Publish date:

4 BRAVES

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP ATLANTA

Their ace is going to be Julio Teheran for now. Not for long. They've got a couple of guys who will pass him in time. He's a No. 2 or a 3 on a good team, and they're getting there.... The bullpen is typical Atlanta: hard throwers with command issues. What [ex-president] John Hart did was go out and acquire the best arms and hope the team could teach them how to pitch.... They're fortunate for a building team: They have two great veteran catchers in Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, who handles pitchers as well as anybody. Even though Flowers has more power, Suzuki has more game power, because he can set pitchers up. He had 19 home runs last year, and he knew what pitches were coming for all of them.... People are really excited about Ozzie Albies. He's a future All-Star. He makes good contact, he can run, and his energy level is great.... Dansby Swanson hasn't made any offensive strides at all. I don't know if it's strength or pitch selectivity, but something's missing. He can play defense, but will he ever be an elite shortstop? I don't think so.... Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis have two of the most accurate arms. They hit the cutoff man, get rid of the ball quick, throw guys out. By the second half of the year, their outfield is going to be one of the most productive in the big leagues.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

Most of the attention for the Braves this year will be focused on rookies Ronald Acuña (outfield) and Ozzie Albies (second base), who will lead a wave of young talent that could have Atlanta pushing for an NL East title in 2019. But the infusion of youth shouldn't distract from the Braves' MVP candidate, Freddie Freeman. Freeman, 28, was sixth in NL MVP voting two years ago and was on his way to a career year last May when he was hit by a pitch on his left wrist. That cost him seven weeks and a lot of his power. The first baseman still set career highs in OBP (.403) and slugging (.586), and mashed 28 homers in just 117 games. Using OPS+, Freeman has been the fourth-best hitter in baseball over the last two seasons. He has the potential to lead the Braves to a surprising finish.

OVER / UNDER

74.5

This isn't a playoff team, but it also isn't a hopeless team. Freddie Freeman is a star, and Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña will bolster the offense.

THE LINEUP

FANTASY BREAKOUT

1. SECOND BASE

Ozzie Albies

.322 OBP/12 HR/24 SB

Let the José Altuve comparisons begin. The 5'9" Albies hits for high average, has big-time speed and has flashed surprising power.

2. FIRST BASE

Freddie Freeman

.291 BA/30 HR/7 SB

3. CATCHER

Tyler Flowers

.250 BA/.415 SLG/11 HR

4. RIGHTFIELD

Nick Markakis

.267 BA/10 HR/1 SB

5. LEFTFIELD

Lane Adams

.232 BA/5 HR/10 SB

6. CENTERFIELD

Ender Inciarte

.288 BA/9 HR/22 SB

7. THIRD BASE

Johan Camargo

.271 BA/.398 SLG/8 HR

8. SHORTSTOP

Dansby Swanson

.255 BA/9 HR/5 SB

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Julio Teheran

9 W/4.83 ERA/1.37 WHP

2. RH STARTER

Mike Foltynewicz

8 W/4.68 ERA/1.38 WHP

3. LH STARTER

Sean Newcomb

9 W/4.24 ERA/1.46 WHP

4. RH STARTER

Brandon McCarthy

9 W/4.44 ERA/1.37 WHP

CLOSER

Arodys Vizcaino

23 SV/3.74 ERA/10.4 K9

THE SKIPPER

Brian Snitker