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Braves Mailbag: To DH or not to DH

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Atlanta Braves Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Once again I would like to thank everyone for the great mailbag questions. We received an overwhelming response and I will try to do this again right after the Winter Meetings. Let’s get to it.

Obviously, the Braves pursuit of Marcell Ozuna is contingent upon the DH becoming a permanent part of the National League. My question is, does anyone know if/when meetings between MLB and the Players Union are scheduled? Will this be decided quickly or could it drag on into the new year or maybe even Spring Training?

How long can the Braves afford to wait to get a ruling on the DH in the NL without losing out on other possible free agents besides Ozuna?

I’m lumping these two questions together because they are related. I think it is absurd that we still don’t know whether the universal DH will be sticking around for next season. It is putting teams like the Braves in a tough spot but also is having a negative effect on the players. Discussions on the topic have reportedly happened, but there has been virtually no news that has come from it and unlike some of the past discussions, these negotiations are not being played out through the media.

I don’t think the Braves or other teams can afford to wait around. The problem is that for players like Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz, it would be in their best interest to wait for an announcement. Now that Adam Duvall has been non-tendered, the Braves are going to have to address left field. In a perfect world they can add an offensive threat in the outfield and then if the DH sticks, add Ozuna as well. For now all we can do is wait and honestly it is just another example of how tough these next CBA negotiations are going to be between the league and the players. My thinking is that the DH will be in the National League next season simply because it makes too much sense and is too valuable for the players. However, the longer we go without an announcement, the more doubt creeps in.

With no designated hitter in 2021, what position do you think the big bat behind Freddie will man in the field?

I think this question jumps the gun a bit on there not being a DH in the National League as I discussed above, but the answer for me has to be left field, as that is the most glaring need at the moment. I guess there is a chance that they could trade for or sign a third baseman, but signing an outfielder seems like the most likely scenario for me at the moment.

Who should Atlanta value more: Michael Brantley or George Springer?

One of those isn’t like the other. Springer is a bonafide star that is capable of playing all three outfield positions. He is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, position player free agents available this offseason. Springer should get one of the biggest contracts that is handed out this winter. Brantley is no slouch but he is two years older and is limited to a corner outfield position or DH at this point. He could be had on a shorter deal and in my opinion is more in play for Atlanta than Springer.

Outside of Travis d’Arnaud, what do you see our catchers looking like in 2021? I think I would be ok with Alex Jackson being the back up for a few reasons: (A) he’s had the most experience and it feels like it’s the time to see what he is as there are two-three guys climbing quickly. (B) By doing that, Contreras probably gets the bulk of playing time at AAA, making him an easy switch or call up if need be and he’s preforming well…. Maybe?

I don’t think you are too off but I am not sure it will be Jackson. Jackson has come a long way and is regarded by some as one of the most accomplished pitch framers in the minor leagues. He hasn’t hit at the Major League level but hasn’t seen an extended opportunity either. I think the scenario you described could work. I do think that Contreras spends most of the season at Triple-A (provided there is a minor league season) and could be an option at some point.

I also think that same scenario could play out with the Braves signing a veteran catcher like Tyler Flowers for a one-year deal if they don’t believe that Jackson is the answer. This is one of the storylines of this offseason that I am most interested in.

Alex Anthopoulos’ MO regarding prospects has been puzzling to me. Specifically in his unwillingness to move high-ceiling/low-floor SP prospects like Touki Toussaint for major-league talent, it seems he’s limited his opportunities to improve the club. Braves fans have been waiting for the move for several seasons now but it hasn’t come. What do y’all think that strategy is? What’s the AA Doctrine regarding prospects?

I think you are overstating the value that Touki Toussaint might have had but I understand where you are coming from with the question. From what we can gleam from Anthopoulos’ first three seasons in Atlanta is that they value their prospects and their young players tremendously and for good reason. When you hit on a prospect they are a cost-controlled asset that teams have tremendous leverage over. It is a much cheaper option than playing at the top end of free agency every winter.

The other big thing that comes to my mind when we discuss Anthopoulos’ strategy is flexibility. They simply don’t appear to be interested in tying up money on long-term deals. I think the MO is that they simply value their prospects and think they can develop them into everyday players. It will be interesting to see if this strategy adjusts over the next couple of seasons as they see more prospects graduate to the majors.

Let’s assume that the DH does eventually get implemented into the NL for the 2021 season & the decision comes sort of late such that NL teams have only a short time to adjust their rosters (basically the same situation as 2020). Now, the question…What are the chances in this scenario that Bryce Ball makes his MLB debut before Drew Waters? I guess what I’m getting at is, were there any reports coming out of the Braves’ alt site last year that might indicate that Ball’s bat is really close or at least closer than that of Waters’?

I would say that there is little to no chance of this happening. While I am high on Ball, he has just 90 at-bats at Low A. He was in spring training and at the alternate site in 2020 but reports suggested that he was overmatched at times against the advanced pitching. Given his lack of experience, that shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. A lot has been made about Waters’ late cup of coffee at Gwinnett in 2019 but I think it is getting to the point that it is overblown a bit. Yes there is room for improvement with his approach, but he is the same guy that skipped High-A and dominated the Southern League before his promotion to Gwinnett. Reports out of the alternate site were that he got stronger and improved at the plate. He is overshadowed defensively because of the presence of Cristian Pache but could play center if needed. I don’t think there is any chance we see Ball in Atlanta in 2021 but Waters has a chance to force his way into the picture at some point.