The Braves had several breakout stars that allowed them to nearly make the World Series last year. Players like Max Fried, AJ Minter, and Tyler Matzek all took a step forward in their development and greatly improved in 2020. If nobody else breaks out in 2021, the Braves will fail to win the improved NL East. Atlanta needs several players to improve next season to be competitive once again.
1. Austin Riley
Riley burst into the season in 2019 but slowed down as the season went on. Last season, he won the position battle against Johan Camargo and became the everyday third basemen. He only hit .239 and was very inconsistent throughout the season. Riley went a stretch of ten games dominating every at-bat and then he would strike out every at-bat in his next ten. If he can become more consistent in his third season, he could become an integral part of the Braves’ lineup. He has shown the potential to be successful at the MLB level, but he just needs to do it more often.
Swanson was the number one overall draft pick in the 2015 draft but has never quite reached his full potential. There was so much hype surrounding him when he came out of Vanderbilt but has just been an average MLB player. In fact, the second pick in that draft, Alex Bregman, turned out to be the star of the draft instead of Swanson. He had a career-high batting average of .274 last season, which is nothing special. Hopefully, he can continue to improve and finally live up to the attention he received early in his career.
Pache is the number one overall prospect in the Braves farm system. After Adam Duvall got injured in the NLCS last season, Pache replaced him in the outfield. He hit .183 in his 23 at-bats, which is to be expected when one makes their debut in the playoffs. Scouts have said that Pache has All-Star level defense but minor league offense. He will likely be the starting center fielder and needs to be a defensive star in order to cover for Marcell Ozuna, who will be playing left. Even if he doesn’t make an impact with his bat, he is sure to be a star with his glove.
4. Ian Anderson
The Braves couldn’t find a reliable pitcher behind Max Fried in 2020. They tried several different pitchers, but none were successful. Atlanta was forced to bring up Anderson, their top pitching prospect, a year earlier than they wanted to. Although some thought he wasn’t ready, Anderson came out and was a star. He had a 1.95 ERA in the regular season and a 0.95 ERA in the postseason. Anderson will likely be the number three starter behind Fried and Mike Soroka and should be able to replicate his success once again in 2021.
5. Kyle Wright
Wright was not a good starting pitcher during the regular season last year. Due to injured, the Braves had nobody else and were forced to give him more chances than he deserved. He had a 5.21 ERA and was sent down to the alternate site. When he came back up to the majors, he was a completely different pitcher. In his last three starts, he pitched at least 6 innings in each and gave up at most three runs. If he can carry that momentum into next season, he could fit in as the final starter in Atlanta’s rotation.