Tag Archives: Ronald Acuna

NL East Division position comparison: right field

The National League East Division position-by-position evaluation and ranking of the starting eight position players comes to an end today with a look at right field.

The Philadephia Phillies had the top catcher in my rankings. The club’s projected starter ranked second in center field, and third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstopthird base, and in left field.

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals had the top-ranked player at shortstop as well as in left field and center field. The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves came out on top at first base, second base, and now again in right field.

On Thursday, I’ll take a look at the backups and pinch-hitters for each team and rank each of those projected bench groups. Over the weekend the projected starting pitching rotations, bullpens, and finally the managers will be covered.

Once this evaluation process is complete, Phillies fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where the team stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 11, less than two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 RIGHT FIELD RANKINGS

1) Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta Braves: There are two particularly frightening things to consider regarding Acuna for the rest of the National League East. First, he turned just 22 years of age this past December. Second, the Braves got him to a sign a contract paying him $17 million through 2026 with team options at the same salary for two more years beyond that. Acuna is likely to be terrorizing opponents for many years. He won the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award after slashing .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 56 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 78 runs scored, and 16 steals in just 111 games that year. In his first full season a year ago, Acuna made his first NL All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award. He slashed .280/.365/.518 with 41 homers, 65 extra-base hits, 101 RBIs, 127 runs scored, and 37 stolen bases. For that performance, Acuna finished fifth in 2019 NL Most Valuable Player voting. On top of all that offensive production, Acuna is an outstanding defender in right with the ability to handle center field as well. He has the talent to win multiple MVP’s going forward.

2) Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies: After starring with the Nationals for seven seasons during which he was an NL All-Star six times and the 2015 NL MVP, Harper signed with the Phillies as a free agent prior to last season. He did not disappoint, producing a season in which he slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 homers, 114 RBIs, 72 extra-base hits, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. Harper also elevated his defensive game enough that he was a Gold Glove Award finalist. He improved as the season wore on, slashing .290/.374/.621 starting August 5, also cutting down his strikeout rate from that point. With an improved Phillies lineup around him, a year of comfort in the environment, and that strong finish, Harper could be poised for another All-Star campaign in which he is a leading NL MVP contender in 2020. He plays at still just age 27 for the entire season.

3) Michael Conforto, New York Mets: Turning 27-years-old on March 1, Conforto is under control with the Mets for just two more seasons. He can become a free agent after 2021, and the Mets are going to have to try to get him signed long-term before that point, because this is a player they cannot afford to lose. Conforto has a .253/.353/.481 career slash line over his first five seasons, and that is about the level at which he performed last year. If the 33 homers, 63 extra-base hits, 92 RBIs, and 90 runs scored is his peak production during his prime, that’s pretty good in these non-PED years. While Conforto will never win a Gold Glove Award, neither is he a poor defender. He ranked seventh in 2019 Fangraphs UZR among all big-league right fielders.

4) Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins: Anderson, who ranked second on my third base list, is the only player who I ranked at two different positions. In 2018, Anderson played 91 games in right and 71 at third. Last season he appeared in 67 games at third base and in 55 games in right field. While he is a better defender in right field than at the hot corner, the fact is that the Fish have a group of strong prospects coming in the outfield and no better options coming at third base. In 2020 when Anderson is in right field, newcomer Jonathan Villar could see action at third with young Isan Diaz playing second. It is not likely that manager Don Mattingly is going to really commit to a regular position for Anderson until he sees how his players look in spring training.

5) Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals: Having turned 31 years of age back in December, Eaton is the oldest starting right fielder in the division. He is also the weakest overall defender, though he does possess a solid arm. In his return from two injury-marred seasons a year ago, Eaton slashed .279/.365/.428 with 15 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs, 103 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. That is about his offensive upside at this stage of his career. The Nationals have the top left and center fielders in the division. But while both are talented, they are also young. Washington is happy to live with Eaton’s modest production and defense at this point in exchange for a veteran presence that he brings to the group. But don’t be surprised to see them bring in a more dynamic option via an in-season trade during the coming summer if they are contending again in 2020 as expected.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: center field

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to center field today as I continue to rank the Philadelphia Phillies and their divisional competitors on a position-by-position basis.

