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Five players that have struggled that the Braves will need for their playoff push

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The Atlanta Braves are scorching hot right now. However, they aren’t even playing their best baseball right now. Here are some players that need to up their games for them to get there.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake, the Atlanta Braves are playing incredibly well right now. They just demolished the Marlins in a four game sweep and have seized control of the top spot in the division with a strong push over the last couple of weeks buoyed by better pitching and an offense lead by Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis that looks downright scary. There are a lot of things to like about this team and Braves fans have every reason to be optimistic about the team in 2018.

However, the crazy part is that while the team has been on fire, they are not even playing their best baseball right now as several players have struggled either recently or the entire season. Here are five players that the Braves will need to get more out of in the closing months of the season so that the Braves can be playing at their absolute peak going into the postseason (hopefully).

Tyler Flowers

Kurt Suzuki

I am going to group the Braves’ catching platoon just for ease here. After getting a ton of production out of catcher in 2017 and to begin 2018, both Suzuki and Flowers have struggled in 2018. Suzuki posted a wRC+ of 44 in July with an OPS of .517 and things have gotten worse in August. Even only playing part time, a wRC+ of -13 and an OPS of .327 is pretty unslightly. Flowers has been better, but not by a ton as he has posted just one month all season with an wRC+ of over 100 and that has largely been driven by a high walk rate.

It wasn’t fair to assuming that Flozuki was going to remain a top 5 catching unit this season given that both players are on the downsides of their career, but the Braves will need to get more out of them down the stretch and into the playoffs to lengthen the team’s lineup and spread the burden out more.

Julio Teheran

This one does kind of go without saying, but it has to be mentioned. Julio Teheran has been, on the whole, quite poor this season. He is sporting a career-high walk rate and is giving up the most home runs (on a rate basis anyways) he ever has which is a pretty high bar. Of all qualified starters, Teheran is second to last in all of baseball (ahead of just Lucas Giolito) in terms of fWAR at 0.1. As of now, based purely on performance with a 4.33 ERA and 5.23 FIP, Teheran shouldn’t be a member of the Braves’ playoff rotation as it stands right now. For a guy that is supposed to be a go-to guy in the rotation, that is less than good.

Ozzie Albies

Before you all get the pitchforks, yes....on the whole,, Ozzie has been great and if history is any indication, he is going to be just fine. However, his performance in the second half has been a pretty precipitous drop-off. After posting a 121 wRC+ in the first half (which, again, is great), his production has dropped down to 74 wRC+ 22 games into the second half. His struggles against righties have been pretty well chronicled, but the bigger concern is the lack of power of late as he has just five extra-base hits in his last 22 games.

However, it would likely be unwise to bet against Albies based on his recent cold stretch. He has had rough stretches previously this season only to go on wild tears to make up for it. It would be ideal for him to do that during the final weeks of the season.

Dansby Swanson

Again, this is one that is fairly self-evident and I wrote about Dansby’s struggles recently so I won’t linger long here. The short version is that Dansby has been really good defensively, but his bat has shown very real signs of regression back to the dark times of 2017. There is a very real question regarding Dansby’s future with the team after 2018 although it does seem clear that he will see significant playing time until this season reaches its end.

It is worth mentioning that Dansby has also shown signs of life recently. While his wRC+ of 28 in second half is cringe-worthy, he does have two homers in his last four games with six RBIs over that span as well. We are talking about the smallest of samples here, but hopefully for the Braves’ sake this is a sign that he is starting to find himself at the plate again.