When it comes to sports teams — especially the sports teams that play here in Georgia’s capital — there’s always that voice in the back of your head that is advising you to hold off on any excitement or positive thoughts because of the fear of having the other shoe drop in an extremely violent manner. It’s happened countless times to our Braves and there’s always that looming specter of doom that’s floating around whenever something that’s too good to be true is rolling around.
Well, I’m telling you all right now that it’s time to ignore that haunting voice and it’s time to get excited about the Atlanta Braves and the on-field product that they’ll be putting out there for this season and next season. I’m not saying that you all should go out and immediately buy World Series tickets but I am saying that if you’re optimistic about this team going forward from this point, then it’s from a concrete foundation of legitimacy instead of a sandcastle of delusion.
The obvious focal point here is the call-up of Ronald Acuña Jr. to the bigs. Yes, he’s only been up for two games and those two games came against the Reds but we saw enough flashes of potential to see that he’s going to be the real deal. There is no fool’s gold here, he’s going to be the man soon and it’s going to be exciting to watch.
Plus, if you’re thinking “Haha, it’s only the Reds,” then Masahiro Tanaka would like a word with you. Yes, this was spring training but at the same time, I highly doubt that Tanaka was sandbagging it during spring and even if he was, just take a listen at how the crack of the bat sounds. It’s glorious.
In those videos we saw him show off his power stroke as well as his speed. We haven’t even gotten to see what he can do in the field yet or what he can do with that rocket arm of his. But Acuña has very clearly got all five tools in his arsenal and it’s going to be very fun to watch him use those tools from here on out.
Acuña’s arrival to the major league squad coincides with what’s been an extremely surprising power surge from Ozzie Albies. It was safe to be skeptical of whether or not Ozzie would have this much power going into the current season — if he was going to develop into a solid power hitter then it was going to come as he matured as a player. So naturally, he currently has eight home runs and 10 doubles after Thursday’s game and has made everybody look foolish in that regard.
While the power has been a surprise, what hasn’t been a surprise so far has been his fielding capabilities. We all figured that Albies could flash the leather in the infield and he’s been doing just that ever since he came up back in August of last season.
Add to that the excitement that comes from simply seeing Albies blaze down the basepaths with little-to-no regard for where his helmet is going and you have a recipe for one of the most entertainingly productive players that the Braves currently have right now.
With all of this excitement surrounding the Braves’ young talent, I can understand you forgetting that one of the game’s best hitters also wears a Braves uniform right now. Freddie Freeman has pressed on through this rebuild through thick and thin and now he’s finally getting some honest-to-goodness help from the farm.
While he still doesn’t have reliable protection in the cleanup spot (as evidenced by his 17.8 percent walk rate, which would be a career high by five points if this continues. Pick your poison, indeed.), he’s still mashing anything that he gets a chance to hit. The man had three doubles against the Reds on Thursday and it nearly flew under the radar due to what Albies and Acuña were up to.
With that being said, dingers are impossible to fly under the radar and Freddie is still providing plenty of those.
There have been times where people in both the Braves fanbase and media circle have basically had to talk themselves into believing that previous teams in recent years were fun to watch. With this year’s team, there’s really no doubt about it. The dynamic, young and talented duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. and the steady brilliance at the plate from Freddie Freeman makes this team worth watching every night. This is actually fun to watch.
If that isn’t enough, then you’ve got Ender Inciarte prowling center field for as many baseballs as he can possibly get to. You also get to see Dansby Swanson, who clearly appears to be out of his funk and is should be a productive starter for the Braves from here on out. A.J. Minter is developing into a reliable high-leverage arm and if you aren’t a believer in what he could potentially be as a reliever, then ask Bryce Harper what he thinks about him.
Plus, If the projections are right about Luiz Gohara, then his starts could turn into appointment viewing and the same could be said of Mike Soroka as well. There’s a lot to be genuinely excited about right now!
Simply put, you have more than enough reason to be optimistic about the Braves and their future. The light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel is now in plain sight and while this still may not be the year that October baseball returns to Georgia, it’s more evident now that we’re closer to those days returning for the Braves.