With so much of the talk around Braves camp focused on the final spot in the Atlanta rotation, it’s easy to overlook some really good things coming from the offense. On Tuesday afternoon against the Cardinals, Ronald Acuna went deep for the second straight game, while Tyler Flowers crushed a two run homer to the berm in left field. For the games we’ve seen the regulars in the starting lineup, the Atlanta lineup card has featured Ender Inciarte in the leadoff spot, while last seasons hero at the top of the order Ronald Acuna has been slotted to the cleanup spot. So, is this what fans should expect two weeks from Thursday in Philadelphia?
I’ve said all along that I fully expect Brian Snitker to give the reigns to Inciarte as the clubs leadoff man, providing Freddie Freeman some serious protection in Ronald Acuna in the fourth spot. We’ve known since he was signed that Josh Donaldson was eager to hit second, a position he was extremely effective in during his MVP campaign in 2015 with Toronto. It’s nothing against Nick Markakis, who is one of the most consistent offensive players in the game, but having a legit 30 to 40 homer threat in Ronald Acuna will certainly alter pitchers plans when they look at the Atlanta order. And with Ozzie Albies’ emergence last season, having him potentially hit fifth or sixth makes the lineup that much deeper and dangerous.
I also like what we’ve seen from Brian McCann in Grapefruit League play. First and foremost, he’s healthy. His right knee, that bothered him all year in 2018, feels as strong as ever. If he’s able to have a bouceback season, imagine how much more potent this team can be on a nightly basis from what we saw in 2018. And let’s not forget, that’s a team that won 90 games and its first division title in five years. But, repeating as division champs won’t be an easy task with the likes of Scherzer, Nola, deGrom, Syndergaard, Corbin, Strasburg and others facing them from across the way. But, with a great group of veteran hitters like Donaldson, Freeman, Markakis and McCann and a young core of Albies, Acuna and Camargo, that didn’t seem overmatched in a pennant race last season, it’s fun to think of the possibilities of what could lie ahead for 162 (and hopefully more) starting in two weeks.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet