Few things in life have been a sure thing over the last several months, so planning for even two weeks from now feels a little weird. But if the Atlanta Braves indeed do play a baseball game on Friday, July 24, it’s as safe a bet as we’ll get that Jacob DeGrom will be the host New York Mets’ starter. That means it’s as good a time as any to project what the Braves Opening Day lineup card will look like.

This exercise is actually much more interesting than it usually would be. Freddie Freeman has locked in the third spot in the batting order for the Braves, and manager Brian Snitker has made it pretty clear that he’s not keen on taking Ronald Acuna Jr. out of the leadoff spot. With Ozzie Albies fairly cemented between them and newcomer Marcell Ozuna the most obvious cleanup hitter, the most interesting parts of the Braves’ lineup were seemingly set as soon as Ozuna put pen to paper back in January.

Then Freeman tested positive for COVID-19, and seems quite symptomatic based on reports.

That makes his status for Opening Day questionable, at best. It’s hard to see where he can go from sick enough to contribute to Nick Markakis‘ decision not to play this season to ramping up for big-league action in just a couple weeks. While the Braves’ unofficial captain is as likely as anyone to charge his way into the lineup, it’s best to assume he won’t be there.

So here are some options for how Snit could write up the card on July 24 against the right-handed DeGrom.

The Obvious Braves Opening Day Lineup

Even without a stalwart like Freeman, there are some pretty clear choices to make here. While a couple options could go another way, I’d imagine the lineup will look something like this on July 24.

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr., RF
  2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
  3. Marcell Ozuna, LF
  4. Yonder Alonso, DH
  5. Dansby Swanson, SS
  6. Johan Camargo, 3B
  7. Travis D’Arnaud, C
  8. Austin Riley, 1B
  9. Ender Inciarte, CF

If there’s a spot that made you spit out your beverage just now, it’s that cleanup spot, and I don’t blame you. It also won’t make you feel any better if I say that Yangervis Solarte could also fill that role. But looking at Snit’s track record, I’d be shocked if we don’t see something similar on Opening Day unless the Braves pick up a left-handed bat between now and then.

Snit is highly attached to alternating left- and right-handed batters, and I’d expect he’ll try his best to do just that, particularly at the top of the order. While the previously expected top-half would’ve had back-to-back lefties against deGrom, it would’ve had balance with righties Acuna and Ozuna surrounding them. As it is, I’d expect Snit to place whoever his lefty DH for the day is behind new three-hole guy Ozuna.

But there is another way.

The ‘Trust Johan’ Braves Opening Day Lineup

After a very solid 2018, the 2019 season was less kind to Camargo. After being ousted from the starting 3B job by Josh Donaldson, he posted a paltry .663 OPS last season, spent some time in AAA and missed the postseason with a shin injury.

But with Freeman seemingly not an option early and Markakis off the roster entirely, Camargo provides a rare chance for Snitker to get another left-handed bat high on the roster card. Here’s what that could look like.

  1. Acuna Jr., RF
  2. Albies, 2B
  3. Camargo, 3B
  4. Ozuna, LF
  5. Alonso, DH
  6. Swanson, SS
  7. D’Arnaud, C
  8. Riley, 1B
  9. Inciarte, CF

While Camargo’s career numbers against righties aren’t great, he was actually very solid against them in 2018, when he played mostly as the Braves’ starting 3B. That season, he hit .271 as a lefty against right-handed pitchers with an .801 OPS and 12 homers. He’s also a career .281 hitter with runners on base. That’s certainly enough reason to give him a shot for a game in one of the lineup’s more crucial spots.

Let’s Make Heads Explode

Now I’m just going to do one to be a jerk.

There are several things that Braves Twitter, in particular, would absolutely hate to see – or would react like wildfire to – and I’m going to try to get as many of them as possible into one lineup. Because why not?

  1. Inciarte, CF
  2. D’Arnaud, C
  3. Ozuna, RF
  4. Acuna, LF
  5. Albies, 2B
  6. Swanson, SS
  7. Camargo, 3B
  8. Bryce Ball, 1B
  9. Riley, DH

This lineup has it all. Ender is leading off, D’Arnaud is inexplicably in Albies’ lineup spot, Riley is batting all the way down in ninth, Acuna is out of both his lineup spot AND his presumed fielding position. And just to spice it up even more, Bryce Ball has made it all the way to the Opening Day lineup and is starting in the field after just 263 professional plate appearances.

Let the Twitter fires burn!

Thanks for reading our prediction on the Braves Opening Day Lineup. Check out all our offseason analysis here!