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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Five Under Appreciated Careers Still Going (MLB)

CC Sabathia amassed his 3,000 career strikeout this week becoming just the 17th pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history to reach that mark.  Sabathia now pitching in his age 38 season is continuing to be relivant in today’s game despite being forced to change his style.  No longer is Sabathia throwing upper 90’s fastballs, instead he has adjusted his abilities to meet the needs of his body.  Sabathia quietly has made himself a hall of famer.  The best part of his career is that despite his age and personal issues CC is still a very effective major league player.  Watching him reach that milestone made me think about other players that seem like they have been in the league forever and have quietly amassed great careers, edging on the hall of fame.  I figured I’d do a top five list.  To make this list you had to have played at least nine seasons in the league and cannot have one an MVP.  Obviously you have to still be active in the MLB and playing at a high level. 

5. Alex Gordon- Kansas City Royals

The longtime Kansas City star has seemed revitalized at the plate in 2019.  The former #2 overall pick has always brought his glove to Kansas City amassing an arsenal of gold hardware with his six career Rawlings Gold Glove awards.  Gordon has shown glimpses of the five-tool player that the Royals thought they were drafting.  From 2011-2014 Gordon was a three time all-star, 3 time gold glover and finished as high as 12th in the MVP voting.  Recent struggles at the plate over the last few seasons have made people forget what kind of a player is in left field for the rebuilding Royals. 

At 35 years old Gordon has been reborn, through 28 games he currently has an OPS of .989, driving in 22 runs. Alex Gordon won’t be a hall of famer but he shouldn’t be gone on the first ballot.

4. Curtis Granderson- Miami Marlins

Curtis Granderson was highly touted prospect in the Detroit Tigers farm system in 2004 when he got the call up to the show two years later Granderson hit 19 homers for the Tigers. The year after that he finished 10th in the MVP voting leading the league with 23 triples along with his 23 homers.  The “Grandy Man” was a star in the motor city he then became a superstar when the Yankees picked him up in 2010. In his second season in  New York Granderson lead the league in RBI’s and runs scored finishing 4th in the MVP voting. 

The three time all-star has been a consistent source of power in the league for 16 years now most recently in 2017 he hit 26 homers and followed that up last season hitting 13 homers.  Granderson has hitting a shocking 336 bombs in his major league career.  Dude mashes!

3. Hunter Pence- Texas Rangers

Hunter Pence is still playing in the majors.  Seriously he is playing in Texas and playing very well.  The former 2007 rookie of the year has 13 RBI’s and a .844 OPS in 19 games played. Pence a three time all-star was a model of consistency over his career when healthy hitting over twenty homers in 7 of his 13 seasons. Known for his crazy antics and his clubhouse leadership, Pence will continue to play and eventually get to 2,000 hits before he calls it a career.  He has also added 227 homers and a career OPS of .800. 

Oh….he also has 3 World Series rings to go along with his great statistics.

2. Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers

Shin-Soo Choo has never been a guy that fans will call “the guy” on a roster.  Choo has been a world class hitter since first opportunity in 2008. In 94 games that season Choo finished with an OPS of .946.  Choo earned his way into the starting lineup consistently continuing to produce with two straight seasons of .880 OPS. Choo is still producing at the major league level in his age 36 season.  The Texas Rangers, a place where veterans go to prosper, have seen the good side of Shin-Soo as he earned his first and potentially only all-star appearance in the 2018 season.

Choo will not be remembered a one of the greats to ever play but he has fit in perfectly to the analytically driven concept that baseball has adapted to. With a career OBP of .379, 193 homers and over 1500 hits most will not remember him to be as good as he has been in his career.

1.Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves

Finally receiving the recognition he has deserved the former Orioles first round pick has had a career that has been completely overlooked by many in the baseball community. A three time gold glove winner Markakis doesn’t bring the flash of a power hitter or the speed of a base stealer. His best season coming in 2008 where he provided a 6.1 WAR to go along with his .897 OPS. Continuing his terrific performance Markakis has continued his stellar career with a .406 OBP while creating a veteran presence with the up and coming Braves.  Nick Markakis’s career numbers will stagger most casual fans.  With 2,273 career hits 3 gold gloves and over 2,00 career games Markakis has established himself as a potential future hall of famer.