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The Braves Have a Major Problem: Too Many Options

The Atlanta Braves have been rallying behind the first three batters to overcome injury concerns to start the season.

The Atlanta Braves have spent the first two weeks of the season fighting injuries. During this time, the backups have been lethal, ultimately helping the Braves climb up the win column. The performance of the top four batters has boosted these young guns. OF Ronald Acuña Jr. has put this team on his back and has gotten a lead-off hit in 11 of 19 games.

Acuña is 100% Back

Ronald Acuña Jr. has shown what everybody who follows MLB was hoping for: he is back. Acuña is playing lights out with a .367 average, 29 hits, and a .995 OPS. Domination doesn’t describe what Acuña has done so far this season. He is first in the league in runs scored (18), third in the league in fWAR (1.3), and second in the league for hits (29).

Olson is Even More at Home

After Ronald comes 1B Matt Olson, who gives everyone a reason to make him an NL MVP candidate. The Georgia native leads the NL in strikeouts (31) but is hitting .280 with a .386 OBP, leading the team in homers (6) and OPS (1.000). Olson also tops the National League in RBIs (20), and he is second in extra-base hits (12) and total bases (46). His first season in Atlanta may not have been as good as he had hoped, but he’s looking like a different animal so far this season.

Riley Still Rakes

Batting third is 3B Austin Riley, who has been nothing short of phenomenal over the past three seasons. Riley currently sits at four home runs, 20 hits, and 12 runs. This guy seems to get better with each passing season and is establishing himself as a perennial MVP candidate in the National League. Much like Olson, Riley has had a problem with strikeouts but has seemingly made up for it with clutch hits.

Braves Run Deep

Atlanta has received a ton of production out of the shortstop position early in the season, which was the biggest question mark coming into the year following the departure of SS Dansby Swanson. SS Orlando Arcia provides top-tier defense and is doing his best to prove that the Braves made the correct decision to put him in the six-hole. Unfortunately, he’s now on the IL with a micro-fracture in his wrist, but SS Vaughn Grissom has stepped in wonderfully.

The Best Kind of Problem

The next wave of players stepping up, such as OF Sam Hilliard, Vaughn Grissom, and SP Bryce Elder, bring an excellent problem for the Braves. Once the regulars come off the IL, where will the organization see fit to place the players who have helped weather the fierce storm? I have written about Grissom’s past in the minor leagues playing in the outfield. Once Arcia, who has earned the starting position 100%, comes back, it will be no surprise to see Grissom play left field.

There is now the problem of Sam Hilliard in centerfield. OF Michael Harris II will be back soon, and there is no way you can just DFA Hilliard, who is hitting at an exceptional rate. There has been no speculation as to what will happen when MHII returns, but moving Hilliard to DH would be a very interesting idea.

Braves Fans Most Likely to See Some Experimentation

Much to every Braves fan’s chagrin, it seems we will see a lot of DH Marcel Ozuna and OF Eddie Rosario this season, mainly at DH. If that’s the case, there could be an argument to put Hilliard in left as well and have him and Grissom share duties. There is still yet to be a solid answer as to who the Braves left fielder will be, but there are plenty of options.

The Braves’ roster goes beyond deep. They have weapons at every position and, in some cases, multiple. Atlanta has had a next-man-up mentality so far, which shows the depth of this team. The 2021 champions feel ready to go for gold again and have the depth to do it.

All stats are through Thursday, April 20.

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