BULLDOGS QB COMPETITION HEATS UP

Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – A couple of weeks ago, I was forecasting where USC transfer quarterback JT Daniels could end up in the Deep South. Georgia was not on my list, but it was for JT! Wow! What a surprise.

Suddenly, Coach Kirby Smart has a talented, deep and very crowded QB room.

Daniels arrives in Athens still hoping to get a transfer waiver and immediate eligibility. JT has 3 years of eligibility at UGA.

FILE – Georgia head coach Kirby Smart walks the turf after an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State. Georgia won 31-3. (FILE AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Coach Smart will not hesitate to create big-time competition at the quarterback spot. A lot of coaches aren’t comfortable playing it that way. They are scared of it dividing the team. Not Kirby. His message: Come compete. We will go with the best QB. Period.

I’m educated guessing that Jamie Newman is the guy this season. Plug and play the experienced graduate.

But next spring, the competition heats up, with JT Daniels, Carson Beck, D’Wan Mathis and maybe Brock Vandagriff battling it out for the job. The winner of that intense competition could have a multi-year run as the Georgia quarterback. The losers probably look to transfer.

This is going to be a huge story line to follow.

The JT Daniels story line is interesting. He played at one of California’s legendary high school football programs (Mater Dei) and took the job as a freshman. And he ended up graduating early (skipped his senior year) to sign with USC. In that 2018 recruiting class he was the #2 rated pro-style QB, behind Trevor Lawrence. At USC, JT wins the starting job as a freshman and starts 11 games.

My video analysis: JT can spin it! Not prototypical size (6’2” 200), but he can make all the throws. Pocket presence was above average. Not a runner, but moves around well. Really seems to be advanced, as far as the Football IQ. Good understanding of passing concepts & coverage. Good with pre-snap reads and makes quick post-snap decisions. Put him in the “Pure Passer” category.

Dudes like this are not concerned with competition or depth charts. He believes he is the best quarterback and he will be out to show it. Game on, Carson Beck. Wonder what Brock Vandagriff is thinking right now? Things have gotten really interesting at the UGA QB position.

More about the Georgia Bulldogs on “The Buck & Kincade Show,” weekdays from Noon-3, on 680 The Fan.

The Crime Dog Helps Deliver A Championship To Atlanta

The Braves acquisition of Fred McGriff from the Padres led Atlanta to NL West crown and World Series Title.(JOHN BAZEMORE / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – As we glance back at our Braves World Championship in 1995, we all talk a lot about our world class pitching of Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux, but not enough about slugger Fred McGriff. We should never underestimate the impact of the “Crime Dog” or the genius of John Schuerholz!

Fred McGriff helped put us over the top in our chase of a World Series title! In the years leading up to the magical 1995 championship season, we all lamented over not scoring enough runs. Two World Series opportunities had already slipped away.

It was mind-blowing, really. In those eight World Series losses in 1991 & 1992, we scored only 17 runs (2.1 runs per game). In seven of the eight losses, we lost by ONE run. It was gut-wrenching. Something needed to be done.

So, in early part of the 1993 season, GM John Schuerholz changed that narrative by adding one of the top sluggers in the game. Sid Bream and Brian Hunter were struggling offensively, rotating at first base and we trailed the Giants at the All-Star break by 7.5 games. That’s when Mr. Schuerholz made one of his best deals!

On July 19, 1993, the Braves got McGriff from San Diego, without giving up one of our Top 3 Prospects (Chipper, Javy or Klesco). Mr. S took advantage of the Padres wanting to dump Fred’s big salary ($4.7M). It turned out to be a difference-making trade for the Braves, who got him in the prime of his career.

During the 1995 Championship season, the “Crime Dog” hit .280, with 27 bombs and 93 RBI. He was a classic clean-up slugger. Could hit bombs of righties and lefties! Fred hitting clean-up pushed David Justice back to the 5th spot in the order. Klesco hit 6th and Javy Lopez hit 7th. Chipper was hitting in front of Fred, in the 3-hole.

One teammate believed McGriff in the middle of the batting order made everyone better and it certainly put more pressure on opposing pitching. It showed up in the ’95 World Series box score, where the Braves averaged almost 4 runs a game.

