5 most promising signs from Braves camp
NORTH PORT, Fla. -- As the Braves prepare to conclude Spring Training on Tuesday, here are the five most encouraging developments from this year’s camp.
1) Healthy Ronald
Closer Raisel Iglesias will begin the season on the injured list, and Ozzie Albies is still seemingly attempting to regain arm strength following offseason right shoulder surgery. But it looks like Ronald Acuña Jr. is back to being himself, after spending last year dealing with the lingering effects of the torn right ACL he suffered in 2021.
Acuña flashed some of his five-tool skills as he sprinted for a third-inning triple and then homered in the fourth inning of Saturday afternoon’s 9-4 win over the Twins at CoolToday Park. It looks like he’ll make another run at a 40-40 season, a feat he fell three steals shy of accomplishing in 2019.
2) Video game numbers
Spring Training numbers don’t carry much weight. But it’s hard to ignore that Matt Olson is hitting .462 with seven home runs and a 1.594 OPS through 46 plate appearances. Yeah, a couple home runs may have been wind-aided, and a portion of these gaudy numbers may have come at the expense of some Minor League pitchers. But, the numbers indicate Olson is understandably much more comfortable than he was at this time last year, when he was learning a new team, replacing Freddie Freeman and prepping for the added responsibilities that accompany playing for his hometown team.
Despite all of this, Olson hit 34 home runs and tied for third in the Majors with 78 extra-base hits in 2022. He’s not going to homer once every five or six at-bats like he has during Spring Training. But it looks like year two in Atlanta could prove to be more comfortable and enjoyable for the Braves’ first baseman.
3) Misleading numbers
One quick look at Eddie Rosario’s Grapefruit League numbers (3-for-21 with a double and four strikeouts) might lead one to assume he is still dealing with vision issues. But he has recorded a lot of loud outs within this sample size, and he tallied a double and two homers in 17 at-bats for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
This is a different Rosario than we saw last spring, when he was 5-for-30 with nine strikeouts. He has struck out once every 4.26 at-bats (including the WBC) as opposed to once every 3.33 at-bats last year. Like all spring numbers, this is a product of a small sample size. But the way the ball has jumped off Rosario’s bat provides more reason to believe he’ll produce more like he did during the 2021 postseason than how he did during essentially a lost 2022 season.
4) Starting depth
What would you have thought six weeks ago if you heard the Braves would end Spring Training with Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder and Michael Soroka all in Triple-A? Panic might have been a common response. But, the impressions that Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd have made over the past few weeks have given the Braves comfort as they prep to enter a season with Shuster or Dodd as their fifth starter. Both could end up in the rotation if Kyle Wright isn’t deemed ready to take his first start.
Along with showing they’re ready to fill any immediate rotation needs, these two left-handers have created reason to argue the Braves’ rotation depth is much stronger than most thought six weeks ago.
5) Shewmake’s rise
Manager Brian Snitker and his coaching staff raved about what they saw from Braden Shewmake, who looks like he might be the organization’s most improved player. He impressed with his glove and showed potential with his bat all spring while battling to become Atlanta’s starting shortstop. It will be hard for the Braves to compensate defensively for the loss of Dansby Swanson. But Shewmake’s Spring Training showed he, too, could become a pitcher’s best friend for many years to come.