A Braves Checkup: Outfield

Ronald Acuna Jr., Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, Orlando Arcia, William Contreras, Alex Dickerson, Guillermo Heredia, Travis Demeritte, Phil Gosselin. Restlessness hovered over this outfield for the first 2 months of the season and for good reason.

  1. Acuna wasn’t ready to play the field daily, which put Ozuna’s dump truck in the OF, and dump trucks suck at fielding.
  2. Rosario went blind.
  3. Duvall forgot how to hit.
  4. Contreras traded a short, stubby glove for a long, floppy one and predictable results followed.
  5. Dickerson wailed, failed, and got demoted.
  6. Demeritte was selected, played well, then played awful, unfortunately earning his demerit.
  7. Heredia can handle a sword but not a bat.
  8. Goose goosed. No need to talk about him below.
  9. Arcia isn’t an OFer. See Goose.

However, the restlessness was laid to rest on May 28th when the heavens opened and Michael Harris was lifted from the hells of Pearl, MS and plopped down, smack dab in the middle of Truist Park’s outfield.

In today’s piece, we will look at each player’s performance thus far in the 2022 season and utilize some advanced metrics to weigh in on successes or FLAT OUT FAILURE THAT MAKES ED K ANGRY!!!

Right Field

AcuñA

Ronald Acuna Jr. seems to be ready to play the field on a regular basis. That’s good. The Braves need him in there on a regular basis. While his advanced defensive metrics have not been great through the first half, that doesn’t bother me as a fan. He’s earned the right to take it easy a bit while getting back to full health.

There’s not much to worry about when it comes to his batted ball profile as Acuna ranks crazy high in all advanced metrics. However, the one thing that is a bit troublesome has been his lack of lift. Acuna has always had a healthy average launch angle, but this year it has dropped to 12.3 degrees, a big drop from his 18 degrees in the last 2 years. If Acuna finds his loft again, he should regain his power and we will see the return to greatness that we all expect.

Dickerson

Alex Dickerson spent some time in right field at the start of the season. He’s never been much of a fielder, but had developed a reputation for being a good stick. Unfortunately, he left all his sticks in San Francisco, carried a .407 OPS in 36 PAs, was DFA’d, and now spends time at Cool Ray Stadium. With all the problems the Braves have had in the OF, if he’d have played halfway decent at AAA, he’d have been given another shot. Alas, no.

Demeritte

I like Travis Demeritte. He’s an easy guy to pull for and looks smooth wherever he plays. I was ecstatic when he got the call late April and even more ecstatic when he lit the league on fire his first 8 games and was still carrying a .914 OPS after 17 games. Then… he broke. 0 for 33, 14 strikeouts, and not even 1 measly walk. Like A-Dick above, AA dropped the hammer, and Demeritte’s been chilling at Cool Ray since with lackluster results.

Grade: C+, but with great potential to be an A by season’s end. No need to fill.

Center Field

Duvall

Let’s get one thing straight. Duvall’s defense doesn’t slump. He’s sitting at 4 Outs Above Average, has played all 3 OF positions and looked really rangy in CF. When Harris was promoted on 5/28, Duvall had been the Braves everyday CFer and being a Type-1 Diabetic, I think it took its toll on him, especially at the plate. The day before Harris’s promotion, Duvall was carrying a .537 OPS and only 2 HRs in 175 PAs. And now here is where I get to request a nickname change, because Michael Harris isn’t Money Mike, he’s Magic Mike. And when Duvall was able to slide back to the corner OF positions, his bat woke up…like +.300 OPS points woke. And while his .679 OPS for the season isn’t on par for what he can do, Duvall’s trending in the right direction now that Magic Mike is chasing ’em down.

Heredia

Let’s be real. Heredia is here for moral support. This is a baseball blog. I’m not writing about moral support. He carries pink swords and he’s funny. His teammates like him. Moving on and it wouldn’t surprise me if he moves on to another team, likely Gwinnett, before the season is over.

harris

I remember one Christmas about 5 years ago, my in-laws were in town and brought my wife’s aunt with them. When the old folks get together, they like to put together 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. This particular Christmas, they get down to the final pieces, but some just didn’t fit. The colors, the patterns were all wrong. It perplexed them so much that they walked away from it for a few days. Then one day after we’d sat around a fire for hours, having drinks, my mother in-law walks into the puzzle room and screams. She figured it out, swapped 2 pieces, then everything fit together. I imagine that’s how AA and Snitker felt. Duvall was good in CF, but didn’t belong there. Acuna couldn’t play the field everyday so he had to DH some, but he didn’t belong there. Ozuna had to play the OF, but didn’t belong there. Then the correct puzzle piece was found and it all fell into place.

