It depends on how Cristian Pache, the club's top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, fares once he has a chance to test himself against big league pitching. He’s an elite defender and his upside is much greater than that of Jordan Schafer, Andy Marte and other top prospects of yesteryear. But like most mere mortals, he’s not Acuña and it may take him some time to develop offensively, especially during a year when he hasn’t had the benefit of playing on an everyday basis.
If Pache has success this weekend and early next week, he may force his way into the lineup on a daily basis. But there’s also a chance he could be sent back to the alternate training site by the time this homestand concludes on Wednesday.
Even if Markakis were to continue testing negative, the Braves will likely keep him away from the team until some point next week. As for Acuña, he will remain sidelined until the club is confident he will not have lingering issues with his wrist.
Once Acuña is activated, he could return to playing right field against right-handers and center field when Ender Inciarte sits against lefties. This obviously would change if Pache proves he is ready to stay at the big league level.
Adam Duvall will likely continue to draw starts in left field against left-handed starters. Markakis’ limited range makes him a better fit in right field, especially at Truist Park, which possesses a cavernous left field. As for Marcell Ozuna, he continue to draw starts at the corner spots but could primarily be used as the designated hitter.
Which starting pitcher should the Braves target at the Deadline?
The expanded playoff field stands as one of the variables that will make it even more challenging to land an impact starting pitcher before next week’s Trade Deadline. But I do expect the Braves will end up landing somebody, even if it’s a slightly off-the-radar acquisition like Kevin Gausman was in 2018.
And yes that deal, which also brought Darren O’Day to Atlanta, was a good one based just on how good Gausman was for the first six weeks he was with the Braves. Without looking, I challenge you to name one player sent to the Orioles in that deal.
Unless the Reds implode over the next week, Trevor Bauer isn’t going anywhere. There’s also reason to doubt whether the Rangers will opt to deal Lance Lynn or Mike Minor, who has not gotten off to a good start.
And I’m not sure the Indians are so mad at Mike Clevinger that they’d be willing to part ways with him at the reduced rate teams will be offering in exchange for pitching this year.
So it may be more likely the Braves would take a chance on Dylan Bundy, who has posted a 2.48 ERA through his first five starts for the Angels. As his hard-hit and walk rates have decreased this year, his strikeout rate has increased. His velocity has dropped over the past few years, but this recent revival creates reason to be optimistic about what this former top prospect could also do next season in his final arbitration year.
If the Braves do make a move, it will likely be for a pitcher who they would not be contractually committed to beyond the end of this season.
What is the status of Cole Hamels?
Before Tuesday night’s game, manager Brian Snitker said Hamels was feeling good but was “still a little ways” from getting off a mound. I followed by asking if the veteran lefty was cleared to throw off a mound by Sept. 1, would he have enough time to make a regular-season start.
“That I don’t know,” Snitker said. “I hope so.”
Quite frankly, Snitker and the Braves have no choice but to remain publicly optimistic about the possibility of Hamels becoming healthy enough to pitch at some point. But the fact is, time is running out or may have actually already expired.
Hamels said the left shoulder inflammation that forced him to miss Spring Training would have likely kept him sidelined until the latter part of May. Yet, when he showed up for Summer Camp at the start of July, he was not ready to throw live batting practice like the other projected starters. A week later he was shut down again by triceps tendinitis.
An ailment that was initially described as simple Spring Training soreness has prevented Hamels from getting back on the mound more than a month later. So there is reason to doubt what he might provide over the remainder of this year.
Hamels will likely begin throwing off a mound again next week. If all goes well, he will be activated in September and then steadily attempt to build his innings in big league games. It’s not exactly what you want in a potential playoff race. But when your rotation has been pared down to one standing member, you do what you have to do.
Should we be concerned about Marcell Ozuna looking out of place in the outfield?
Not really. In fact, Ozuna struggling defensively is one of the few things that has gone as predicted in 2020.