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Braves await Acuna for power boost to lineup

Atlanta's top prospect would provide immediate protection behind Freeman
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Given how much time Matt Kemp missed during last season's second half, the current makeup of the Braves' projected lineup looks pretty familiar. Kemp's departure enhanced financial flexibility from a long-term perspective and thinned a lineup that now counts Freddie Freeman as its only legitimate power source.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has continued to explore opportunities to strengthen this year's lineup, which will likely be buoyed by an early-season promotion of Ronald Acuna, who is the No. 6 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. Acuna's arrival should significantly impact the team's offensive production, but the current assumption is that he'll begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. 

ATLANTA -- Given how much time Matt Kemp missed during last season's second half, the current makeup of the Braves' projected lineup looks pretty familiar. Kemp's departure enhanced financial flexibility from a long-term perspective and thinned a lineup that now counts Freddie Freeman as its only legitimate power source.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has continued to explore opportunities to strengthen this year's lineup, which will likely be buoyed by an early-season promotion of Ronald Acuna, who is the No. 6 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. Acuna's arrival should significantly impact the team's offensive production, but the current assumption is that he'll begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. 

Video: PEO@SUR: Acuna homers twice and makes a great catch

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Braves might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY 

Ender Inciarte, CF
Ozzie Albies, 2B
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Tyler Flowers, C
Nick Markakis, RF
Lane Adams, LF
Johan Camargo, 3B
Dansby Swanson, SS

STRENGTH

Everything revolves around Freeman, who has had an offseason to fully recover from the fractured left wrist that halted the MVP-caliber season he was producing last year. Inciarte and Albies provide speed at the top of the lineup and each could improve as basestealers while working with new first-base coach Eric Young. Flowers' offensive value has significantly improved within the past two seasons and Kurt Suzuki, the other member of the team's catching duo, produced his best power numbers last year after being introduced to hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.

Video: ATL@NYM: Flowers crushes a two-run jack to left

QUESTION MARK

Three (Kemp, Matt Adams and Brandon Phillips) of the seven players who produced a double-digit homer total for the Braves last year are gone, and three (Flowers, Inciarte and Suzuki) of those who remain had not tallied at least 10 home runs in either of the previous two seasons. Camargo capped an encouraging rookie season by remaining productive after missing nearly all of August with a knee injury. But Camargo and Albies will now have to prove capable of avoiding the sophomore slump that affected Swanson this past season.

Video: PHI@ATL: Camargo puts Braves up with two-run double

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

Though it seems like the Braves are at least a year away from having the pitching necessary to be considered a legit playoff contender, Anthopoulos has continued to explore ways to add some power and depth to this lineup. He has evaluated potential short-term options at third base and inquired about acquiring outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins.

 Video: Braves interested in acquiring Realmuto, Yelich

Freeman's potential value would certainly be enhanced by the addition of a proven hitter capable of providing the protection that does not currently exist within the lineup's current makeup. The addition of an outfielder would likely lead to the departure of Markakis, who is entering the final year of his contract. Acuna projects to be Atlanta's right fielder of the future, but because of SunTrust Park's dimensions, he could open his career as a left fielder if Markakis is still present upon his arrival.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman