Who should replace Markakis in Atlanta?

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?

Austin Riley-

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. 

Ender Inciarte-

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.  

Adam Duvall-

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. 

Cristian Pache- 

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.  

Drew Waters-

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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MLB Overreaction for each Division

NL East: Braves are not going to compete for the division.

Atlanta got swept over the weekend by the new look Philadelphia Phillies. The reigning NL East Champs have dealt with some injuries to their rotation to start the season including 2018 All-Star Mike Foltynewciz and Kevin Gausman.  Atlanta was forced to start Bryce Wilson and #2 ranked prospect of 2018 Kyle Wright in 2 of 3 games in Philadelphia. Wright was able to show off some of the skills that made him a top prospect the Braves bats were held in check by Jake Arrietta Sunday night to cap off the series sweep.

The Braves had a tough matchup to start the season versus the revamped Phillies in a city that was already hyped because well its philly.  Atlanta’s offense will carry the load early as they wait for the injury bug to work out.

NL West: Padres will compete for the division.

San Diego was able to take 2 of 3 from the rebuilding San Francisco Giants in San Francisco making us all wonder maybe they are more than just a young team with some promise in the future.  Will Myers and Eric Hosmer went a combined 10 for 26 in the series, both will be heavily looked upon to provide protection for the newly acquired franchise player Manny Machado. 

Pitching was the story for San Diego as Eric Lauer, Joey Luchessi and rookie Chris Paddack combined for a 1.80 ERA in 16.1 combined innings.  If the Padres starting pitching can continue to perform they may have a shot to compete in a top heavy NL West. 

They did face the Giants though so I wouldn’t count on it.

NL Central: Cardinals need to sign Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel

Rabid wolverines..oops I mean Cardinals fans are not happy after a tough 1-3 start to the season. The Cardinals were supposed to have the best rotation in the NL Central but that is not how if worked out against the powerful Brewers lineup.  Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson combined of a 7.84 ERA over their first three starts. No what most thought but remember it is week one.

Now the bullpen.  The dream lineup of Alex Reyes, Andrew Miller and Jordan Hicks were supposed to be the “big three” in the backend of the bullpen.  They combined to blow a 3-run lead on Sunday causing panic in within Cardinals nation. 

Overreacting by signing Keuchel and Kimbrel will backfire for a team that just needs to be patient and allow their young arms to develop in season.

AL East: The Orioles may not lose 100 games.

The Orioles took 2 of 3 from the New York Yankees in New York!  Obviously the Orioles are going to come out of nowhere and compete in the AL East.  Baltimore winning the opening series versus the Yankees is almost quarter of the wins most people expected them to have in 2019.

The Orioles started their season better than most thought.  Sadly they will come down to earth very quickly.

AL West: Mariners are the best in the west.

Anyone notice the Mariners are 5-1 after taking 3 of 4 from the world champion Boston Red Sox?  The Mariners made more moves in the offseason then a 12 year old playing MLB the show for the first time.  Literally moving on from their best starter, reliever and hitter from the 2018 season. Seattle quietly picked up a potential impact bat with Domingo Santana but their hot start isn’t going to last.  Seattle will do what they always do and stay in it enough to let their fans believe that they have a chance and then completely bomb in the end.

Seattle can hit and they will hit but they pitching will not be able to keep up for long.

AL Central: Indians are not going to hit

The returning Carlos Santana went 5 for 10 in the opening series versus the Minnesota Twins. Outside of Santana thought he Indians did not look great at the plate during their first series.  The rest of the Indians had a total of 7 hits the entire series.  The injury to Fransisco  Lindor will hurt the offense but the struggles of Jose Ramirez has fans very worried about the potential of this offense.

Cleveland fans can worry for now but eventually Ramirez will find his way and the supporting cast is there for a reason.  This team will hit, just have to be patient.