Even if Atlanta didn't have a star player returning from the disabled list, this week's series on the road against the Cincinnati Reds would be a big deal.
Prior to the season, both teams were considered two of the top teams in the National League, and that has played out during the first month or so of the season. Both teams enter with 18 wins, but the Braves have only 12 losses while the Reds have 14.
With all that said, the series does have added significance because Atlanta gets catcher Brian McCann back from the disabled list after offseason shoulder surgery. The Braves have gotten fantastic production from their catchers in McCann's absence, as Evan Gattis (1.0 fWAR) and Gerald Laird (0.3 fWAR) have the Braves third in baseball in team fWAR at the catcher position.
McCann's return, however, gives the Braves another big-time left-handed bat in the lineup and should provide a boost to an already potent Atlanta offense while they await the return of Jason Heyward.
Now, a look at the Reds offense.
As a team, Cincinnati ranks 9th in batting average in the National League (.245), third in on-base average (.330), 12th in slugging percentage (.378), 7th in wOBA (.310), and 10th in wRC+ (92). It also ranks first in walk percentage (10.2%) and 8th in strikeout percentage (19.7%).
Individually, the Reds are being led by the duo of first baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo. Votto is hitting ..322/.464/.492 with a .414 wOBA and 164 wRC+. Votto's power still isn't there though, as he has an ISO of just .169 on the season which is way down from his career average .233 ISO.
Choo has been an on-base machine, walking at a 13% rate and getting hit by 10 pitches. He's sporting a triple slash of .331/.463/.551 with a .440 wOBA and 182 wRC+. Third baseman Todd Frazier leads the team in home runs with six, and is hitting .239/.320/.459 on the year.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips checks in at .281/.328/.463 with a .338 wOBA and 111 wRC+. For some reason, Dusty Baker continues to hit his middle infield mate Zack Cozart second to dreadful results. He's hitting just .198/.238/.328 on the season with a 48 wRC+.
Xavier Paul is playing in the outfield against right-handed pitchers, and the left-handed hitter is doing well against them with a .286/.388/.429 triple slash to go along with a .349 wOBA and 119 wRC+. Derrick Robinson and Donald Lutz have seen time against left-handers out in left field.
At the other outfield spot, Jay Bruce has been struggling along at .254/.306/.358 with a 77 wRC+, a absurdly low .104 ISO, and a strikeout rate of 31.8%.
Monday May 6th, 7:10 PM EDT
Tuesday May 7th, 7:10 PM EDT
Wednesday May 8th, 12:35 PM EDT