This will be the last in our “Where Do We Go From Here” series, covering both the Braves Outfield and Bench. In case you have missed the 1st 3 pieces, catch up here:
The outfield for the Braves and the Astros were the cream of the crop in 2023 as both groups finished with a 14.3 fWAR. The Braves fWAR was driven mostly by offense and baserunning, while the Astros were better defenders.
Ronald Acuna Jr. was obviously the star of the show, collecting an outstanding 8.3 fWAR that will almost certainly give him his first MVP award. However, Acuna’s defense was not great in 2023 and it’s apparent that he struggles judging depth from time to time. However, because his arm is other-worldly, I can’t imagine that the team would move him to LF in 2024, but I think he’ll be there before too long.
On June 6th, after his 138th plate appearance of the year, Michael Harris II was carrying a .490 OPS. From that day forward, MHII’s OPS was .912, making his OPS on the year .808. And while Acuna struggled defensively, Harris was his normal elite CFer self:
- 92nd percentile in Outs Above Average
- 93rd percentile in Arm Accuracy
- 89th percentile in Arm Strength
He’s going to be good for a long time!
Eddie Money had one of his best defensive years to date and was fine at the plate overall, but went through long stretches where might as well have left his bat in the dugout. He’s got a $9MM option for the 2024 season and picking it up is not a shoo-in at this point. If Braves do what they have done in the past and make 1 trade then sign the acquisition long-term, LF, SP, and RP are the only options. I like Eddie, but I’m ready for a LF masher.
Kevin Pillar, Forrest Wall, Eli White, and Sam Hilliard were the 4 other OFers the Braves utilized and of the 4, Forrest Wall collected the most WAR. Eli White played CF a bit when Harris was on the shelf but was completely anemic at the plate. Sam Hilliard also played CF a bit when Harris was shelved and hit well for a bit before going 2 for his last 27. Pillar played part platoon partner with Eddie and fared ok against LHP, but was not good against LHP. Wall likely continues his stay in the org, while I’m guessing the other 3 find their way elsewhere.
The Braves regular bench consisted of:
- The prototypical backup OFer that can play all OF positions
- A utility fielder that could glove, but not hit
- Whichever catcher wasn’t starting
- Someone fast
- Someone that never plays (see Charlie Culberson)
I really liked when the Braves grabbed Nicky Lopez at the deadline. The team needed someone that can play defense at a high level at all infield spots. If AA continues to platoon left field, I hope that he focuses on players that hit well from their preferred side and play defense at a high level. The bench… was fine, I guess. However, I want to see more quality and flexibility on the bench so it makes it easy to give players field rest.