During his 4-plus years in Atlanta, McGriff punished MLB pitching. His average season production looked like this: .296 average, with 29 HR’s and 100 RBI. He was a force! He played a strong first base and his teammates loved him.

“Crime Dog’s” addition certainly paid off!

After the ’95 season, McGriff agreed to a 4-year/$20M deal to stay with the Braves, where he played the next two seasons, at a high level. He was a 5-time All-Star, who hit 493 bombs, during his 19-year career.

So, the next time you and the boys are reflecting back on that memorable, championship 1995 season…remember to give “Crime Dog” a Shout-out! Fred McGriff was awesome!

Buck Belue can be heard on 680 The Fan Weekdays from noon to 3pm on “Buck & Kincade.”

The Braves acquisition of Fred McGriff from the Padres led Atlanta to NL West crown.(JOHN BAZEMORE / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

OUR BRAVES DELIVER A WORLD SERIES TITLE TO ATLANTA

FILE – In this Oct. 28, 1995, file photo, the Atlanta Braves celebrate after Game 6 of the baseball World Series in Atlanta. The Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians 1-0 to win the series. There hasn’t been a big league champion in this city since the Braves’ title. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN ATLANTA – We had waited so long for this championship. And it was the Braves who finally cashed in, delivering a MLB World Series Title to Atlanta and Braves Country! Yes sir, 1995 will always be special in this city!
It wasn’t so much that we had come so close, a few years earlier against the Twins and the Blue Jays, or even the fact that we all had survived so many dreadful seasons previously. What seemed to make so many of us Atlanta Braves fans so happy was this: We finally had a world championship we could put our arms around, after 30 years of trying!

The 1995 season started late because of the MLB strike, but Braves fans knew that year could be special. Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz gave us the best rotation in baseball, again. Chipper had taken over for TP at third base. Marquis Grissom was our new centerfielder. We were poised for another run and everyone knew it.

The Braves got out of the gate fast, winning 7 of 8 to start the season. Prior to the All-Star game, we won 20 of 25 and led by five games at the break. We dusted the Phillies and Mets in the second half and won the division by 21 ½ games. That was fun.

The middle of the Braves batting order was so balanced and productive it made us all smile: 3- Chipper, 4- McGriff, 5- Justice, 6- Klesco. They all went for 20+/70+. Jones drove in 86 runs and Fred had 93 RBI. Grissom set the table up top (scoring 80 runs) and Lemke got clutch hits in the 8-spot. Blauser & Belliard split time at shortstop and were the glue, with consistent play defensively.

Greg Maddux delivered a Cy Young season in ’95! He was spectacular, going 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA! Tom won 16, John won 12 and both showed off an ERA barely above 3.00. Basically, The Big 3 was nasty, filthy and dominant! And we loved every minute of it! Avery and Mercker rounded out the rotation. Our team could pitch!

During the season, Mark Wohlers took over the closer role and led the way in that dominant 2nd half of the season. Greg McMichael got a lot of big outs, with that amazing change-up, in the set-up role. Clontz, Borbon and Stanton also contributed out of the bullpen.

Our HOF Manager Bobby Cox was coaching these guys up, too. I felt like we had the top manager in baseball. Our team was awesome. We could play with anyone. Bring’em on! It was our time!

The MLB Postseason arrived and the Atlanta fans were about to see something amazing. We took down the Rockies 3-1. We swept the Reds. And we took down the cocky Indians in six. Our guys gave us 11 wins in fourteen games! An 11-3 Postseason!

For as long as we live, we can treasure Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. We can remember Tom Glavine stepping up with one of the all-time great big-game performances and David Justice delivering the big bomb, when we needed it the most (after calling out the fans)!

And that last out of Game 6, in the 1995 World Series, I’ll never forget. I had a left-center field seat, in the upper deck of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, next to my brother, Blake. On the final out, when Grissom camped out under that lazy fly ball, I felt the stadium shake with joy. Blake and I “Bro-Hugged” for what seemed like minutes, as the Atlanta crowd roared! It was a feeling like no other.

We had our World Championship! Our Atlanta Braves delivered! Does it seem like 25 years ago? Absolutely not. It seems like yesterday. Thanks, Mr. Schuerholz!