This team’s dynamics changed when Michael Harris was promoted. The team was 22-24 the day before he was promoted and have went 34-13 since. Not only did Adam Duvall get to move back to LF, but Ozuna got to move out of it. Acuna might be the better player, but right now, Harris is the keystone.

Grade: B-, but like RF, great potential to be an A. No need to fill.

Left Field

Ozuna

The plan was pretty simple at first. Eddie Rosario in LF, Adam Duvall in CF, Alex Dickerson in RF, and Marcell Ozuna at DH. That went to shit quick. Rosario went to the IL late April, Dickerson was terrible and was DFA’d, and Ronald Acuna was activated, but needed off days from the field. Unfortunately, for Ozuna and all of us, he had to play in the field a lot. As mentioned above, when Harris was promoted, the pieces found their place, and Ozuna made the mostly permanent transition to DH.

Ozuna’s statcast page still shows red (which is good), but the results haven’t come. It is concerning that 2021 and 2022 are mirroring each other as both years, Ozuna carried terrible BABIPs which produced terrible results. His 2022 BABIP, a crazy low .239, is .070 points below his gcareer average and puts him at 149th out of 157 qualified hitters. It’s an odd bunch down there as Rowdy Tellez, Christian Walker, Anthony Rizzo, Byron Buxton, Kyle Schwarber, and Max Muncy round out the list of bottom dweller BABIPs. Ozuna’s luck, like other bottom dwellers, has nowhere to go but up and I expect he’ll be fine in the 2nd half as his expected SLG% is .549.

Rosario

Eddie went on the IL with a .254 OPS and ended the first half with a .397 OPS. I don’t have to tell this bunch how bad this is, but I will. It’s really bad.

It’s really bad because Eddie isn’t a great fielder. It’s bad because Eddie is under team control for $8MM in 2023. And it’s bad because if Eddie doesn’t hit, freaking Ozuna will have to play LF again. Getting Acuña’s bat plane normalized again is priority 1, but if there’s a 2, it’s getting Rosario mentally prepared to mash baseballs again.

Duvall

We discussed Duvall in the CF category, but with Harris there, Duvall likely moves into a platoon with Rosario in LF. That would be best for both parties.

Grade: F. There’s no sugar coating it. Left field has been a dumpster fire for this team, but I don’t think there’s a need here as Rosario and Duvall are capable of being a helluva platoon.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

30 thoughts on “A Braves Checkup: Outfield”

  1. The outfield is going to catch fire the second half and we are going to be a tough team to beat.

  2. I have watched a lot of baseball and I don’t think it’s just “swing plane” for Acuna. His swing and miss is awful and his timing looks out of whack. What you call “swing plane” may just be swings that are missing the ball. I agree that he will eventually be fine but I hope it’s sooner than later.

    One of the things that I think AA has been most astute about is expectations for TJS recovery players. I think it takes 1.5-2 years for TJS patients to fully recover prior performance levels. This, too, may be somewhat relevant for Acuna and his knee (and, of course, should temper our expectations for Kirby).

    If the Braves take the buyout on Smith and don’t re-sign Kenley than Yates may be able to take over directly next year. Good planning by AA.

  3. His swing has flattened out. That’s undeniable. Where we can compromise is that he’s changed his approach because of the swings and misses and that has caused a disruption in timing.

  4. This is one of the best pieces you’ve written, Ryan. Sprinkled in humor with facts.

    I remain concerned about Rosario, but I guess they need to keep playing him like they are and hope he can figure it out since he’s signed through 23.

    One small quibble. Dickerson didn’t hardly play the field at all. He played 1 inning of 1 game in right field. He was the DH when the season began, Ozuna was in LF, Duvall in CF, and Rosario in RF.

