The Braves are next up in our season preview. The team won the NL East title in 2020 and made it to the NLCS before being dispatched by the Dodgers. Atlanta will be hungry in 2021 and I expect them to be in a similar position as last year when this season comes to an end.
Key Additions: Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly
Key Subtractions: Darren O’Day, Mark Melancon
The Braves will look somewhat similar to last season. Charlie Culberson left for Texas while Nick Markakis was left out of the plans for 2021. To go along with that, Darren O’Day and Mark Melancon both moved on as well. The team has yet to bring back Shane Greene, but it seems that he’ll more than likely be re-signed. The Brave’s bullpen has been their issue for some time now and with them missing on the two mentioned above and Trevor Rosenthal, getting Greene back becomes imperative.
Adding two veterans to the rotation should be a major help. Smyly will be very interesting to watch given how uncharacteristically great he was in 2020. I don’t think he can sustain last year’s numbers, but he’ll be a nice addition. Morton will be interesting to watch as well. His 2021 campaign was rough, but he was well above average in the four years prior. His stuff didn’t seem to regress so it may have just been a rough patch. One addition that shouldn’t be overlooked is Victor Arano. He was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia in a somewhat surprising move. Arano hasn’t played much in the past two years. He had elbow surgery in 2019 and the Phillies didn’t seem confident in how he looked upon returning. Victor has put up strong numbers as a reliever and may end up a terrific buy-low option for the Braves.
All of the moves made by Atlanta were on the fringes. With how the division promises to be one of the more competitive ones in baseball I’m sure Braves fans would’ve liked to see them be more aggressive. I think the team is just very confident in the talent they have. It isn’t just about who their proven stars are. Although, having Acuña, Albies, and Freeman is a good start. I think the team expects some of the younger, unproven talent to pick up the slack in 2021. Austin Riley, Johan Camargo, William Contreras, and Cristian Pache all will play important roles for this team. The first two mentioned haven’t quite lived up to expectations while the latter don’t have enough appearances to make a judgement. If this team wants to be at their best, those four need to be on top of their game.
The position players aren’t the only ones with pressure on them. There are a few pitchers I’ll be watching closely for the Braves. How Mike Soroka bounces back from his Achilles injury will be a big storyline. He will need to headline the rotation if this team wants to be at their best. Seeing how Ian Anderson handles the adjustment by the league may have a large bearing on the team’s place in the division. His 2020 debut is unsustainable over a full year and he’ll need to handle the adversity well. Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright both need to bounce back as well. It’s impossible to have everyone on your team at their best all at one time, but with the kind of aspirations the Braves do, everyone needs to be aiming for it.
The Braves will have more competition for the NL East title this year compared to last but I expect them to come out on top when the year ends. Realistically, they have the best player in the division in Acuña and with how much room for growth there is I won’t bet against them. Atlanta was on their way to winning 95-100 games last year if it had been a regular year. They’ll be right around there again, eyeing a championship.