Despite a starting rotation that felt like "Max Fried and Ian Anderson and maybe Max again in Game Three," Atlanta managed the third-best record in the National League and a deep postseason run in 2020. Much of the same cast returns for a 2021 engagement with a little extra help for the rotation, and the sequel looks like it will be as good as the original. Atlanta is loaded with young, though sometimes unproven, talent to pair with what was the highest-octane offense in the league in 2020. The summer (and fall) in Atlanta looks like it will be a good one.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Braves
"Tremendous team and organization: they develop talent, sign that talent, and act quickly and decisively to get the right pieces in free agency. Freddie Freeman was right to stick it out through the lean years — now he's the MVP and he might not even be their best player, with Ronald Acuna Jr. around. Ozzie Albies is one of those guys who doesn't get his due. He's strong in every area, and he'll be a perennial All-Star. Cristian Pache was force-fed into the lineup in the NLCS; he's a great defender with all the tools, but you wonder if he'll get on base enough to really be a star. Travis d'Arnaud was tremendous last year; he's got real power and has a great feel for that staff. Max Fried is the class of that rotation, a rare guy with a four-seamer, a two-seamer, and two distinct breaking balls. Developing his slider has taken him to the next level. Ian Anderson was built up the right way, so when they unleashed him on the league, he was ready to make an impact. Charlie Morton was a great signing; you'd want every young pitcher to take after him."
Beyond the Box Score
What a relief Reliever Tyler Matzek, who had been a first-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2009 and had last pitched in a major league game in 2015, made his way to Atlanta after playing in 2018 and 2019 with the Texas AirHogs. After struggling with control, including more walks than strikeouts in 2015, he found his way to the independent league team and was able to refine his mechanics to increase his control. In 2020, he recorded 43 strikeouts against only 10 walks, becoming a key member of the Atlanta bullpen.
Want more? Our new baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy insight, schedules, and predictions. Click to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
It's only a handful of players who manage to play in all 162 games of a season, but in the shortened 2020 season, surprisingly, only 15 players managed to play in all 60 games for their teams. Three of them (Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Marcell Ozuna) played for Atlanta.
Inside info Atlanta catcher Travis d'Arnaud might have gotten some good tips on where to stay in the city from his brother Chase, who was on the team as a utility player in 2016 and 2017.
Fantasy baseball island Ozzie Albies hails from the island of Curacao and is one of 16 persons from that island to appear in MLB. Albies follows in the footsteps of former Atlanta players Andruw Jones, Jair Jurrjens, Andrelton Simmons, and Randall Simon.
Long time coming On Sept. 3, nearly 10 years to the day after Freeman's MLB debut, he hit a grand slam. It was his 233rd career home run, but his first with the bases loaded. (Only Sammy Sosa hit more home runs before hitting his first grand slam.) Not one to waste time, Freeman hit his second career grand slam only two days later.
First timefor everything With the new extra innings rule placing a runner on second base to start the inning, Swanson became the answer to a very strange MLB trivia question on July 25, becoming the first player in MLB history ever to hit a leadoff RBI single.
Senior circuit The franchise traces its origins to 1876 when it was incorporated as the Boston Red Stockings and has operated uninterrupted since that time, including through moves to Milwaukee (1953) and later to Atlanta (1966). As such, it is the oldest continuously operating professional baseball franchise in the United States.
Lots of arms Despite their success in the win column, Atlanta had a revolving door on the mound. They fielded 29 different pitchers in 2020, tied for third most in MLB.
RF Ronald Acuna Jr. (R)
SS Dansby Swanson (R)
1B Freddie Freeman (L)
LF Marcell Ozuna (R)
C Travis d'Arnaud (R)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
3B Austin Riley (R)
CF Cristian Pache (R)
C Alex Jackson (R)
UT Johan Camargo (S)
UT Jack Mayfield (R)
OF Ender Inciarte (L)
OF Abraham Almonte (S)
RHP Mike Soroka
LHP Max Fried
RHP Ian Anderson
RHP Charlie Morton
LHP Drew Smyly
LHP Will Smith (C)
RHP Chris Martin
LHP A.J. Minter
LHP Grant Dayton
LHP Tyler Matzek
RHP Luke Jackson
RHP Touki Toussaint
RHP Josh Tomlin
2021 Prediction: 1st in NL East
(Freddie Freeman photo courtesy of @Braves)