What Does the Braves’ Opening Day Lineup Card Look Like?

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!

15 thoughts on “What Does the Braves’ Opening Day Lineup Card Look Like?”

  1. So just going by the Book, the best hitters should be in the top spots in the lineup; having Acuna-Albies batting 4-5 could cost them a plate appearance per game. Also… Alonso was below the Mendoza line last year and I don’t want him sniffing the starting lineup.

    So how bout this?

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

    (* – bats left-handed, # – switch-hitter)

    I could be persuaded to flip-flop 4-5 and 6-7 in the order (hence D’Arnaud-Camargo-Riley-Duvall or variations), but I don’t think Ender or Dans should hit above the 8 spot in the lineup and I don’t think Riley should hit above the 6, until proven otherwise.

  2. Alex, with the guys on the roster today, I think this is the lineup we see for Opening Day. However, I’m of the belief there’s an outside addition before Opening Day that removes Duvall from the lineup against RHP and could persuade Snitker to move Camargo to Duvall’s spot and put “new LHH” in the cleanup spot.

  3. Genuinely wonder how much time Freddie will miss. It’s been a week since he tested positive. So if he quarantines for 2 weeks, that means he’s eligible to return next week. And he seems to be from the Chipper mold that he doesn’t really need lengthy rehab assignments. Perhaps he’s back by week 2 of the regular season. I agree with the post, though, that he probably won’t be there for OD.

    It’s been 4 days since the Nick Markakis news that shook the world to its core. No one else has opted out. Are you folks feeling encouraged, discouraged, or no different than you did on Monday, The Day The Earth Stood Still?

  4. Rob, not sure I really understand the sarcasm there. I want the season to happen and I want the players to feel safe and to be safe. Any player who opts out is doing so after a lot of soul-searching. We’ll see what happens in the next two weeks — I fervently hope that no one else opts out and that the numbers of new cases per day begin trending downwards, but I don’t think any of us can quite predict what will happen. MLB better not have any more testing foul-ups like they did last weekend.

    The full list of opted-out players is here: https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2020/07/players-opting-out-of-2020-season.html

  5. I think the season will start despite the growing amount of cases in the States. With players in such controlled environment, I think there will be limited new cases among them until opening day.
    I also expect FF5 to be in the opening day starting lineup. Even if he is not at 100%. He will talk his way into the lineup (if he is healthy) since every game counts this season.

  6. Buster Posey is likely to opt out. So cue Twitter losing its mind because he’s a big name even though he’s a 33-year old catcher who had a 0.9 WAR last year.

  7. 1) It’s not clear what Freeman’s status is at this point. We heard early this week that he was feeling better, but we haven’t heard anything else since that I’ve seen. If we assume that he’s well and truly on the mend and that there are no lasting effects from the virus, he would need to have no remaining symptoms for 72 straight hours and then test negative for the virus twice in a 24-hour period. Since he exhibited symptoms, he doesn’t necessarily get to just come back at the end of the two-week period no questions asked. I still wouldn’t be utterly gobsmacked if he just opted out, especially if either his wife or kid come down with the virus or he has a longer recovery time.

    2) Is Buster Posey opting out a harbinger of doom for the season? No, not really. He and his wife just adopted prematurely-born twins who will be in the neonatal unit for quite some time yet, according to reports, so that’s obviously an extenuating circumstance. I can’t say that I share the thought that we should pay no mind to any sort of old-guy, former-star, now-playing-out-the-string type opting out, though. The fact that these guys are opting out does say something, and it’s not anything particularly good.

    3) I agree that the continuation of the blackout policy is completely insane. Even before the pandemic, any sport maintaining any kind of blackout policy was thunderously stupid and counterproductive.

  8. I posted this last night but got JC’d

    It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Hamels is done.

  9. I know it’s completely irrational but I get territorial when there’s a player who grew up in Georgia who doesn’t play for the Braves. What was Gerald thinking, getting drafted and playing for another team like that?

  10. Buster Posey was a 10 WAR player in his 2012 MVP year, and has collected 52.7 fWAR and 41.8 bWAR. This discrepancy with catcher WAR drives me insane.

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