Photo by Danny Parker

Braves must find more position players that can help the lineup

Bill Shanks has thoughts on the biggest need for the Braves moving forward - hitters!

The Braves have done a great job to position this team to get better for the future, mainly with an emphasis on pitching. The pitching depth in Atlanta is solid, while the minor league depth has improved this year.

We know there are plenty of pitchers on the way. But just how many hitters are on the way? When can the anemic offense in Atlanta get help?

It might take a while. There are some nice position players in the farm system, but more is needed.

Nice, but just how good could they be in the future? There are two players – Ozzie Albies in AAA and Dansby Swanson in AA – who look like special talents. We could see Swanson this season, while Albies could break camp next year as a new starter at either shortstop or second base.

But who else is there? Albies is a speedster and a slap hitter, while Swanson’s comp is Derek Jeter. That’s not to say Swanson can become a Hall of Famer like Jeter, but that is the type of hitter Swanson could develop into in Atlanta’s lineup.

The Braves have third baseman Rio Ruiz at Gwinnett. He’s hitting .255 with three home runs in Gwinnett and continues to be inconsistent. They have left fielder Dustin Peterson in Mississippi. He’s at .248 with five home runs. Braxton Davidson is the right fielder in Carolina. He’s at .211 with just two home runs.

Austin Riley is being counted on for the future. The 19-year-old third baseman is hitting just .247 in Rome with only three home runs. The Braves have high hopes for Ronald Acuna, but after hitting two home runs and hitting .300 in 110 at bats, he hurt his wrist and is out for a while.

Where is the power? Riley is believed to have great power, but the Braves need to see more of it. Acuna was showing some before his injury. Peterson is believed to have 10-15 home run power. But that’s about it.

That’s why the Braves have to look for bats in the draft coming up this week and in trades the next two months before the August 1 deadline. They desperately need bats and particularly power.

You can assume the Braves are stuck with Freddie Freeman at first base. Swanson and Albies will handle the middle infield spots for years to come. Mallex Smith is showing he can play in the big leagues, but he’s a slap hitter who will not likely supply much power.

Nick Markakis has no power since his neck surgery right after signing with the Braves. Ender Inciarte has no power. There’s just no power on this team and no real immediate answers on the horizon.

So what does that mean? Well, we’re going to have to watch the draft. I am not personally enamored with Kyle Lewis or Nick Senzel, two position players who might be options with the third pick in the first round. Lewis had power at Mercer, but will that translate in pro ball? And Senzel has just eight home runs in 57 games for Tennessee. Are those the type of hitters you want to take at three?

Not me. I’d prefer to take a high-upside pitcher, like Riley Pint or Ian Anderson. Jason Groome is scaring people off for some reason, so he’s slipping past three. But improve the pitching depth and find hitters later – like with the 40th and 44th picks.

We know the Braves will get help July 2, when they can sign international free agents. Kevin Maitan is being billed as their top target, and since he’s being compared to Miguel Cabrera, Maitan may be Atlanta’s best position player prospect the moment the ink dries on the contract.

But the main way to get a more immediate option for position players is to trade Julio Teheran. I know the temptation is to keep him. He’s affordable and Teheran is very, very good. But if a bat is offered in a deal that could help this lineup, even if it is for the long-term and for not right now, the Braves must listen closely.

We’ve speculated numerous times Boston may be the perfect trade partner with Teheran. They have several top hitting prospects, like Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi and Michael Chavis. The Braves would need at least two of those four and a pitching prospect for Teheran and filler in that sort of deal. Getting two of those young hitters would help tremendously. They may not be as lucky as they were with the Shelby Miller deal with Arizona, but Teheran should have great value to make a blockbuster trade.

What is the 2020 Braves lineup going to look like? Albies and Swanson look like locks. Freeman will likely be in there. That’s about it as far as the guarantees. Maybe Mallex, maybe not. Inciarte looks nothing like a player you want to hold onto. He’s more of a complimentary player than a mainstay in your lineup.

So the Braves have to get some hitters. They’ve got to use the vets – Teheran, Jim Johnson, Eric O’Flaherty, A.J. Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham, Jeff Francoeur and Markakis – to get young bats. Trade all of the veterans. Maybe even consider dealing Arodys Vizcaino in the right deal. He’s a great young closer, but this team needs some hitters.

It could literally happen, and change, quickly. The Braves could draft some good hitters this week in the draft, sign some good players on July 2 and then make a few key trades. But there is no doubt today, as we write this, the need for more bats is reaching a desperate level.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ‘Middle Georgia’s ESPN’ – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

 

 


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