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Braves Mailbag: Internal outfield options, Austin Riley, lineup construction and more

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You ask, we answer.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This is our first mailbag of 2019 and we are going to stick with this probably on a bi-weekly basis through the season so be sure to keep those questions coming. Let’s get right to it.

Should Austin Riley be considered “untouchable” in trade talks?

Austin Riley is one of my personal favorite prospects, however I don’t believe anyone on the current roster beyond Ronald Acuna Jr and maybe Freddie Freeman are worthy of the “untouchable” label.

Riley’s top prospect status is naturally going to make him a target for opposing teams in trade discussions. Rumors suggest that his name has come up in discussions with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto but those talks haven’t resulted in a completed deal.

Given that they have Josh Donaldson and Johan Camargo currently, the Braves would be warranted to listen to offers for Riley. They can be selective in the process but It is my opinion that they should not turn away from a deal if it will help fill a need on the current roster.

Is Carmargo athletic enough to roam LF on a full time basis for the club? Would the braves consider starting Riley in RF?

This has been a popular questions since Alex Anthopoulos mentioned that we could see Camargo and Riley in the outfield during spring training. Atlanta is still looking for an outfielder so this question will persist until that slot is filled. Still I am not buying Camargo or Riley are serious options to play there on a regular basis.

Camargo has played exactly one inning in the outfield in his major league career. He is a great defender on the infielder but his lack of experience there could make the transition a bit rocky. Same with Riley who has played exclusively on the infield since being drafted.

The defensive improvement the Braves made in 2018 was a big underlying reason for their improvement. I don’t think they will stray far from that focus this season. Of the two I’d say there is a greater chance that Camargo may get the opportunity to show he can handle left but at this point, I do not think it is something they will be relying on.

Since the desirable outfielders for trade don’t seem to be available and those who may be available are likely outside the Braves’ comfort zone in terms of the return they would give up, what free agents other than Marwin Gonzalez would be a better bridge to Pache/Waters/Jenista than Markakis?

I’m not sure signing Markakis for one season would be an actual bridge to Pache or Waters because neither may be ready until 2021. It seems that the Braves are looking to acquire a multi-year option for the outfield via trade or will likely turn to free agency for a possible stop gap solution.

I think Marwin Gonzalez is actually an interesting name depending on the price. He is a super utility player and would duplicate Johan Camargo in many ways but has actually put up solid defensive numbers in the corner outfield slots. Of course it all comes back to price and we haven’t seen much buzz linking the Braves to any of the free agent options in a while. There are still guys out there like A.J. Pollack that make a lot of sense on some levels but the asking price right now doesn’t seem like something the Braves would consider.

I wonder the longer that the longer this goes if it increases the chances of a Markakis return perhaps on a two-year deal that contains a team option for the second year. It would not be my preferred solution but his familiarity should give him a boost over the other stop gap options.

Lets assume the Braves resign Markakis for this question. What is your 2019 preferred Braves lineup?

For me it all comes down to the clean up spot and the Braves don’t have a great option there currently beyond Acuna or Donaldson.

1. Albies - 2B
2. Donaldson - 3B
3. Freeman - 1B
4. Acuna - LF
5. Flowers/McCann - C
6. Markakis - RF
7. Swanson - SS
8. Inciarte - CF

This would assume that Albies would be able to make some adjustments and handle the lead off spot. Acuna and Donaldson could swap and if you elected to hit Donaldson fourth, then Acuna could also go back to the top of the order.

There are options there but it would be nice if the Braves could add a corner outfielder that was also capable of hitting fourth. That would go a long way in stabilizing their lineup.

People have been asking the braves to acquire a frontline starter to pair with Folty at the top of the rotation. What do you think the chances are that Soroka/Touki/Newk/Gohara becomes that guy this year?

I honestly think this is one reason Alex Anthopoulos has been slow to move his prospect capital. The Braves value these guys highly and why trade for a high priced player if they have a guy that is under team control that will eventually be able to fill that role.

Luiz Gohara looked like he might be that guy at the end of 2017 but his 2018 season was a wash. Mike Soroka looked the part during a short stint last season before a shoulder injury put him on the shelf. Atlanta has so many pitching prospects it is going to be a challenge but I think they are hoping a couple of those guys can take big steps forward in 2019.