Through 19 games of Spring Training, the Atlanta Braves have raced out to an 11-8 start, tied for third in the Grapefruit League behind the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees. They are equal to the Toronto Blue Jays in terms of winning percentage. The Braves have won their last three games including seven of their last 10.
2021 Atlanta Braves: Spring Training Stars
So far, the Braves have been led by infielder Ehire Adrianza and third baseman Sean Kazmar Jr. Adrian paces the team with 11 hits in 23 at-bats. He has scored five runs, adding four doubles and home run. In addition, he has even walked six times for an impressive .600 on-base percentage. Adrianza’s slash line of .478/.600/.783 might earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster as a utility infielder.
Kazmar has only had 14 at-bats so far, but he has made the most of them. He had seven hits with four extra-base hits. He has mashed a trio of home runs, fueling a gnarly 1.214 slugging percentage. His .500/.632/1.214 slash line is admirable. Kazmar is unlikely to make the Opening Day roster, but he has been a nice story this spring.
2021 Atlanta Braves: Young Player Check-in
Many eyes have been on Cristian Pache and Ian Anderson so far in the spring. For the 2021 Atlanta Braves, Pache and Anderson will be providing a boost to the outfield and rotation respectively. How have they performed so far in the spring?
Pache has had a less than stellar spring to this point. In 23 at-bats, Pache has just a pair of hits, although one was a triple. His .087/.192/.174 slash line is ghastly. He has struck out nine times, tied for most on the team.
If there is a bright side to his abysmal start, Pache is more likely to be the Opening Day centerfielder than he was at the beginning of the spring as incumbent Ender Inciarte has been battling injuries. Even with Pache’s struggles at the plate, he should be one of the best defensive outfielders as soon as he establishes himself.
Anderson has been a mixed bag in his 9.2 innings so far. On one hand, he has an ERA of 4.66 and has a WHIP of 1.45. On the other hand, he leads the team with 18 strikeouts, an absurd 16.76 K/9 clip. He will not maintain that during the regular season (2020’s leader was Shane Bieber with a 14.2 K/9 clip), but it is encouraging for Anderson to have a high strikeout rate.
In his approximately 50 innings in 2020 (32 in the regular season, 18 in the playoffs), Anderson struck out 65 batters. According to StatCast, Anderson was among the best in MLB at avoiding hard hit balls. He was in the top-10 percentile in expected ERA, expected wOBA, expecting batting average, and expected slugging.
Furthermore, Anderson was in the 79th percentile in strikeout rate and in the 66th percentile in whiff percentage. If Anderson can maintain his strikeout rate and trim his walk rate to a league-average mark, he could be the best pitcher in a Braves rotation with two pitchers (Mike Soroka and Max Fried) that have earned All-MLB honors in the last two seasons.
2021 Atlanta Braves: The Rotation
Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly, Fried, and Anderson will serve as the four primary starters when the season begins. Morton and Fried have dazzled in March. Morton has a WHIP of 1.09 across seven frames, allowing zero runs. Fried has scattered two runs across 10 innings, good for a 1.80 ERA. The 2020 breakout star has a WHIP of 0.60, bolstered by his lack of walks so far. Smyly was tagged for five runs across his first four innings of play.
Atlanta must make a decision for the fifth spot in the rotation, at least until Soroka returns (likely at the end of April or the beginning of May). Bryse Wilson seems to be the leader in the clubhouse at this point. He has a 1.98 ERA across a team-leading 13.2 innings this spring. His 1.39 WHIP is less than stellar, but preventing runs is the name of the game. When Soroka returns, Wilson could compete with Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation, or he could fill a role in the bullpen.
2021 Atlanta Braves: Other Notes
The Braves plan to open Truist Park to 33% capacity, although the capacity may fluctuate throughout the season. Atlanta’s first home games will be against the Philadelphia Phillies beginning on April 9.
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