  5. You made me.
    Acuna A to A+ It is up to him
    Harris C+ to B- Much to learn
    Duvall C+ to B- Best he has ever been That may a push this year. But heading in the right direction
    Rosario D+to C- A stretch possibly
    The rest are worthless
    Help badly needed at second base. The rest are in good shape.
    All this from playing and managing for 41 years. The best analogies come from those who played the game. They basically never use NUMBERS that no one understands or gives a damn about.
    They observe and in most cases (Carey being an exception) offer accurate intelligent comments.
    The most accurate analysis happen after 162 games are played and injuries, trades and other factors are rendered.
    I would like to wish The Atlanta Braves and their fans a joyful experience.
    Future concerts
    Springsteen
    RATM
    John Hiatt
    Lumineers
    And as many concerts as possible at Red Rocks
    Peace

  6. Great job, Ryan. The good news about the outfield is that regression to the mean ought to be a big improvement in both RF and LF. I fully expect Ronald to put up Ronald-like numbers the rest of the way, and the Duvall/Rosario platoon going forward will be light years better than the LF production in the first couple of months of the season. Ironically, Harris is a good bet to tail off offensively as pitchers adjust, but his defense and baserunning make him valuable anyway. And this kid is so special he may adjust as quickly as the pitchers. He does need to stop swinging at everything. Bottom line, I agree with Smitty @1.

  7. I almost mentioned this a couple times in recent Sunday recaps and decided not to go there, but it’s true that Acuna has just not been good. I understand the reason for it, certainly, and is it the end of the world if he’s mediocre the rest of this year while he figures out how to come back? No, probably not (I mean, it would probably lower our chances to win the World Series this year, but our window is still open and we already won it last year). Even so, I think Snit should kick around the idea of dropping him in the order. I don’t know how unhappy this would make Ronald, but having him doing what he’s currently doing at the top of the order isn’t particularly optimal.

    Having said that, I’m actually more concerned with his defense than his offense. I assume his offense will eventually come around, but his defense hasn’t been good at all. He’s taken bad routes to the ball; he seems afraid to dive or slide, let alone jump; he’s been very tentative when going into any kind of situation where he could come into contact with another fielder, even when it’s with an infielder and he should be taking charge. Really the only part of his defense that hasn’t seemed to take a severe hit has been his arm, but nobody’s dumb enough to run on him at this point (though admittedly the fact that nobody even tries to take an extra base on him is a net plus). I don’t know what can be done to get him comfortable with playing defense again, but I think it’s something of an imperative.

    Look, I don’t want this to seem like I’m interested in running him out of town or anything…I’m definitely not. If it’s just a situation where he’s not gonna be back to 100 percent this year as part of his recovery process, that’s fine. I guess I just worry that, on the defensive side, he might not ever be the same as he was.

  8. @7 – I think Acuna’s defense will come around but it will take time. When he first came off of injury he was all out and seemed determined not to let the injury change his game. He was full speed on the basepaths and in the outfield. After about 3 to 4 nagging injuries and a close call or two for serious injury, he’s slowed down some, which is understandable. I think a slow progression to get him back to full speed should happen through the month of August. Hopefully by September we see the Acuna we’ve been accustomed to in the outfield. I think his struggles at the plate will be corrected a little sooner.

  9. I mean, RAJ has been way below his stratospheric standard, but to say he’s been not good is to dramatically oversell it. The shape of his batting stats is actually very like a lead off hitter; he’s gotten on base consistently and he’s one of the best baserunners in baseball, and he’s added some pop to that combo.

    Unclear what his power numbers are going to look like, but he’s stolen 20 bases at a high clip in 60 games so far and we have more than 60 left.

  10. To put it another way, Acuna has been producing this year so far at a four-win pace over a full year. Four wins a year is not the best player in baseball, but it’s not mediocre either.

  11. Huh. I dunno how to feel abt that trade, which prob means it’s a fine trade. Ohtani doesnt have a lot of service time left, 1.5 years i think, but by all accounts he wants to win and is extendable if you’re a contender, and we look to be that for awhile.

  12. I think the answer is an unequivocal yes back when Strider could rightfully be called a relief pitcher, as he is there. Not so sure now.

  13. And to add to my answer, if we don’t re-sign Ohtani, that deal becomes pretty much a disaster. Back when we hadn’t won a World Series since I was in grade school (so, you know…this time last year), I’d have probably been more willing to do that deal. If blowing up the team was what it took to win a World Series, so be it. Now that we have one, deals that blow up the team for an increased likelihood of winning it this year don’t make as much sense IMO.

