When do you expect Ronald Acuna Jr. to return?
When Acuna's diagnosis (mild left ACL sprain) was made, there was initially reason to wonder if he might be activated for this weekend's series against the Dodgers. His diagnosis was confirmed when he visited Dr. James Andrews the next day. But the noted surgeon suggested the 20-year-old outfielder be cautious, even though he might not be feeling any pain.
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The Braves have indeed remained cautious with Acuna, who was slated to begin participating in some baseball activities this week. It now seems optimistic to think he could be activated for next week's two-game series against the Mets. But there's a chance he could be playing in rehab game early next week, with an eye on returning at some point during the Braves' home series against the Padres (June 14-17).
Does Kolby Allard take Julio Teheran's spot this weekend, or will we have another Matt Wisler sighting?
No, I think you'll see Sean Newcomb start Sunday on regular rest. With off-days sandwiching this weekend's series against the Dodgers, this was a timely opportunity to rest Teheran. If the Braves wanted to give Newcomb an extra day of rest before his following turn, they could do so by activating Mike Soroka and re-inserting him in the rotation.
Injuries and a doubleheader put the Braves in a position last week where they spent a few days with Miguel Socolovich as their long-relief option in the 'pen. In an attempt to prevent encountering this situation again, I wouldn't expect to see Wisler, Max Fried or Lucas Sims make a big league start unless absolutely necessary. They'll be kept available to routinely transition from that long-relief role back to Triple-A Gwinnett's rotation.
Will Brandon McCarthy or Anibal Sanchez be traded to make room for Luiz Gohara, Allard, Fried and other starting pitching prospects who might come up this year?
Gohara will need to prove himself before he is given another opportunity to start. There's no doubt he had a responsibility to care for his mother while he was on bereavement leave. But at the same time, he had to remain a responsible employee. Yes, Brazil's gas shortage could have factored into him returning to Atlanta two days later than expected. But based on how Gohara pitched Monday night in San Diego, I'm not sure he threw as frequently as he said he did while he was away.
You can chalk this up as something you're going to deal with while handling eager 21-year-olds. But the fact is, Gohara doesn't appear ready to start right now and quite truthfully, when effective, his best fit with this year's team might be as a multi-inning relief option who can be used two or three times per week.
While I still consider Fried to best fit as a reliever long term within this organization, Allard could certainly be considered a candidate for Atlanta's rotation within the next few weeks. He has a 2.00 ERA through 10 starts for Gwinnett. When the time comes for Allard to be promoted, exactly where he fits will be determined by the health of the Braves' other starters. But I wouldn't necessarily anticipate McCarthy or Sanchez being traded. The return Atlanta would get wouldn't trump the value both veterans bring as mentors to the young starters.
Has Braves manager Brian Snitker promised Dansby Swanson he'll never be asked to bunt?
This was a popular question after Swanson did not try to bunt with Ozzie Albies on second with nobody out and the Braves trailing by one run in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Padres. You can argue that the situation called for a bunt. But my feeling was that the matchup should have been the determining factor.
Swanson has struggled against the slider and Brad Hand, who was named the National League Reliever of the Month in May, uses that pitch more than 50 percent of the time. With that being said, Swanson got ahead with a 2-0 count and whiffed at consecutive fastballs, the second of which was outside the zone.
Yeah, I might have called for the bunt in that situation, but had Swanson not whiffed on that fourth-pitch fastball, he might have walked, setting the stage for Freddie Freeman to come to the plate with two on and no outs.
Or, let's say Swanson advances Albies to third base with the bunt, the Padres might have walked Freeman. The Braves would still have been in good position with Nick Markakis coming to the plate with runners on the corners and one out. But the bat might have been taken out of Freeman's hands with an intentional walk, and there's a chance the inning might have evolved just as it did without the bunt.
Is the over/under about 3.5 on how many Braves become All-Stars?
I'll take the over, with the assumption Albies will quickly make adjustments and build on the strong start he had earlier this season. We're still a month away from the selections being made, but I think Freeman and Markakis can plan to be at Nationals Park for the All-Star Game. And Newcomb shouldn't think about vacationing during the All-Star break.
Albies made himself a strong candidate when he slashed .288/.327/.612 and tallied 10 homers through his first 32 games. But, as he has slashed .233/.288/.388 with four homers over the 30 games that have followed, he has become far from a lock to gain his first All-Star selection. The other top NL second basemen are Cincinnati's Scooter Gennett and the Cubs' Javier Baez.
With Baez and Albies in the mix, we might see quite an impressive battle waged between Braves fans and Cubs fans to determine who will be the NL's starting second baseman.