Buck Belue can be heard on 680 The Fan Weekdays from Noon to 3 on “Buck & Kincade.”

FALCONS FOCUSED ON ADDING NEW PLAYERS IN DRAFT

Buck thinks if Javon Kinlaw is still on the board at Pick 16, the Falcons need to draft him!(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

BY BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Both T and Q understand the New Deal in the upcoming Falcons NFL Draft. Mr. B has probably already communicated the message: you better Nail it! Or else… both of you might be exiting Base Camp.

Right now, the Falcons team needs: 1- an Impact Defensive Lineman, 2- a Difference-Maker at Linebacker, 3- a Highly-Skilled Cornerback, 4- a Polished Left Guard, 5- a Competent 3rd WR, and 6- a Running Back of the Future. They currently have 6 selections. So, T & Q need to Nail It!

Heck, I’d be pleased to see them add 3 quality players. My confidence is not at a high point right now, obviously. So, if T & Q could hit on 3 of the 6 picks, I’d be both surprised and pleased.

A couple weeks out, I’m concerned about the big decision in the 1st round. Pick 16. This selection has got to be Nailed.

Judging from the many Mock Drafts circulating, I’ve attempted to narrow the focus down to 10 players, as far as Pick 16 goes. Now, I don’t have the Medicals on these 10 players, but you Can’t Hide Talent, right?

Time to Drop “The Falcons Top 10.”

DL Javon Kinlaw. The Falcons need a legit DT to put next to Grady Jarrett. Derrick Brown is gone by the 16th pick. Kinlaw reminds me of future NFL Hall of Famer & Bulldog legend Richard Seymour. Javon is a 3-down player, who plays the run and the pass tough. Looks to be a good fit with The Brotherhood! If he is there at 16, T needs to take him.

DL Derrick Brown. He’s off the board at 16…but if for some reason he’s falling, T needs to grab him, unless Kinlaw is gone. Brown is a beast.

CB Kristian Fulton. The LSU cornerback is 1- Impressive playing off-zone coverage, 2- Balls out playing man coverage, 3- Can & will tackle, and 4- has a ton of experience against quality competition (think of all the reps against the LSU WR’s…Jefferson, Chase & Marshall). I value his versatility over the other CB’s (other than Jeff Okudah who will be off the board). I like this guy.

CB CJ Henderson. Dude can play press man, but our Falcons are a Cover-3 Zone team. So, I don’t like the fit. Plus, this guy doesn’t tackle…Maybe the next coach will play man.

CB Trevon Diggs. The Alabama corner is rough around the edges and needs polishing up, but you’ve got to like the talent.

CB AJ Terrell. This Tiger from Clemson looks impressive running around, but he got torched in the Natty. That concerns me.

Edge Rusher K’Lavon Chaisson. Dude came on strong at the season’s end, which was key to LSU’s run for a title. Is he the N-B-T? The Next Big Thing might end up being the next Vic Beasley or Takk McKinley, which would not be good.

LB Kenneth Murray. Q could easily Plug & Play him next to Deion Jones and feel good about that tandem kicking some butt!

LB Isaiah Simmons. The Clemson product might fall out of the Top 10. One Mock Draft had the Falcons trading up to #11 to get him. He’s a talented Hybrid/OLB/Safety, but take a look at the Ohio State CF Playoff match-up and see why I’m scared off.

The Wild Card Pick rounds out my Falcons Top 10 List. You know how T likes to identify a player and then go get him, even though they could trade back and still get him (remember Keanu Neal).
There is a pretty good chance the Falcons 1st round pick comes out of this collection of players. Sure hope T & Q get it right!

Buck Belue can be heard weekdays on 680 The Fan’s “Buck & Kincade” from NOON to 3pm!

BULLDOGS OFFENSE EXPECTS TO HUNKER DOWN

BUCK BELUE

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Let’s imagine there is a college football season. Yeah, let’s roll with that. Although, it does seem possible that we might not. But let’s say we do.
The new Georgia offense will be highly scrutinized. Todd Monken steps in as the new coordinator. Jamie Newman is expected to be the new quarterback. Just that new combination alone should bring a new look, which was needed. It was a good time to freshen things up. Go a little more modern.

