Portrait 2021: Atlanta Braves

On April 1, the MLB will launch the activities of its 2021 season. Rob Manfred has taken the bet to see his teams play 162 games in a time of pandemic.

So here is what to expect from the various major baseball teams.

On the menu today: the Atlanta Braves.

In 2020, the Atlanta Braves confirmed all the good we thought of them by having a superb season (35 wins against 25 losses) and being more than solid in playoffs. Everything had started badly for the team of Brian Snitker who had seen four of its starting pitchers withdraw for the season (Mike Soroka, Cole Hamels on injury, Felix Hernandez on personal decision and Mike Foltynewicz on internal decision).

Fortunately, the group is strong and full of talents who were eager to express themselves and this is how players like Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Bryce Wilson, Kyle Wright and even Christian Pache.

Strong on the mound, the Braves’ offensive was not stingy with points either. Adam Duvall and Marcell Ozuna have had dream seasons and what about Freddie Freeman, who took top honors with a more than deserved MVP title. It was really beautiful to see.

Everything could have been perfect if, 12 out of a World Series berth, the Braves hadn’t bowed under the sticks of the Dodgers to finally bow and let the Mookie Betts pals join the Rays in the final. But it was different (I would remind you in passing that the Braves led the series 3-1). Whatever, it is said that we learn from our mistakes and I am convinced that the Braves have taken a step forward in the right direction.

With all due respect to some and as unpopular as it is here in Quebec, the Atlanta team, which put a strain on the Montreal Expos in the 90s, is a solid and serious franchise in the MLB. . We will have to get used to dealing with it for a good number of years.

Because yes, at the dawn of the 2021 season, the Atlanta Braves are even stronger and even more ambitious.

Additions and Departures

In terms of arrivals, the Braves managed to get their hands on an experienced pitcher in the person of Charlie Morton. Adding a pitcher of this caliber to a rotation that seems more than solid is necessarily a plus, because the Charlie Morton of the last four years (two with Houston, two with Tampa) is a real metronome and proves it again this year by knowing a good spring camp.

Besides Morton, Drew Smyly has also packed his bags in Atlanta for a season. Good, handsome and cheap, Smyly adds his left paw to the Braves’ rotation and could, if he blends into the collective and the state of mind of the house, also contribute to the well-being of the team.

But the best addition the team could have made is actually a “no-start” as management convinced Marcell Ozuna to stay in Atlanta until 2025. More than a surprise, Ozuna has been excellent in 2020 for them. Braves (18 HR, 56 RBI, tops in the National League) and loved the vibe in the locker room. It did not take more for him to fall in love and commit to the long term. Marcell will do this organization a lot of good because he is a team player.

We will also note the arrival of Jason Kipnis and his legendary good humor. Kip will never complain about his playing time and will be ready to help when called upon. Jake Lamb also signed in Atlanta.

Side departures, supporters of the Braves were surprised to see Adam Duvall leave the ship after his excellent 2020 season. Same fate for Mark Melancon, gone to join the Padres. Felix Hernandez went to Baltimore and Cole Hamels has become a free agent again. Aside from Duvall, the losses are slim in Atlanta.

Nick Markakis and his class have decided to retire from sports.

Strengths and weaknesses

The Braves will try to repeat their offensive prowess from last season. The alignment is homogeneous and combines power and speed. Ronald Acuña Jr. will still be there to set the tone as a first hitter and still wants to become the fifth day in baseball history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 goals. I really like this player who is not afraid of anything and who in addition, shows more and more maturity despite his 23 years.

Behind Acuña Jr., opposing pitchers will have to dealer starring undercut Ozzie Albies, MVP Freddie Freeman, the mighty Marcell Ozuna, the clever Travis d’Arnaud, the decisive Dansby Swanson, the colossus Austin Riley and the rookie Cristian Pache. Pache looks like Jermaine Dye or even Andruw Jones and will be a solid player, believe me. Most of these players have been playing together for a few years now and are starting to get to know each other well, and we know that in baseball, the mind is one of the essential factors to success, much more than names on paper.

The other strength of this team is obviously on the hill. Mike Soroka has a new Achilles tendon and will surely return to a starting place during the season. With Max Fried (7-0 last year and 2.25 ERA), Charlie Morton, the surprising and superb pitcher Ian Anderson, Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright, the Braves have plenty to do. And when the time comes to use the relievers, the team is not left out with Will Smith, Sean Newcomb, Logan Webb and Chris Martin (among others). Luke Jackson is expected to inherit the post of closer.

Where the shoe pinches is in the depth of the bench and especially in attack. If the holders are injured, the solutions are quickly reduced for the manager of the Braves. If Johan Camargo and Ender Incarte are reliable players, we quickly fall into the unknown with William Contreras, Jack Mayfield or Abraham Almonte. And it is not Pablo Sandoval, who signed a minor league contract, who will be able to come and save the ship.

What to expect in 2021?

We will therefore have to expect to find a team that has drooling lips from the start of the season. The Braves have put away their failure in the NLCS in the back of their minds and set off on something new, even stronger mentally and ready to do battle.

The baseball played by this team is attractive. The ardor of the Acuña-Albies duo is matched only by their good humor and their understanding, Freddie Freeman will once again be the spokesperson and the proud flag bearer of this team which longs for the final trophy. Follow the quartet of throwers Fried-Morton-Anderson and Soroka closely, because they will make sparks for sure (Anderson will finish in the top-5 for the Cy Young).

It will be a long and perilous road, but the Brian Snitker gang will be there. She won’t shake in her division, no matter what New York Mets fans think. For the Braves, the real baseball season will begin in October, but we must not neglect the 162 training games that precede.

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