  14. Negatory. We don’t need Ohtani — and I, too, balk at Strider. I’m willing to bet that he won’t be the next Joba Chamberlain.

    Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a bunch of net-positive players (save Arcia, I suppose) who don’t make a fortune than one superduperstar who will. But, rent him for 1.5 years? No.

    Also, I’d imagine the Halos could make a better deal than that — something that would include some very top prospects… the kind of thing the Yanks, for example, would have to do to get Soto.

  15. I would not swap Strider one up for 1.5 years of Ohtani. The Braves have 6 more cost controlled years of Strider.

    I am kind of with Ububba. Yes, to win it all you need some superstars. Then, you need a few 3 to 4 war players. Then, you need lots of 2 war position players and 1 war relievers. Absolutely the hardest to come up with are superstars. But the Braves have Acuna, Fried, and then just behind, Wright, Riley, Albies, Strider, Contreras. That core is good.

    Time to start the second half tomorrow.

  16. I see in a numbers only forum where the Braves starters are fifth in FEAR. After 8 attempts even my SMART phone will not accept FEAR. Indeed a smart phone. As you can imagine f WAR, but strung together also means nothing to me. It did not indicate if that was Nation League or M L. If the Braves starters are fifth, by any means of evaluation good for them. I think by observing them that is accurate. Now the bullpen is number one by the f WAR thing. That has to be bullshit. Best in the Major Leagues. Proving the WAR is nonsense.
    Braves Bullpen One real good one.
    The rest, don’t bet your house on any of them saving the day. This includes D, L, M, M, S, and all other letters for those who play Wordle or Wordle Two.
    Let’s WATCH and enjoy the second half.
    Most desirable would be to educate ourselves. I receive great joy in doing so.
    Read The Peacemakers Code by
    Deepak Malhotra

  17. 2 current members of our starting rotation (both of whom are under team control for the foreseeable future), our starting catcher on pace for around a 4 WAR season, our primary set-up man, and a utility man? That’s a ton of depth to give up. I think Ohtani is one of the most uniquely talented players ever, but I don’t think that makes the team better overall. It puts too much reliance on Ohtani remaining healthy. And that doesn’t even mention that he has not much time left on his contract.

  18. “The rest, don’t bet your house on any of them saving the day. This includes D, L, M, M, S, and all other letters for those who play Wordle or Wordle Two”

    I have no idea what EdK is trying to say.

  19. Those sneaky edibles…

    If the Astros sweep the Yanks today — they won Game 1 & they lead very early in Game 2 — they will have gone 9-2 vs. the 2 1st-place New York teams (4-0 vs. NYM & 5-2 vs. NYY). Appreciate the help, fellas.

    They visit ATL for a wknd series in mid-August, right after a 4-game visit from the Mets. That’ll be a helluva homestand.

    BTW, deGrom had a bit of a setback (shoulder soreness) that’ll slow his recovery a bit. There was actually some talk that he’d come back against the Yankees next week. But that def ain’t happening now.

  20. @20, it’s a high price, but if they could extend Ohtani without causing financial problems elsewhere and if they could trade one of Ozuna/Rosario/Duvall (whose PA Ohtani would take) for a catcher to share the load with Contreras, I think I’d do it. It might make the team slightly worse in the regular season but better in the postseason. Part of my thinking is that I’m not convinced that Anderson will be all that valuable in the future, and I don’t think his wonderful postseason performance in the past has much predictive value for the future.

  21. I’m young enough to remember when OPS was being griped about on baseball forums. Might I suggest a delorean, Ed?

  22. I think the teams records (Angels/Braves) speak for themselves. Having two otherworldly superstars is not as good as a team filled with pretty good (or better) players. Too much concentration of WAR is not good. Definite “no” on the trade as presented. To make the trade even thinkable, you’d have to replace Strider with an outfielder or DH type (Duvall/Rosario/Ozuna plus cash). The fact that Iglesias has to be included to reduce Ohtani’s value is a red flag too. Iglesias would be counted on to replace Minter one-for-one.

  23. speaking of crazy trades, how little do you think we could get away with throwing in if in addition to Soto, we agreed to take Strasburg and Corbin. like maybe just pina and Mueller?

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