The Phillies had the top catcher in my rankings and the club’s projected starter ranked third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstop, third base, and in left field.

Right field will come on Wednesday, and then each club’s bench group will follow on Thursday. Over the weekend the projected starting pitching rotations, bullpens, and finally the managers will be covered.

Center field is currently not a glamour position within the division. There are a number of younger players being used by the clubs. Any of those players could still develop into a more impactful player in the coming years and vault up the list. That includes a couple of prospects in the minor leagues who aren’t likely to appear in the upcoming 2020 campaign.

Once this evaluation process is complete, Phillies fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where the team stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 11, less than two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 CENTER FIELD RANKINGS

1) Victor Robles, Washington Nationals: The Nationals had the clear front-runner in left field with Juan Soto, and the defending world champs also have that in center with Robles. Though it was the third season in which he made an appearance with the Nats, he was still rookie-eligible a year ago. Robles, who turns 23 in mid-May, finished 6th in the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year voting during a season in which he slashed .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs, 53 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 86 runs, and 28 stolen bases. Robles is also an outstanding defender, leading all MLB center fielders – in fact all outfielders overall – in defensive runs saved last season. After finishing as a runner-up to Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain in 2019, Robles should eventually earn a number of Gold Glove Awards at the position.

2) Adam Haseley, Philadelphia Phillies: Haseley was a surprise emergency call-up by the Phillies last season who saw far more time in the big-leagues than ever originally envisioned. That promotion and playing time came due to the injuries suffered by Andrew McCutchen, Roman Quinn, and Jay Bruce and the Odubel Herrera domestic violence suspension. While he didn’t light the world on fire, neither did Haseley embarrass himself. In fact, no less an authority than the folks at Bill James Online named Haseley as their top defender for the month of September. He slashed .266/.324/.396 with five homers, 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, and 30 runs scored over 242 plate appearances across 67 games, 59 of those as starts. Haseley has been penciled in as new manager Joe Girardi‘s starter entering the season. He turns 24 in early April, and the 2017 first round draft pick could emerge as a legitimate difference-maker in the 2020 campaign.

3) Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets: Nimmo, who will turn 27-years-old as spring training comes to an end, missed nearly three-and-a-half months of the 2019 season due to a bulging disk in his neck. Finally returning to the lineup in September, Nimmo slashed .261/.430/.565 with five homers, 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, and 14 runs scored over the final month as the Mets went 17-10. Jake Marisnick, who turns 29 at the end of March, was signed as a free agent. A far better defender than Nimmo, Marisnick could take some playing time away here, especially in late-game situations.

4) Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves: The 29-year-old Inciarte was the center field starter in Atlanta during the 2016-18 seasons. After beginning the season as the starter once again last year, Inciarte began suffering what turned out to be a series of injuries. A bad back at first cost him a couple of months, and then injuries to the quads in both of his legs finally ended his season early. The Braves could slide Ronald Acuna Jr.over to start in center field and use either Adam Duvall or Nick Markakis in right field. But while Acuna would excel anywhere on defense, the club’s overall best defensive outfield would have Inciarte in center with Acuna in right. Another factor to keep an eye on is that the Braves have a pair of hot outfield prospects who could be ready quickly in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Either could push for a starting role before 2020 is over.

5) Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins: Many felt that Brinson was prepared to break out as a leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate with Miami in 2018 after he arrived from Milwaukee as part of the four-prospect package in January of that year for Christian Yelich. However, Brinson underwhelmed as a 24-year old. He returned last season, but rather than take a step forward, he seriously slid back, demoted to the minor leagues after hitting just .197 with no offensive impact over the 2019 season’s first month. After returning on August 5, Brinson didn’t fare any better, slashing only .160/.230/.200 with just five extra-base hits and no stolen bases over 166 plate appearances across 48 games. The Fish have a trio of talented outfield prospects rushing through their system in Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, and JJ Bleday, and all three could be starting by some point in the 2021 season. But only Harrison, who also arrived as part of that Yelich trade with Milwaukee, is really a center fielder, and he lost time a year ago with a wrist injury. Brinson will likely get a long look this year in hopes that his raw talent will finally translate into on-field results.

