Just Win In October: Setting Up for the Season (Part 1)

Just Win In October: Setting Up for the Season (Part 1)

So, this is not an original idea. I’ve seen others doing it – most notably Eno Sarris at The Athletic. The basic premise is this – I’m taking over the Braves in OOTP 21. I won’t mention OOTP when I write these entries because I want this perspective to take place in the OOTP universe. Basically, we’re pretending here. Hey, it’s a pandemic and I need to keep myself busy. I might bring in some opinions from my friends to help me decide on somethings as we move forward as well. Let me know if you enjoy it.

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Taking over a team right before the start of the season is less than ideal, but nevertheless, here we are. I want to preview the roster we’ll head into the season with and where I stand as far as moves go.

The Rotation

We are going with a 13-man staff with five starters and eight bullpen guys. Cole Hamels was supposed to provide some veteran stability, but he’ll miss the first month or so with shoulder discomfort. Again, not ideal. That said, I’m actually looking forward to having a month-long try-out for who stays in the rotation once Hamels returns as the #3.

Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, and Mike Soroka | Max Fried @maxfried32

The first two spots in the rotation are set with Mike Soroka and Max Fried. I think Fried could be a breakout star on this staff and I’m considering offering Soroka a long-term extension if he continues to put up big numbers this year as the unquestioned ace. I can promise that if we make the playoffs, he won’t start one game in a five-game series again. In addition, I can also promise if we don’t make the playoffs, I’m going to play a lot of emo music and watch a certain ugly backup catcher hit a homer he had no business hitting in 1996. Over-and-over again. So, we better get to the playoffs. In fact, we better at least advance. I am so sick of losing in the NLDS.

Anywho, the rest of the rotation will be Mike Foltynewicz, Felix Hernandez, and Kyle Wright. I’m a bit on the fence with Folty, who has two more years of team control. A 3.9 WAR in 2018 was exciting, but he followed that up with an uneven 2019 campaign where he had a 0.7 WAR and 97 ERA+. He’ll need a big bounce-back year or I’m moving on. It would be sad for Braves Twitter if only because his beautiful swing will no longer be in the lineup.

With “King Felix,” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left. The results over the last four years in Seattle point a negative answer to that question, but he had a productive spring. Though he’s on the roster now, his grip of a spot is tenuous. I won’t overreact and I don’t like big roster shake-ups before June, but if he doesn’t have it, he simply doesn’t have it. As for Wright, it seems insane to say this, but he’s only thrown 25.2 major league innings. He seems like he’s been around for longer than that. He’s a good fit with our infield defense, but his long-term viability will be completely based on whether or not he can stop nibbling at the plate and quit putting himself in worse situations.

Sean Newcomb and Bryse Wilson, who both will open the year in Gwinnett, are waiting for someone to stumble.

The Pen

The bullpen is deep – a product of a winter where Will Smith was added. In addition, Chris Martin and Darren O’Day were brought back. That doesn’t include 2019 trade acquisitions, Mark Melancon and Shane Greene. That’s a hell of a varsity squad here. Also around are A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, and Grant Dayton. The latter makes the team because he’s out of options, but like Hernandez, he’s almost got a foot out the door so he better put up results.

Phil Pfeifer, Jacob Webb, Chad Sobotka, and Newcomb are among those waiting for a shot.

Catchers and Infield

Behind the plate, Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers will share catching duties. d’Arnaud is a bit more of a hitter, but both are solid receivers and great in the clubhouse. Alex Jackson is the primary backup should I need another catcher on the roster.

Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson make up most of the infield with both Austin Riley and Johan Camargo looking for playing time at third base. Obviously, Freeman and Albies are franchise cornerstones. Swanson is in a bit of a weird position where he was definitely improved last year, but I’m still not settled on him as the long-term option. Meanwhile, Riley’s power would be a big lift for this team, though Camargo is the better hitter right now. I want both to get plenty of time, though.

Adeiny Hechavarria joins Riley as the primary backups. He provides incredible defense up the middle and slashed .328/.400/.639 in 70 PA after we got him last year. I don’t expect that to continue, but he’s nice filler.

Veterans Charlie Culberson and Yangervis Solarte are among those looking for a shot should I need to add another infielder. They will open the campaign down in Gwinnett.

The Outfield

The addition of Marcell Ozuna makes this a very deep position, though carrying two corner outfielders as bench guys is again, you guessed it, not ideal. Ozuna will start in left field while Ronald Acuna Jr. starts in right field and is our primary – and really only – backup center fielder. Ender Inciarte will open the year in center field. Obviously, moving Acuna to center field makes a lot of sense from an offensive standpoint, but for the moment, leaving the phenom in right probably will be the best move.

Adam Duvall and Nick Markakis were headed to a platoon option prior to the Ozuna signing. Getting them enough playing time won’t be easy.

The Lineup

So, I’m already at odds with Brian Snitker. Due to what I can only refer to as a stubborn desire to be right after all, he wants to hit Acuna in the four spot. I don’t like it and will probably overrule him. For now, I’ll let Snitker do what he wants. Here’s his lineup versus RHP.

Inciarte, CF
Albies, 2B
Freeman, 1B
Acuna, RF
Camargo, 3B
Ozuna, LF
Swanson, SS
Flowers/d’Arnaud, C

It gets a bit odder against lefties as he plans to drop Freeman to fifth, Albies to third, and move Ozuna into the two-spot. Again, I probably will have to overrule him.

I think I’ll leave things there for now. Think I should overrule Snitker from the start or let him sink or swim? Thanks for reading.

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