Think Clemson offense. Spread the field. Sling it deep. Get the ball to the playmakers in space. Take advantage of a mobile QB. Really run the R-P-O. But don’t expect to see one of those pass-happy Air Raid attacks. The Bulldogs under Coach Kirby Smart will still run the ball.

It hurts Georgia’s offense to not have spring football practice. There is no getting around that. Coach Monken will have to push back the on-the-field install. Not a lot of time to rep it either.
Newman needs time with George Pickens on the field. And obviously right now, that’s not going to happen. Jamie is back home in North Carolina. Pickens is back in Alabama. The hope now is that they can connect quickly, when practice does start. The reps bring chemistry and confidence, which is critical for a QB & WR.

It’ll be interesting to see how Coach Monken handles his mobile quarterback. Newman ran it 180 times for Wake Forest last season. With the talent the ‘Dogs have at running back, I’d guess that Newman won’t run it that much this season. But Monken has so many ways he can turn Jamie Newman loose: he can keep it on the R-P-O, he can get him out on the corner off the run-action bootleg and call his number in the red zone with a lead blocker. Plus, Newman can be dangerous out of the pocket, extending plays.

Jamie Newman also throws a nice deep ball. He gives his receivers an opportunity to win some 50/50 balls down the field. The video I’ve seen shows him being able to identify the best match-up too. Dude can play ball. His rep says he can lead effectively too. His experience gives them a chance to win big.

In spite of the limited prep time, much is expected from Monken & Newman. Can’t wait to see it!

Listen to Buck on “Buck & Kincade,” weekdays Noon to 3pm on 680 The Fan!

FALCONS WELCOME TODD GURLEY TO ATLANTA

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley sits on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Los Angeles. The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a one-year deal with three-time Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley, one day after he was cut by the Los Angeles Rams. A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press about the agreement on Friday, March 20, 2020, on condition of anonymity because the deal will not be official until Gurley passes a physical. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley runs a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, in Los Angeles. The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a one-year deal with three-time Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley, one day after he was cut by the Los Angeles Rams. A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press about the agreement on Friday, March 20, 2020, on condition of anonymity because the deal will not be official until Gurley passes a physical. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

BY BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Despite the current Coronavirus situation, this turned out to be a good day for this lifelong Falcons fan. The Falcons signed former Bulldog legend Todd Gurley! Better late than never, right? My team missed him the first time around (when we took Vic Beasley in the draft), but not this time.

And yes, I enjoyed seeing the Falcons sign a Georgia guy! Congratulations!

Yesterday, the Falcons had the worst RB situation in the NFL (Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison). That group piled up less than 500 yards and only 7 TDs last year. Thirty-one teams “had it better” at running back.

Today, Todd Gurley steps in and the Falcons are much better! If Todd can deliver the same numbers he laid down last season, you, Q & Mr. B will all be thrilled (1200 today yards & 14 TDs)! That’s not a stretch to expect it either. Todd is not the explosive playmaker we got to enjoy a few years ago, but he still has got some game.

Gurley is a good fit with the Falcons scheme wise, because he can catch it. The Falcons are built to throw it, with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Gurley and the new tight-end Hayden Hurst will be getting favorable match-ups in the passing game. This just in: Dirk has another playmaker to get the ball to in the passing game.

Financially, it cost $6M to make this happen. It’s got a chance to be a real bargain. No worries here.

Team structure: it’s only a 1-year deal. Don’t be surprised when our team takes another running back in the upcoming draft. No, not Swift in the 1st round. T will probably be searching for a good RB fit 2nd, 3rd or 4th round. There should be some quality options out there.

Q and T need to win right now. Jobs are on the line in 2020. The three free agent signings reflect that…plugged 3 holes, with 3 quality veterans. Gurley, Hurst and Fowler are set up to make an immediate impact at need positions.
T did a good job with these additions. Hit on a few more players in the draft and our Falcons are set up to make some noise this season!

BRAVES ALMOST READY TO ROLL INTO THE REGULAR SEASON

BUCK BELUE
ATLANTA, GA – For our Braves, it’s almost “Go Time!” The Spring Training days are disappearing in a hurry now. Basically, it’s about time to get your act together.

