At last, a different team! After a much needed day off, the Yankees welcome the Atlanta Braves in Yankee Stadium. Exciting stuff!
The Braves have a nice combination of young exciting players, led by absolute beast Ronald Acuña Jr. (more on him later), and some really nice veterans like Freddie Freeman. They are fresh off a really good season where they were one game away from going to the World Series instead of the eventual champions, the Dodgers.
Their story so far
The Braves are off to a disappointing start (yup, the Yankees are not alone there, I assure you that), going 7-9 while losing 5 of their last 8. In their last series they did take 2 out of three from the Chicago Cubs though, absolutely clobbering them to the tune of a 13-4 win in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game.
Looking at their season team stats so far they are…not good at all. As a team, the Braves are hitting .225/.311/.406 and have a 93 wRC+ (just slightly better than the Yankees 89 value to give you an idea). Their lineup has basically been Acuña Jr. doing Superman stuff, and the rest of the guys barely breaking over the Mendoza line. This will surely change; Freddie Freeman will not keep hitting .232 (and his other stats look good to be fair, he has a really good 146 wRC+ despite that batting average), and Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna are waaaay too good for their 68 and 75 wRC+ values, respectively.
As for the pitching side of things, they haven’t been so hot either combining for a team 5.07 ERA. That’s the third worst value in the majors for the admittedly young season. Their vaunted starting rotation is not off to a good start, with last season standouts Max Fried and Ian Anderson struggling for 46 and 90 ERA+ values, and star addition Charlie Morton struggling as well with a 94 ERA+ (Although his peripherals have been great and seems to be getting BABIP’d). Their bullpen, while not terrible, has been worse than last season after losing key parts Mark Melancon and Shane Greene.
This team is largely unchanged, with the exception of the aforementioned bullpen exits, and it is a pretty talented group of guys that will surely turn it around (huh, that sounds familiar). Let’s just hope that the Bombers remember those old World Series classics against the Braves and turn it around before them.
Both Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. are listed as day to day and we don’t know if they will play in this series. My heart wants Acuña Jr. to play just to see him do amazing stuff. My brain prefers he takes a few days of rest for obvious reasons.
|Player||Position||Injury||Roster Status||Estimated Return|
|Ender Inciarte||OF||Strained harmstring||10-day IL||April 27|
|Cristian Pache||OF||Strained groin||10-day IL||April 24|
|Max Fried||LHP||Strained harmstring||10-day IL||April 24|
|Drew Smily||RHP||Forearm inflammation||10-day IL||April 24|
|Mike Soroka||RHP||Achilles’s tendon surgery/Shoulder discomfort||10-day IL||July 1|
|Touki Toussant||RHP||Strained shoulder||60-day IL||May 28|
|Chris Martin||RHP||Shoulder inflammation||10-day IL||May 12|
|Sean Newcomb||LHP||COVID-19 protocol||COVID-19 IL||April 20|
Spotlight: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Yeah, no other possible selection here. The dude is basically Superman playing baseball right now. He hits bombs like this:
And runs (or better yet flies) like this:
What you just saw in that last tweet video was a 21.13 mph top speed, the MLB average is 18.4, that’s slightly below the fastest footballer in Europe Alphonso Davies (Hello there “baseball doesn’t have athletes” crowd!).
To summarize all that jazz lets just throw his 2021 Statcast percentile values out there:
LOL! That’s just ridiculous. The current reigning NL Player of the week is having a The Show on Rookie difficulty start of the season, slashing a ridiculous .419/.486/.887 (!!!). That’s good for your typical 253 wRC+ value which is best in MLB so far this season. This hot start is driven by his career low chase rate of 16.2%. Acuña Jr has always mashed the ball when he makes contact, and his speed has always been above the 95% of MLB since arriving to the league. If his ever improving patience is for real, we are about to witness a really special season.
|Year||K% Percentile||Whiff% Percentile|
|2021||89 (!!)||89 (!!)|
Basically Acuña has gone from a well below average hitter in terms of strikeouts and swing and misses, to the elite of MLB in the small sample size we have for 2020. There certainly is some regression coming — he has a totally unsustainable .413 BABIP — but there are some real signs of improvement here and the young Venezuelan has already posted a season where he is 50% better than the MLB average in creating runs. This is a Capital S Superstar that hasn’t even reached his peak yet.
