The Braves nearly made it to the World Series last year, but they didn’t have the depth to do so. The rest of the teams they are competing against in the NL, such as the Dodgers, Padres and Mets, all have improved. Atlanta already signed Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to improve their own team, but that likely won’t be enough to compete with these other organizations. If they want to stay at the top tier of the MLB in 2021, they need a few players within the organization to take a step forward in their development.
During 2020, both of these players got opportunities at third base. Towards the end of the year, Riley became the full-time starter, but didn’t play particularly well. Riley hit .239 and Camargo hit .200. The Braves need one of the two to step up and be a productive starter. The top of the lineup, led by MVP Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, was arguably the best in the league. The rest of the lineup, however, was unable to score at pivotal points throughout the season. There is a chance Ozuna might walk in free agency, so Atlanta will need a power hitter to replace him and hit behind Freeman. Third base was the only obvious hole in their batting order and if Riley or Camargo can play well, Atlanta’s offense will be as potent as ever.
2. Will Smith
The Braves signed Smith to a three-year, $40 million contract last year and he did not live up to it. He was, at best, the fifth-best arm in the bullpen, behind stars like Shane Greene and Mark Melancon. This is unacceptable for a man who is the fourth highest-paid bullpen pitcher in the league. He had a 4.50 ERA, which is horrible for a player who is bringing in that much. Before he signed with the Braves, he had an ERA under 3.00 each of the last three years, so the Braves know he is capable of succeeding. Greene and Melancon are both free agents, so if they walk, Smith must pitch like the all-star he was paid to be.
Going into 2021, the Braves only have three outfielders who will make their roster. If this holds, Atlanta will have to start Ender Inciarte. He had a career-low batting average of .190 during 2020, which is unacceptable for a starting outfielder. Additionally, he had a -0.6 WAR, which means he was not even good enough to be on a MLB roster. The Braves have not signed anyone to replace him yet, so they need Inciarte to step up next season. The 30-year-old has a career batting average of .282, so if he can play at that level, he will be a sufficient option for Atlanta in the outfield.
In 2018, Foltynewicz was an All-Star and was Atlanta’s ace. He had a 2.85 ERA and led the majors in shutouts. During the first half of 2019, he wasn’t the same pitcher. He got sent down to the minors and came back to his stellar form in the second half of the season after he came back to the majors. His velocity and location was off at the start of 2020 and only had one start. He pitched 3.1 innings and gave up 6 ER to the Tampa Bay Rays. Atlanta has said that he improved and looked better at the alternate site as time went on. If this is true and he can pitch like he did in 2018, Atlanta’s rotation would have three All-Star quality pitchers and would have a rotation to be feared.
“From Our Haus to Yours“