We'll Wait and See With the Braves
The Braves 2019 season came to a disappointing end during the Division Round against the Cardinals. Fortunately, the season was still a resounding success for Atlanta, as they managed to build off their impressive (and a bit surprising) 2018 campaign.
The addition of Josh Donaldson and the emergence of rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. provided Atlanta with a pair of consistent, elite bats to pair with first baseman Freddie Freeman. A similar sentiment could be made for the rotation, as the addition of Dallas Keuchel and the emergence of youngster Mike Soroka completed a reliable four-man playoff staff (along with Julio Teheran and Max Fried).
Freeman sounds like someone who’s using the disappointing end to the season as motivation:
“It’s a sour taste still,” Freeman told David O’Brien of The Athletic. “I know we had a really good team; everybody knows we had a really good team. So the hunger is real. Winning back-to-back division titles and seeing your division opponent win the World Series last year … it’s our turn. We’ve got a really, really good team again, so it’s our time to take the next step.”
Infielder Johan Camargo echoed that sentiment:
“Yeah, that’s why it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said. “(The Nationals) did pretty well, and they won the World Series. It’s a new year now, and it’s time for us.”
Unfortunately for Atlanta, there’s a major thing Freeman and Camargo are ignoring: the squad’s going to look a bit different in 2020.
The team watched as Keuchel, Teheran, and Donaldson walked in free agency, replacing them with veteran starter Cole Hamels and outfielder Marcell Ozuna. The front office made some additional moves to shore up their lineup (Travis d’Arnaud) and bullpen (Will Smith), but it’s clear that the if the Braves want to compete for a championship, they’ll need continued progression from their young players.
Fortunately, many of those young players have already shown their worth in the majors, and the organization’s farm system is one of the deepest in all of baseball. If the Braves do find themselves stumbling at some point this season, they have a solution for improvement, whether it comes via a prospect promotion or trades.
Even if you are optimistic about the progress of Atlanta, we have to see it before we’re committing to any future bets. Their 12/1 World Series odds are way too high for a squad that hasn’t made it out of the first round, and they’re playing in one of the deepest divisions in the majors (both the Mets and Phillies have at least 4/1 odds to win the National League East).
We can’t imagine the Braves are going to take such a significant step forward that their future odds would change a whole lot between now and, say, midseason. We’re going to take a wait-and-see approach before placing any money.