have a steady start early in the game. They don’t have to be winning the whole game but being consistent in pitching and in the bats is going to keep up morale and give us a better shot at finishing the game and series with a win. 

Though there is much confusion in the world at the moment, baseball is one constant that keeps all Americans hoping. Fans and the league will continue to keep our sights set on the future and hopes of watching again. All players have been participating in offseason workouts and will be prepared for the season when it does finally start.