The 2019 Braves had their most wins (97) since 2003. The regular season went extremely well for the plucky Braves, as they duplicated their NL East crown from 2018, but they were dumped out of the playoffs for the 10th consecutive playoff series. What will change in 2020? Here is a look at statistical projections for 10 Braves.
All 2020 projections via baseball-reference.com
Ronald Acuna Jr.
2019: .280/.365/.518/.883, 41 home runs, 101 runs batted in, 37 stolen bases
2020 statistical projections: .288/.369/.542/.911, 35 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 23 stolen bases
Ronald Acuna Jr. flirted with the 40-40 club before falling just short on stolen bases. The projections anticipate a dip in stolen bases, but Acuna could hammer out 30 to 35 more steals in 2020. In 2019, Acuna finished second in the NL with 188 strikeouts, an alarming total, especially considering his pedestrian walk rate. At 22, Acuna still has room to grow, but an on-base percentage closer to .400 would be fabulous for Atlanta’s lead-off man.
2019: .295/.352/.500/.852, 24 home runs, 86 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases
2020 statistical projections: .286/.342/.493/.825, 23 home runs, 76 runs batted in, 13 stolen bases
Ozzie Albies led the NL in hits in 2019, a feat he could replicate if he comes to the plate as much as he did in 2019. Despite matching his home run tally from 2018, Albies raised his OPS by 95 points from extra doubles, triples, and walks. If Albies can continue to place in the top 10 in terms of extra-base hits, he will provide plenty of scoring opportunities for the heart of the Atlanta lineup.
2019: .295/.389/.549/.938, 38 home runs, 121 runs batted in
2020 statistical projections: .293/.379/.527/.907, 29 home runs, 94 runs batted in
Freddie Freeman had his third season in four years with an OPS above .900. Freeman slugged an incredible 38 home runs in 2019, his second season over 30. With Josh Donaldson heading to Minnesota, the Braves will once again lean on Freeman to drive in runs and extend innings regularly. Freeman is likely to finish in the top 10 in doubles, home runs, and walks if given enough plate appearances. No National Leaguer has been on base more times than Freeman has over the last two seasons.
2019 (60 games with the Mets plus 24 games with the Braves): .241/.299/.443/.742, 9 home runs, 33 runs batted in
2020 statistical projections: .248/.294/.413/.707, 11 home runs, 39 runs batted in
Adeiny Hechavarria was a tale of two halves in 2019. With the Mets, Hechavarria was a well-below average hitter, posting an OPS+ of 62. However, Atlanta seemed to breathe life into the shortstop as slashed .328/.400/.639/1.039 in 70 plate appearances with the Braves. If Hechavarria could extrapolate those numbers over 500 to 600 plate appearances, he would become an elite shortstop. It is extraordinarily unlikely that the soon-to-be 31-year-old continues to produce at that rate, but any offensive production would be beneficial to the 2020 Braves.
2019: .285/.356/.420/.776 9 home runs, 62 runs batted in
2020 statistical projections: .275/.347/.409/.757 10 home runs, 63 runs batted in
Nick Markakis took a step back in 2019. After making his first All-Star appearance in 2018, Markakis missed a chunk of 2019. If Markakis plays 150 games again, he should be in line for about 160 hits and 45 to 50 extra-base hits. An OPS over .800 would go a long way for the right fielder. Assuming Markakis stays healthy, he should get to the 2,500-hit plateau in August or September.
2019 (with St. Louis): .241/.328/.472/.800, 29 home runs, 89 runs batted in
2020 statistical projections: .271/.338/.477/.815, 26 home runs, 84 runs batted in
Marcell Ozuna cooked the Braves in the 2019 NLDS, and the Braves hope to capture that same magic in 2020. The Braves would love for the Ozuna to strike gold in a similar way to 2019 Josh Donaldson, but Ozuna may have used his miracle season already. Ozuna should contend for 30 home runs if given enough plate appearances, but the Braves would love to get the 2017 version of Ozuna. In 2017, Ozuna had an insane slash line of .312/.376/.548/.924, which would be ideal in the middle of Atlanta’s 2020 lineup.
2019: .251/.325/.422, 17 home runs, 65 runs batted in
2020 statistical projections: .248/.321/.410/.731, 15 home runs, 61 runs batted in
Dansby Swanson has improved in every season in the Majors. In similar at-bats, Swanson has improved in total hits, doubles, home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. If Swanson can play 150 games and can continue to improve as a hitter, Swanson could potentially move to third base if Austin Riley never learns how to hit off-speed pitches. As cliche as it sounds, this is a huge year for the former #1 overall draft pick.
2019: 8-6, 4.54 ERA, 105 strikeouts, 1.248 WHIP
2020 statistical projections: 9-8, 3.24 ERA, 137 strikeouts, 1.257 WHIP
Mike Foltynewicz fell off massively in 2019. After posting an ERA+ of 143 in 2018, he fell to an ERA+ of 100 in 2019: the definition of average. If Foltynewicz plays closer to his 2018 form, the Braves will have fewer questions in terms of rotation depth, and the Braves would have a true second option to Mike Soroka. Is 2018 an aberration, or is it something that Foltynewicz can access again in 2020? Time will tell.
2019: 17-6, 4.02 ERA, 173 strikeouts, 1.334 WHIP
2020 statistical projections: 11-7, 4.04 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 1.319 WHIP
Max Fried enjoyed a breakout 2019 season, starting 30 games and finishing second in the NL in wins. While wins are an incredible pitching metric, Fried posted a career-low in WHIP and walks allowed per nine innings. If Fried can continue to control his walk numbers, he will be incredibly effective on the mound and serve as the second ace to Soroka.
2019: 13-4, 2.68 ERA, 142 strikeouts, 1.111 WHIP
2020 statistical projections: 11-5, 3.24 ERA, 137 strikeouts, 1.167 WHIP
Mike Soroka was stellar in 2019, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting and second in Rookie of the Year voting. While the rest of baseball allowed home runs at an alarming rate, Soroka posted the best home runs allowed per nine innings mark in the NL. Soroka was second in the NL in ERA+ behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and third in normal ERA behind Ryu and NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. Soroka is not a guarantee to replicate 2019, but the underlying metrics support Soroka’s bright future.
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