3 big questions facing Braves this spring

February 9th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

With the Braves ready to begin their Spring Training workouts next week, here is a look at three of the questions they will face while vying for a sixth straight National League East title.

Who will replace Dansby Swanson?
Remember back in early December, when it became pretty clear the Braves wouldn’t be making a strong attempt to keep Swanson? That’s when I first suggested signing Elvis Andrus if the money was right. Some fans acted as if I had suggested bringing Erick Aybar back to Atlanta. Well, the money hasn’t been right for any team to thus far sign Andrus. So, he’s still available.

This is where I’m tempted to write that I don’t think the Braves will go this route. But then I remember I wasn’t expecting Alex Anthopoulos to sign Kenley Jansen or trade for Matt Olson during last year’s Spring Training. So, we know the timber could still burn after the Hot Stove season concludes.

With a strong lineup that should benefit from the healthy returns of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies, the Braves just need a shortstop who can be dependable with the glove. Is Orlando Arcia capable of being that guy? He ranked among the middle of the pack in terms of Outs Above Average while serving as the Brewers’ starting shortstop from 2017-20. Can Vaughn Grissom be that guy? It won’t be from a lack of determination. Grissom has an incredible work ethic and he’s determined to succeed. But I just don’t know if he’s quite ready.

Hopefully, he fools me and allows countless fans to mock me for many years to come. But if I had to guess right now, Arcia begins the season as the Braves’ starting shortstop and Grissom possibly gains the job at some point during the year. If Grissom doesn’t begin the year in Atlanta, he would likely fill an everyday role with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Who will play left field?
This question is a little easier to answer. If Eddie Rosario is the latest to flourish during a free agent season, concerns about this position will quickly evaporate. After Rosario returned from eye surgery last year, he slugged .379, which unfortunately was close to the slugging percentage (.389) he produced before the Braves acquired him from Cleveland in 2021.

So, Rosario has had two productive months over the past two years. They just so happened to be September and October of the 2021 World Series-winning season. Can he regain that magic? Can he at least be effective enough in a platoon? The Braves have plenty of Quad-A outfielders who could draw some starts and also regularly serve as late-inning defensive replacements in left field.

Who will fill the final rotation spot?
To answer this question, we need to see where Mike Soroka and Ian Anderson stand in their respective rebound attempts. Soroka says he feels great and athletic again after twice tearing his right Achilles tendon. Anderson will be looking to get back to where he was before he encountered what may have just been some early-career struggles last year.

If Soroka proves he is healthy and can still be effective, the Braves will feel much better about their rotation and its depth for this year and beyond. His return to form would be one of the best comeback stories in recent baseball history.