We’re rapidly approaching one of those unofficial checkpoints of the baseball offseason, which is the end of the Super Bowl. For a lot of general sports fans, this is basically when they check out from football and start catching up on what’s been going on with baseball while they were busy watching referees ruin the sport they love. For people who follow our beloved Braves, they’re going to come back and see that not much has changed.
Yeah, the Braves signed Josh Donaldson and that’s still a pretty big deal. If he can stay healthy, Atlanta will probably be better than they were last season. Here’s the thing, though: Will that be good enough to compete in this upcoming season’s NL East?
If we take a quick glance at the projected lineup and each of their projected wRC+ for the upcoming season, we can get an idea of what to expect from the offense when they’re at full strength (projections via Steamer):
C: Tyler Flowers/Brian McCann (99/90)
1B: Freddie Freeman (134)
2B: Ozzie Albies (105)
3B: Josh Donaldson (126)
SS: Dansby Swanson (87. Yeah, he’s not there for his bat. Hopefully we’ll see a rebound?)
OF: Ronald Acuña Jr. (123)
OF: Ender Inciarte (93)
OF: Nick Markakis (102)
Plus when it comes to the pitching, while the Braves may not have an out-and-out ace at this point, they make up for that with sheer depth when it comes to young pitching and pitchers who could potentially develop to that level. It might be a problem in the short term when it comes to trying to figure out who’s worth keeping around and who should be moved via trade, but it’s an exciting problem to have.
The bench also figures to be okay as well, if only because it’s going to receive a huge boost from having Johan Camargo there and you have to hope that Adam Duvall can shake off whatever it was that was causing him to struggle mightily last season and return from what we’re used to seeing from him.
The point is that even if we’re in a bad timeline where the Braves didn’t make any more impact acquisitions from now until Opening Day, the team may actually be in a better position now than this time last season. The main question is whether or not it will be enough to improve upon what they accomplished last season.
There’s plenty of concern surrounding what the rest of the division has done to improve this offseason, but I have to again point out that all the other teams in the division are trying to catch up with the Braves, while the Braves are the ones who are trying to catch up with the title contenders. When it comes to the division, I’d say that the Braves are still fine. This will change if/when one of Atlanta’s divisional rivals picks up one of either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado but for now, they should still be solid contenders in the NL East.
It’ll definitely be tougher since the Nationals should still be good, the Phillies have improved and the Mets for some reason decided that now was the time to spend money when the rest of baseball has seemingly been sitting on their money. But if you compare the Braves to this teams, they’re still in a pretty good position.
Whether it’ll be enough to get deep into the postseason (should they make it) is another story. It’s probably really foolish to try to predict October in January but for the time being, I feel like a lot would have to go the Braves way if they were to advance deep into the postseason if they got out of the NL East gauntlet this season.
We’re actually at the point where I feel like the Braves on-paper are better than they were last season but could still end up with less wins. I’m not saying that there’s going to be a precipitous drop or anything like that, but it seems like 85-88 wins could be possible. That could still have the Braves in the conversation for playoffs and/or a divisional title since you figure that anybody who’s actually trying to contend for the postseason will have to break the 85-win barrier to even be in the conversation.
All of this is speculation and it’s January speculation, at that. The point is that the Braves still have some unfinished business to go about during this offseason. Let’s hope that we get some traction going as we get closer to the season starting. The Braves are fine, but fine may not be good enough at the moment.