When looking at the Braves 2023 Outfield, you’d be channelling your inner Chief if you were anything but elated with RF and CF. With a fully healthy Ronald Acuna Jr. and last year’s ROY Michael Harris II patrolling 2/3 of the OF for years to come, we have a tandem that could go down in Braves history as the one of the best OF duos in Braves history. Then…those same fans turn left and collectively sigh. In today’s piece, we will look at the expectations for each outfield position and show where the team ranks compared to the rest of the MLB.
Braves Fangraphs Rankings: Right Field, 4th
If ya can’t tell by the rankings, the right field position is stacked with some remarkable players. If Ronald Acuna Jr. hadn’t torn his achilles in 2021, I’d wager he’d be 1-2 on this list. But he did and I can’t fault Fangraphs for being cautious. However, if RAJ is fully healthy, has all of his speed back, and can find his lift again, he’s not only likely to finish in the top 1-2, he’ll also be a strong MVP candidate. I’m going full-homer here and predicting Acuna to be in the top-2 at the RF position.
Braves Fangraphs Rankings: Center Field, 5th
From 2016-2019, Ender Inciarte played an exceptional centerfield, collecting 3 gold gloves, and even hit a bit, carrying a .734 OPS in 2186 PAs. Until Michael Harris II made his 2022 debut, the Braves had been playing the shuffle for 2.5 seasons, and whether it was defensively or offensively, nothing was sticking. Now, it looks like the Braves have an elite talent on both sides of the ball for the better part of a decade. Harris and the rest of the CFers that will get starting in 2023, rank 5th among MLB teams in fWAR preseason predictions, and 2nd in the NL only behind Brandon Nimmo (3rd…LOL), which I expect will be wrong. The Angels with Mike Trout were expected to finish 1st, followed by the Mariners with Julio Rodriguez, then Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge coming in 4th. If Harris is healthy, I expect a top-4 finish with potential to be the best in the NL.
Braves Fangraphs Rankings: Left Field, 29th
There’s no sugarcoating it… AA is going for quantity in hopes of quality and that is a dangerous game to play. As of now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be patrolling LF. As of now, the Braves LF is projected to be below replacement level with Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, and Jordan Luplow getting time in and collectively gathering 1.1 fWAR. WOOF. It seems somewhat obvious that the Braves are going to be looking to platoon the position and are utilizing spring to figure out who will be paired with Eddie Rosario. Unless AA can find a rabbit in his hat, Ozuna will be on the roster according to Brian Snitker, and *that might make it difficult to justify carrying 2 more OFers on a 26-man roster. Of the OF candidates, only Jordan Luplow and Eli White have options.
*Offensive roster locks likely include Sean Murphy, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies, Vaughn Grissom, Orlando Arcia, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Michael Harris, Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna.
Bringing Rusty S’s JC’d thought over:
There is some general sense that base stealing is going to increase, but has anyone seen any estimate how much the rule changes will actually increase base stealing percentage?
For example, if we go with the rule of thumb that you need a 75% success rate for the stolen base to be a good play, then how many players currently below 75% do we expect to cross the 75% threshold to make it a good risk? Is it expected to help them 1%, 5%, 10% or what?
Base stealing is presumably now an even better play for runners already above that rate, and there are many runners for which no rule change will ever make it a good play. So, while elite base stealers may attempt to steal even more often, it seems to me that most of any increase will come from that group of runners who can cross the 75% threshold. I’d love to know if anyone has estimated the increase in success rate for that group.
I think the bigger base will allow base-thieves to stay on the bag, which will increase basestealing. Also, I’ve been thinking about this: How many SB are decided by 1.5 inches or less? Combining those thoughts with the lack of throw-overs, and I think you’ll see more successful SBs.
@2 – Thanks Ryan, that’s all very logical and I won’t be surprised when it happens. I was just wondering if anyone had tried to quantify it.
I’m optimistic that Rosario will do what we need him to do, and he hasn’t had major platoon splits over his career.
Dumb question: what’s the price at which it would be worth signing Jurickson Profar and throwing him into the LF mix?
In response to JonathanF in the last thread, Jesse Chavez and Charlie Morton weren’t quite as low in WAR after five seasons as Allard, but they were both pretty bad.
Chavez was -1.4 bWAR after five seasons, but after 7 seasons he was all the way down to 2.5! Since then, he’s turned in +7.5, for a career total of 5.
