The Braves have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19. First it was offseason addition Felix Hernandez opting out and now veteran outfielder Nick Markakis has decided to do the same. Atlanta plans to not only contend in the NL East but they actually see themselves as real candidates to win the NL pennant. They have to find a replacement for Markakis. The in-house options are solid but who should be the man to take over right field?
Riley’s power is legit. He is going to have to find consistency on the major league level. Bursting onto the scene in 2019, it looked like the Braves had a future star at 3rd base or outfielder ready to take over for the departing Josh Donaldson. Opposing pitchers were having a problem leaving the ball over the middle of the plate to the power hitting prospect.
Eventually Riley ran into some trouble as pitchers began to figure him out. During his last 123 plate appearances of the season the slash line is not positive, .150/.202/.293. Riley became susceptible to the slider which forced him to try and change his swing to adjust. His hand trigger became slower which is allowing pitchers to take advantage with high hard fastballs.
Austin Riley is still young and his problems can be fixed. If Riley is able to adjust he can fit in nicely in right field and Johan Camargo can take over full time at the hot corner.
Inciarte’s injuries saw him lose his spot in the starting lineup. Even before the injuries the writing was on the wall for Ender losing his job. The 2017 All-Star saw a decline in his OBP in 2018, falling to just .325.
Ender will have his chance to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup due to his defense. He is a 3-time gold glove award winner will bring his glove but the offense has to show in the lead up to the season. If Inciarte is able to reclaim his form from 2017 he will be a great place holder for some developing stars that will come on this list.
Maybe the most established major league player on this list is Adam Duvall. The long time Red has had spurts of brilliance in 2016 and 2017, hitting 30+ homers over those two seasons. The power Duvall brings comes at a cost as his career OBP is a pedestrian .292. In 41 games last year he showed the Braves what he can bring to the table slugging .567.
The Braves are a team built around a core of power bats already, Duvall seems to fit better in the power off the bench role. While he could win the job, it may be hard to keep the job.
The top outfield prospect in Atlanta will most likely have a legit shot at making the opening day roster. A potential five tool prospect was a late bloomer in terms of power but saw his slugging percentage rise to .462 in 2019 reaching as high as triple-A.
Pache looks the part standing at 6’2” and runs like a gazelle. He has not developed into a legit base stealer but his first to third speed is exceptional. His speed transitioned well into the defensive. Pache has center field skills that will work in the right. With Pache and Ronald Acuna a gap shot in right center field may disappear. The Braves would be gambling on exposing Pache before necessary but he should have an impact on this season before it’s over.
Waters had a great 2019 season. Jumping up to compete with Cristian Pache as the #1 outfield prospect in the Braves system, Waters turned some heads last season. The Georgia native led all Braves minor leaguers in hits, doubles and triples. If Waters can find a way to cut down the strikeouts, his hard contact rate is hard to ignore.
Waters had a solid .360 OBP split between triple-A and double-A. He could be a future top of the lineup standout for the Braves but he will have to show an ability to knock down the strikeouts leading up to the first games or he will be relegated to a bench role or not making the team at all.
Who should it be?
Atlanta will allow everyone to have a chance to win the position. In my opinion if Cristian Pache shows an ability to hit he should be the man to be given the chance. Adam Duvall’s skills seem perfect for the power bat off the bench and Ender Inciarte has had problems staying healthy.
While I like Pache, it will most likely be Inciarte getting the first chance.
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