FILE =- Atlanta Braves first baseman Freedie Freeman and the team take batting practice while preparing to play the Baltimore Orioles in a spring baseball game at the Braves new facility CoolToday Park on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in North Port, Fla. (Curtis Compton/AP FILE)

What a relief to hear Freddie Freeman’s elbow is better. He’s our MVP. Can’t afford to lose him for any length of time. Anyway, Freddie will get his 30 at bats that he needs to be comfortable, when the real games start. And yes, you should be expecting another one of those 30-100 seasons.

Should we be concerned about the Boy Wonder, Ronald Acuna? He’s had a tough start in the exhibition games. After going 0-3 with 3 strikeouts on Tuesday, Ronald is 2-16 at the plate (hitting .105). No worries. He’s probably “just working on some things.” Like you, I’m expecting another monster season out of Acuna. Full speed ahead. When the curtain comes up, he’ll be focused on that 40-40 thing. That will be fun to track this season.

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, Chicago Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels works against a San Diego Padres batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

Cole Hamels situation (he’s out injured) is probably a frustration, but I look for this to play out in the Braves favor. So he misses some time early in the season…big deal. The Braves can cover that up for 1-2 months. The hope here would be Hamels is fresher & stronger late in the season, for the stretch run and the postseason.

To begin the season, the Braves rotation appears to be something like this: Soroka, Fried, Folty, Newcomb and Felix. Kyle Wright looks improved and more prepared to win. Wilson and Touki are what you might call quality depth. Anderson looms. Unlike most organizations, the Braves have 10 dudes they can feel comfortable starting.

The competition at third base has both Austin Riley & Johan Camargo off to good starts in the Grapefruit League action. Riley just hit a bomb today (Tuesday). Carmargo looks more relaxed at the plate and can flash the leather at 3B. I look at it like this: Do you want 30 HR’s or 15? Also, Austin looks legit at third base. Riley appears ready to take over at third. Go with him. And go with Camargo off the bench. Looks like a no-brainer.

Anyway, I’ve got the Braves going 93-69 and earning a spot in the postseason! The competition in the NL East will be tougher, but our team is up for the challenge.
More Braves talk on The Buck & Kincade Show, weekdays 12-3, on The Fan!

BUCK & KINCADE VISIT THE BRAVES AT NEW SPRING TRAINING FACILITY

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, Chicago Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels works against a San Diego Padres batter during the fourth inning of a baseball game in San Diego. The Atlanta Braves need new veteran leadership for a rotation that has lost Julio Teheran and Dallas Keuchel. Left-hander Cole Hamels is eager to fill the void as pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

By BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN ATLANTA – No more Disney in Orlando. The Braves have moved on to their new complex just south of Sarasota, in North Port. The Buck & Kincade Show goes live with the Braves all next week! Make plans to join us, as we bring on the Braves top players, to talk about the upcoming season.

Things I’m looking forward to checking out: 1- Top-rated prospect Cristian Pache, 2- the new Braves: Ozuna, Hamels & Will Smith, 3- the young stars: Acuna & Albies, 4- the healthy elbow of Freddie Freeman, and 5- slugger Austin Riley.

Pache is the Braves next centerfielder. Cristian is a plus-defender and had a breakout year offensively last season, with 57 extra base hits. Expect to see a combination of speed, power & athleticism. When will he bust into the Braves line-up? Sometime this season it would appear. Can’t wait to check this skill set out next week!

Ozuna will hit clean-up for us this season and should off-set what we lost in Donaldson. Marcel is an above-average MLB hitter, with the upside to be a monster! I’m expecting something close to a 30-90 season. Plug him in for 150 games and let’s play ball.

Will Smith signed a 3-year deal with the Braves to pitch the 8th & 9th innings of games we have the lead in…he features a 3-pitch mix and can command the 4-seam fastball (93 mph), the slider and the curve ball. That’s what makes him special. He is a Newnan guy, so you know he’s thrilled to be with the Braves! We’ll invite Will to come on our show.