I’m really hoping he is good to go against the Yankees, super athletes with big time personalities are just what the league needs and they make the game even more fun. I’m always pro fun, so that’s an easy choice` there even if he absolutely destroys Yankee pitchers. I can count with one hand the number of players I would enjoy watching more than Acuña Jr.
Below is Roster Resource’s projected lineup along with year-to-date stats in parentheses:
- RF Ronald Acuña Jr. (.419/.486/.887, 253 wRC+) (Yup, that’s ridiculous)
- 1B Freddie Freeman (.232/.394/.536, 146 wRC+)
- LF Marcell Ozuna (.230/.329/.279, 75 wRC+)
- C Travis d’Arnaud (.226/.250/.396, 71 wRC+)
- 2B Ozzie Albies (.157/.262/.353, 68 wRC+)
- SS Dansby Swanson (.203/.299/.322, 75 wRC+)
- 3B Austin Riley (.213/.321/.213, 55 wRC+)
- CF Guillermo Heredia (.273/.467/.818, 219 wRC+)
- C Alex Jackson
- 1B/3B Pablo Sandoval (Yeah, that’s still a thing. And get this: he is absolutely mashing to the tune of a 361 OPS+ in and admittedly small but still awesome sample size of 12 PA)
- INF Sean Kazmar Jr.
- INF/OF Ehire Adrianza
- INF/OF Johan Camargo
I would expect the Braves to ride the hell out of that Kung Fu Panda hot start with the DH in Yankee Stadium, and given the general state of the offense it wouldn’t even surprise me to see him very high in the lineup.
RHP Charlie Morton
Good old Charlie Morton, he’s back in town now representing the Braves and I can’t say I’ve missed him. He is always a tough go for the Yanks. His last start against the Marlins he allowed 5 runs (all earned) in 6 innings while striking out 9, walking 2 and allowing 7 hits (1 HR). (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Jameson Taillon
Taillon got rocked in his last start against the Blue Jays. He had a rough second inning that really took the wind out of his sails. In general terms his stuff has looked good, his spin rates and velo are looking really good, he is locating the fastball up and getting strikeouts. Let’s hope he turns it around soon. (Stats vs. Braves)
RHP Ian Anderson
The former third overall pick of the 2016 Draft has a solid but unspectacular three pitch mix of 94 mph Fastball, 88 mph changeup and 80 mph Curveball; he doesnt have crazy velo or spin rates but seems to generate a lot of whiffs with decent enough control. His last start he went 5 innings against the Marlins, allowing 3 runs (all earned) while striking out 6, walking 4 and allowing 6 hits (no HR). (Stats vs. Yankes)
RHP Corey Kluber
Similar to Taillon, Kluber was hit around in his last start against the Blue Jays. The command seems to be coming and going and he will hopefuly find it soon and turn it around as well. (Stats vs. Braves)
In general terms, their bullpen is pretty fresh given the Monday day off and the absolute beating to the Cubs on Sunday. The only compromised arm for the first game might be middle reliever Luke Jackson.
Their best bullpen arm is lefty closer Will Smith, who features an 83 mph slider and 94 mph fastball about half of the time each. He pound the bottom of the zone and makes hitters chase the slider for whiffs, even though he doesnt have the best spin rates or velo he does generate a fair share of whiffs and generally does well against hitters both sides of the plate.
From the rest of the guys the most interesting arms are lefty Tyler Matzek and righty Nate Jones. Matzek is reviving his career after quite some time from his top prospect days. He still features a high octane fastball and nasty slider which both have excellent 90+ percentile spin rates. His control is not good at all but the stuff is nasty and he generates lots of whiffs. Jones is a personal favorite of mine that finally seems to be healthy. He features a high velocity, high spin, and high movement sinker along with a decent slider; generally he’s good for both strikeouts and grounders and does well against hitters from both sides of the plate.