Cole Hamels raised a red flag in February as the left-hander was unable to report to camp due to a shoulder injury. Given his age and the mileage on his arm, fans were understandably concerned, thanks in large part to the sizable financial commitment the Braves made to Hamels this offseason.
After a four-month delay in the start of the season, Hamels now appears to be healthy, according to GM Alex Anthopoulos.
“He’s feeling great,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “We’ll see how things progress with each of our guys and how much we can get them stretched out before Opening Day. But right now in terms of our projections, he’s somebody we plan to carry with us at the start of this year.”
The club should have plenty of depth in the rotation to begin the season, and adding Hamels will certainly be a boost. Teamed with the youthful arms already making up a large part of the Atlanta staff, Hamels should bring some stability if he is indeed fully healthy.
Cory runs through nine of the biggest storylines for the Braves heading into the abbreviated “Spring Training” that will begin on July 1.
3. What’s realistic for Acuna?
It seems like eons ago that Ozzie Albies was bypassing 40/40 and jumping all the way to 50/50 for The Pheñom’s next trick. That’s a pipe dream now, but what is realistic for the now 22-year-old? Acuña had a strong start to 2019, below-league-average May aside, as he hit .280/.474/.839 over 266 plate appearances in the first 60 games with 117 wRC+ and .355 wOBA. But he stole just eight bases to go with his 12 home runs and in the last 60, swiped 21 and homered 18 times. That 60-game sample from ‘19 was in line with what Acuña did during his NL Rookie of the Year 2018 from a home run (12) and steals (seven) standpoint, but given the way he ended ‘19, it’s not outside the realm of reason to think that he could make a run at 20/20 even in 2020. It would be impressive nonetheless given they are playing just 60 games, but consider that in a full season, Andruw Jones (2000) and Jason Heyward (2012) were the only two Braves this century to reach 20/20 year before Acuña’s run at 40/40 last season.
In case you missed it, the baseball is back podcast from TC.
Check out some of the milestones that could potentially be within reach this season. A number of these marks would almost certainly have been reached in a full season, but others will be possible nonetheless.
Josh Donaldson checks in at number four, while Marcell Ozuna checks in at number nine.
“September Baseball” will carry a whole new meaning in 2020, as the abbreviated season will create an unprecedented amount of emphasis on each game down the stretch.