Our roundtable series continues with a look at the outfield and what the situation will look like on Opening Day. Barring injury, Ronald Acuña Jr and Marcell Ozuna will play everyday but that third spot appears to be up in the air. Should we expect a trade?
What will the Braves outfield situation look like on Opening Day?
Kris Willis - Unlike some, I think the Braves will at least begin the season with five outfielders on the 26-man roster for Opening Day. Alex Anthopoulos already indicated that the plan is for Ronald Acunña Jr and Marcell Ozuna to play everyday. If healthy, I expect to see slotted into centerfield on a semi-regular basis. Having Adam Duvall would allow the Braves to slide Acuña over to center against tough left-handers while Nick Markakis steps into the Matt Joyce role which he should excel at. If Inciarte shows he is healthy then I think he becomes a trade candidate as soon as Cristian Pache is ready to take over in center.
Ivan - I have no idea who the Diamondbacks are going to throw out there on Opening Day (you could legitimately make a case for four of their five starters, except Mike Leake). That means there’s a 50 percent chance of a lefty starting… which should entail an Ozuna-Acuña-Duvall outfield. But, let’s be real, lefty or righty on the mound, I’m not gonna say that Markakis won’t be there, because he’ll always be there. The players could strike in 2022 and somehow he’d still manning an outfield spot for the Braves during a suspended season.
Scott Coleman - I’ll say it’s Ozuna, Acuña and Duvall with the assumption Ray or Bumgarner start for a Diamondbacks team that could be sneaky good. My guess is (barring trade) they roll with six outfielders (those three above plus Markakis, Ender and Culberson, if you can call him an outfielder) and let it ride. They can afford it with the extra roster spot.
Eric Cole - I don’t have a good read on the outfield situation at the moment. Acuna and Ozuna are locks for 145+ games unless injuries happen, but the split between Duvall, Inciarte, and Markakis is a tough one. I would probably prefer a platoon of Duvall and Inciarte just because I do think that Ender is, defensively, more valuable than Markakis is offensively when comparing the two lefty bats. Oddly enough, I think that of the three outfielders, Duvall is most likely to be the odd man out if they don’t carry all of them because he is on a non-guaranteed contract, but the 26 man rosters makes carrying the extra guy a bit easier. I also think that Markakis will end up getting a lot more playing time than he probably should, because, well, he always does.
AB - Ozuna, Acuña, and the reanimated corpse of Markakis. One of the rest will have to stake Nick in the heart for the third spot, and Inciarte might in the best position to do it. If he hit the way he did after his first injury last year, the Braves might have a top 5 outfield.
Daniel H-K - With Bumgarner presumably set up to start for Arizona, the opening day outfield should be Ozuna, Acuna, Duvall. That being said, I expect Ozuna and Acuna to both play 145-155 games, Duvall to play mostly against lefties, Markakis to start 30-40 games to give people rest, and Inciarte to take the lion’s share of the games in center field until Cristian Pache or Drew Waters can force their way up and take over center field.
Shawn Coleman - If the Braves stand pat, the logical trio would be Acuna, Ozuna, and Duvall as the Braves will very likely be facing Madison Bumgarner. However, I do feel that Braves make at least one other move before the season, and that an outfield piece will be involved. With the presence of Riley, Waters, and Pache as eventual outfield options as the season progresses, Duvall seems to be the most expendable piece of the group.
If a move is made involving Duvall, expect Inciarte to get the bulk of the starts to begin the season. In my opinion, in terms of overall value, an Acuna, Inciarte,and Ozuna outfield has the highest potential of any combination the Braves can create, especially on defense. Therefore, regardless if another move is made or not, I feel that is the outfield alignment that the Braves will eventually settle on as their most frequent starting lineup.
Anthony Traurig: Although I am opening myself up to get burned yet again, I do think that the outfield lineup on Opening Day will be Ozuna, Inciarte, and Acuña unless the Diamondbacks’ starter justifies starting Duvall over Inciarte. When Markakis was re-signed this offseason, Anthopoulos said that they spoke to Markakis about a different role, and the signing of Ozuna further indicates that maybe – just maybe – this is the season that Markakis is used properly in a bench role. Inciarte could be very valuable defensively in center field, especially since Ozuna’s defense hasn’t been great the past two seasons. I think Duvall will get some starts against lefties, but I think Inciarte will be preferred over Markakis against righties.
Cory McCartney: As Alex Anthopoulos said the night of the Marcell Ozuna announcement, the Braves have two everyday outfielders in the new signing and Ronald Acuña Jr. So who mans that third spot when they take the field on March 26 vs. the Diamondbacks? If the game was being played in Truist Park, the odds would be on Nick Markakis as a ceremonial nod for the veteran, whose innings are going to take a major hit this season. But Atlanta is opening up in Arizona, and with the expectation that the D-backs will go with lefty Madison Bumgarner on the mound, Adam Duvall and his career .791 OPS vs. southpaws makes him the favorite to be in right field, with Acuña in center and Ozuna in left.
Brent Blackwell: It’s hard to predict what the OF section of the roster will look like at that point - an Ender Inciarte trade wouldn’t surprise me at all - but if the Braves carry the current slate of players into Arizona, I would start Ozuna (7), Acuna (8), and Duvall (9) against Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner relied more on his four seamer in 2019 than any season since 2011, so why not give Duvall, who specifically crushes lefties (check) and sits on fastballs (check), the start? Brian Snitker may opt for an opening day lineup, on the other hand, that better resembles what he expects the everyday lineup to look like. That could mean Inciarte in center or Markakis in right. I’d go with Inciarte, to help make up for Marcell Ozuna’s limited range.
Demetrius Bell: The easy answer would be Acuña, Ozuna, and Inciarte getting the majority of starts with Duvall and Markakis coming in as situational bench guys. That’s very likely going to be the trio that we see roaming the outfield for the majority of this season and it makes sense. Y’all don’t need me to tell you why Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna need to be in there, but Inciarte can still provide plenty of value to the team based on his defense alone. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best defensive players in the game and while it’s likely that his bat has already hit his ceiling (as evidenced by the fact that his wRC+ has been floating in the 90s since he’s been in Atlanta), his glove still warrants him getting plenty of time in the outfield. I’m not going to get into any trade hypotheticals right now since a lot of things have come out of the blue with regards to this current front office, but I feel like as long as things are like they are with the outfield, then it’s pretty easy to see who’s going to be getting the lion’s share of opportunities in the outfield.
Dillon Cloud: Specifically on Opening Day, I hope to see an outfield alignment that includes any three outfielders whose names are not Nick Markakis. Whether that stations Ender Inciarte in center field, flanked by Ronald Acuna and Marcell Ozuna, or Acuna in center, flanked by Ozuna and Adam Duvall, the lineup will be better without Markakis in it. That line of thinking should apply to the season in its entirety, though Brian Snitker is unlikely to formulate his lineup accordingly.