Braves Mailbag: Left Field picture going forward, replenishing the minors and more (2024)

Opening Day is tomorrow and Atlanta Braves baseball is just around the corner. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to send in questions for our final mailbag before the regular season begins. We will do it again soon. Let’s get to it!

With Justyn-Henry Malloy traded and Michael Harris called up, Jesse Franklin hurt and non-existent, is it time we start looking at an outfielder for this upcoming draft? We do have the young international draft picks that are mostly outfielders, however it doesn’t hurt to build a little outfield depth through the draft.

While I haven’t seen an update on Jesse Franklin V’s status, he was notably absent from the major league portion of Spring Training. The Braves did actually draft three outfielders last year in Kevin Kilpatrick Jr., Noah Williams and Christian Jackson. Kilpatrick saw quite a bit of action in big league camp and was among our five prospect picks that could have a breakout season.

Personally, I think the MLB Draft is different than other sports in that you don’t really draft for need, since most players are so far away from the majors when they are picked. I don’t think it is as big of a concern for the Braves, either, given that Ronald Acuña Jr. and Michael Harris II are both locked up long term. Left field is unsettled, but Alex Anthopoulos did a pretty good job of bringing in a number of options that could help there if needed. If there is an outfielder that makes sense in the early rounds of the 2023 Draft, then sure, but I wouldn’t simply prioritize the position over any of the others.

Even though they didn’t make it to the WBC Finals, that Dominican Republic team was absolutely stacked! With zero major league experience, Dylan Dodd faced that lineup and did well all considering. On paper, that’s got to be the most powerful lineup he’ll likely ever face in his career, right? No single team in the MLB’s past (or current) has that insane of a lineup.

That is an interesting question and I think it is hard to disagree. The numbers weren’t real pretty, but I think Dodd handled the situation pretty well. As stacked as that lineup was, it didn’t even include Juan Soto. Would be pretty much impossible for a team to accumulate that much talent. The only situation I can think of would possibly be pitching in the All-Star Game, which isn’t quite the same. The fact that the Dominican Republic was eliminated before the semifinals just once again speaks to the randomness of baseball.

Since it’ll be asked eventually, so might as well get it out of the way, opinion about the City Connect Jersey?

I like it when compared to the other City Connect jerseys. I like that they took the opportunity to pay tribute to Aaron while utilizing one of their most popular throwback looks. I think the hat is my favorite and I expect those jerseys to be a hot item.

Among Michael Soroka, Bryce Elder, and Ian Anderson, which do you think is most likely to pitch so well that the Braves call him up?

Is it cheating if I say all three? Twelve different players made starts for the Braves during the 2022 season in what was overall a pretty healthy campaign for the pitching staff. While any of them could be called up due to a need, I think Soroka might be most likely to be the one that could force his way into the picture by pitching particularly well. He will probably need some time to shake off the rust, but if he can just stay healthy, then I could see him play a part beyond just depth at some point during the season.

Should be an easy question: do we expect Spencer Strider to start the home opener on 4/6?

That is my understanding. It looks like Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Jared Shuster for the Nationals series. Then Charlie Morton, Dylan Dodd and Fried again in St. Louis. That would leave the home opener for Strider.

With the state of the Braves farm system being dilapidated due to graduations, previous sanctions, etc., what steps beyond picking a few nearly perfect few future draft classes are / can / should the Braves take to rebuild the farm?

I think the Braves wouldn’t agree with the assessment that the farm system is depleted. You don’t have to look any further than the performance of Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd as another example. Neither were considered Top 100 prospects by any outlet, but are likely going to play a meaningful part on the team in 2023. Being back in the international market is going to help a lot, and continuing to nail down solid draft classes will go a long way towards replenishing things. Something that isn’t mentioned nearly enough is player development, and that is something Atlanta has done a pretty good job of. Taking guys that aren't consistently Top 100 guys and then turning them into contributors at the major league level or using them in trades to supplement the major league roster is impressive in its own right.

Best place to sit at Truist to watch a game and best ballpark food?

First base side if you want to be in the shade on a typical game day. As far as the food, there are plenty enough options to satisfy anyone.

Do you think any of the backup outfielders could be an option next year? I doubt they pick up Eddie Rosario’s $9 million option, even if he has a good season. I think 2023 will be a good audition for someone to take over in LF after this season.

I think a lot of it depends on how Eddie Rosario and to a lesser extent, Marcell Ozuna perform in 2023. I wouldn’t completely dismiss the thought of them picking up Rosario’s option, but it would require him to put up a great season. If it isn’t Rosario or Ozuna, then I’m going to guess that the 2024 starter isn’t currently in the organization. I guess you could look at a guy like Sam Hilliard and wonder if they can unlock something. As much as I was encouraged by what I saw from Jordan Luplow and Eli White, they all look more like role players to me than actual starters.

Who will be the starting shortstop in Gwinnett, Vaughn Grissom or Braden Shewmake? Where will the other play?

It sounds like Grissom is going to see the bulk of playing time at shortstop with Shewmake playing a lot of second base. I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved Shewmake around a bit as well. If spring camp taught us anything though, it is that things can change rather quickly. Gwinnett is going to be an interesting minor league team to follow.

Braves Mailbag: Left Field picture going forward, replenishing the minors and more (2024)

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