Acuna and Albies are two of the best players in baseball! And so athletic! These two make batting practice and infield reps (Ozzie) fun to watch.

Freeman sounds relieved to get the painful elbow behind him. Freddie’s surgery removed 2 bone spurs and 3 fragmented loose bodies. He’s 100% and ready to play all-star caliber baseball, pain-free! Hope to get him on our show, again.
Austin Riley has been kicked around a lot for a guy that hit 33 bombs last season (combined MLB/AAA). The strikeouts did pile up, after that amazing start… maybe he turns out to be the new Adam Dunn. Or maybe he rakes, with a better approach against the slider and the fastball up in the zone. And now we get to see him at 3rd base!

Yeah, this is going to be fun! Hope to report back on all the top golf courses in this area too! Spring training typically allows for an afternoon round!

Join The Buck & Kincade Show (12-3) all next week, as we broadcast from the Braves new training complex!

BULLDOGS & JACKETS LOAD UP WITH TALENTED 2020 RECRUITING CLASSES

BY BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATL – Kirby Smart and his Bulldog coaching staff cashed in with another top-rated recruiting class! Georgia ended up signing 10 of the nation’s Top 60 rated players. It ended with a BOOM this week, with Broderick Jones & Sedrick Van Pran completing a very impressive haul on the O-Line.

FILE – Kirby Smart has assembled one of the best signing classes in the nation in 2020! – (AP Photo:John Bazemore, File)
FILE – Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins works with his kick returners during the team’s first preseason NCAA college football practice Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in Atlanta. (FILE – AP Photo/John Bazemore)

New O-Line Coach Matt Luke has simply done an awesome job stepping in for Sam Pittman, both in the Sugar Bowl and on the recruiting trail! Coach Smart made a strong hire.

The Bulldogs ended up signing 10 of the nation’s top-rated player in this 2020 class. That big budget allowed them to bring in players from Louisiana (3), Texas (3) and California (2). Eight came from the state of Georgia and 5 from Florida. The staff signed 10 linemen and 5 wide receivers (need areas).

Meanwhile, at Georgia Tech, Coach Collins and his staff elevated the Jackets success rate on the recruiting trail! The Yellow Jackets coaching staff delivered a Top 30 class, which featured Dalton running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who is a Top 10 rated player in the state of Georgia!

Gibbs turned down Florida, Alabama & LSU and is headed to Georgia Tech. He’s not the only big-time player they lured in. Quarterback Jeff Sims is a dual threat weapon that reminds me a little of Deshaun Watson. Tucker Gleason can spin it too. The Jackets coaching staff has no doubt upgraded the talent level with this 2020 class.

For more, listen to The Buck & Kincade Show, M-F, Noon-3, on The Fan.

BRAVES PLUG AND PLAY MARCELL OZUNA

FILE – St. Louis Cardinals’ Marcell Ozuna reacts after hitting a solo home run during the first inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson FILE)

BUCK BELUE
ATLANTA, Ga – Shout out to Alex Anthopoulos: Good job covering up the Braves big weakness in the clean-up spot! The free agent signing of Marcell Ozuna makes the Braves line-up legit heading into the 2020 season, because it eliminates the lack of a power-hitting RH bat behind Freddie Freeman.

Ozuna is an above-average major league hitter, who has the upside to throw up a monster season. Last season for the Cardinals, Ozuna hit 29 homeruns, scored 80 runs and drove in 89 more. That matches up with what Josh Donaldson delivered on the stat sheet last season.

Time was running out, with spring training just around the corner. Options were limited, but Anthopoulos found an answer for the problem area. What a relief for Braves Country!

Is Marcell a Gold Glove outfielder? Not exactly, but he’s not bad out there. I’m not concerned about that part of the deal. He can field his spot. He is not a liability.

Anthopoulos also covered up a huge void without shipping off some of his top prospects, which is good too. It also doesn’t block Pache or Waters in the outfield. Both are close to getting a shot in The Show. This move also doesn’t put Austin Riley back in the outfield, which is important…I like him playing his natural position, while he focuses on hitting the slider this spring.

The Braves bench improves, with Markakis and Duvall getting bumped from a rotation in left field.

The Braves are now ready for spring training…and the fans in Braves are too!