Morton was at -1.2 after 5 seasons. Since then, Charlie has turned it around so that his career bWAR is 15.4.
Rusty raises a great question about base stealing. Truth is, everyone is just speculating about how much more successful folks will be. I tend to think it will be a good bit more.
But I also worry that some people will overdo it. Don’t get me wrong; I love stolen bases. I thought the 80’s Cardinals were great fun to watch (and I generally hate the Cardinals!). But the current offensive environment does not support running as much as that era did. There are many more strikeouts, more home runs, and fewer singles. Stolen bases don’t mean as much in that environment. I’m not sure that 75% success is the right metric given all the K’s and HR’s.
In my comment @6, I meant to say that Chavez was negative 2.5 after 5 years.
It’s interesting, by the projections he’d be better than pretty much all our other options, so at first glance I’d say if he’s willing to take a 1 yr deal then just give it to him….it’s not my money.
BUT: the Braves are over the first luxury tax threshold so ownership may just say “no more signings.” We also have a bunch of dudes competing for the OF spots – Rosario/Luplow/Pillar/Hilliard/White/Wall come to mind…and I’m probably forgetting others. There might just be too many people competing for the LF and first backup spot
FWIW I’d argue they should sign him but Profar might be holding out for more money…I think the Fangraphs projections expected 3/30M for him
Oh, he’s clearly holding out for more money. But so was Will Smith, till he wound up having to take $1.5 million. Profar can just ask Michael Conforto how well the waiting game works out. There may be no amount of money the Braves would be willing to give him that he’d be willing to take, of course. Still, from where I sit, I’d think he’d be a pretty ideal candidate for one of Alex Anthopoulos’s 1-year “show me” contracts.
@6: Yeah, the notion that Allard could still be Charlie Morton ought to give pause to anyone who decides he can’t possibly be a Major League pitcher. The guy is 25 years old. And while the quick calculations I did are dependent on the thresholds I used, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of pitchers who can’t manage positive WAR after five years won’t ever make it back to 0. Sandy Koufax, often cited as a slow starter, had only one negative WAR season in his career. Allard has one positive WAR year in five tries.
186 years ago the battle of the Alamo ended. Today by happenstance we were able to enjoy the ?celebration? commemorating the Texians defeat. Mexico won the battle but finished last in the war.
Once upon a time, I thought Kolby was the pick of our picks. Maybe he’ll be better than I now expect.
Maybe. One can hope.
@7, on the other hand, will more stolen bases lead to more singles? More SB (at a reasonable success rate) means that singles are slightly more valuable because they’re more likely to drive in runs (more runners in position to score on a single) and more likely to result in runs scored (a batter who singles can steal to put himself in scoring position). I doubt that many batters will change their swings to produce more singles and fewer HR/K/whatever, but managers might make that tradeoff through lineup decisions.
The question with Allard has always been velocity. When he was drafted, he wasn’t a flamethrower but he threw hard enough to get by on with good secondaries. His velocity dropped after he went pro, though, ending up in an area that is unplayable in the modern game. If he really has improved his velocity over the offseason and he’s not just pitching in front of hot ST guns, he might still be something.
As for Profar, I find it difficult to believe that a one-year deal for basically any dollar value has much downside potential, and I find it even harder to believe that ownership could be whining about payroll when they’re currently bragging about profits and cutting off season tickets sales early because they’re in such high demand. That being said, I don’t really see him as much of a difference-maker, either. He’s a guy you sign if you desperately want a non-Rosario/Ozuna LF option — which I do, but I’m not sure the Braves do.
I read a lot of baseball analysis, and nobody I know is even willing to guess on how many more SBs there will be. Too many factors; not just the larger bases, but the pitch clock and throw-over restrictions.
This piece on Profar is enlightening.
Minor league basaestealing was up 8-14% across the various levels last year with the biggest jump in attempts seen at A+. Success rates were also up but only by a few points. Note that they were operating with the pitch clock and limited throws but did not use the bigger bags.
Watching a lot of milb games the biggest effect was in the frequency of first pitch fastballs when a fast guy was on first. The minors also (mostly) had no shifts and the raw number of singles did increase.
@15 @17 – Thanks for that. It makes sense that attempts would be up initially. I suppose that the increase in attempts will eventually find the same level as the increase in success rates.
@16 The bright side is that Profar being 95th in arm strength from left field is still 61 spots ahead of Ozuna (who must be 156 out of 156), so there is that plus.
This is wild!
A fun romp with Jonathan F! New thread.