Last week, with baseball’s attention firmly fixed on the fall out from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, the Twins signed Josh Donaldson to a long-term deal. You’d be forgiven if the signing slipped your mind; there was a lot going on. The Braves, however, are certainly aware that Donaldson is no longer a member of their organization; I’m sure the Nationals (and really, the rest of the NL East) are at least happy to have him out of their division. There’s no denying Donaldson’s impact in 2019 — a 132 wRC+ over 659 PA and 4.9 WAR in 155 games made him one of the best free agent signings of last offseason. And while the Nationals ultimately won the World Series, there’s a more-than-reasonable argument to be made that Donaldson represented the difference in the Braves winning the division crown.
Without Donaldson in the fold, the Braves’ lineup is due to take a step back. Of course, this is still a team flooded with talent; among the six position players to amass at least 400 PA for Atlanta last year, five had a wRC+ above 100. Their offensive output was led by Freddie Freeman (138 wRC+) and certainly more than aided by Ronald Acuña Jr. (126) and Ozzie Albies (117). That trio will be back this year and supplemented by outfielder Marcell Ozuna (110), signed last night, and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who represents something of a wild card offensively, though he did post a 107 wRC+ during his time in Tampa Bay. But perhaps the Braves’ solution to soften the offensive blow of Donaldson’s departure is the player who spent all of last season next to him in the field: Dansby Swanson. Read the rest of this entry »