 

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Phillies crush Braves by 9-4 to salvage series finale at Citizens Bank Park

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J.T. Realmuto blasted a grand slam as one of four Phillies homers

The host Philadelphia Phillies (55-50) used the long ball, blasting four home runs to power past the Atlanta Braves (62-43) and salvage the series finale with a 9-4 victory on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

Atlanta took the first two in this weekend set between the NL East Division rivals despite being out-hit by the Phillies by a 36-31 margin over the three games.
Still, this was a big victory for the Phillies. It came on a day when starting pitcher Aaron Nola looked to be totally in control, was given a big lead, and then suddenly hit a wall on a hot afternoon in South Philly, nearly blowing that lead before being bailed out by his offense.
The Phillies broke out on top with a pair of solo home runs. Bryce Harper started the scoring by slamming his 18th deep to center field off a first-pitch fastball from Braves starter Kevin Gausman in the bottom of the 1st inning. Then in the home 3rd, Adam Haseley lofted his third home run of the season just over the center field fence to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Adam Haseley’s solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the 3rd has made it a 2-0 Phillies lead.

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While Nola was keeping Atlanta off the scoreboard through the first half of the ball game, the Phillies offense was having a typically difficult time opening up their lead. That is, until the home 5th inning.  Nola led off with his second hit of the day. That was followed by singles from Scott Kingery and Jean Segura to load the bases with nobody out and the Phillies 3-4-5 hitters due up to bat.
For a few minutes, it appeared that this would be yet another disheartening wasted opportunity. Harper struck out, and then Rhys Hoskins popped to shallow center. With two outs now, J.T. Realmuto stepped in and battled the count full. Then pumped a 96 MPH four-seam fastball right down the pike, and the Phillies catcher turned it around, crushing the ball way out over the left field wall for a grand slam to push the lead out to 6-0.
JT Realmuto blows it open with a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th inning, pushing Phillies lead out to 6-0.

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This one seemed well in hand, with Nola mowing through the Braves. And then suddenly he ran out of gas in the top of the 7th inning. It started as he walked Josh Donaldson after battling to a full count. After Brian McCann singled, Nola struck out Adam Duvall and got ahead 1-2 on Ender Inciarte.

Nola battled in this one, shutting out the Braves for most of the day before running out of steam in the top of the 7th inning. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)
Nola then made his first truly big mistake. He left a meaty 90 MPH two-seam fastball right out over the middle of the plate. Inciarte didn’t miss it, putting a nice and easy swing on the ball and driving it out over the right field wall to cut the Phillies lead down to 6-3. On the very next pitch, Johan Camargo crushed a changeup from Nola out to right as well, and that suddenly the Phillies cushion was just 6-4.
Nola got Matt Joyce to fly out, but then Ronald Acuna Jr. singled to bring Ozzie Albies to the plate as the tying run. Acuna took off, stealing second base. On that play, Segura took the throw from Realmuto, but seemed to get his foot jammed on the second base bag. Segura came up limping and had to leave the ball game, helped off the field.
That outcome caused manager Gabe Kapler to bring Kingery, who had started in center field, in to take over at shortstop, putting Roman Quinn out in center. Meanwhile, Acuna also had trouble after sliding in head-first to the bag. He would also end up leaving the game.
Albies worked a walk, and that would be all for Nola. Calling to his bullpen for Adam Morgan, Kapler went for the lefty-on-lefty match-up as the dangerous Freddie Freeman came up with a chance to give the Braves the lead. Morgan won the battle, getting Atlanta’s three-hole hitter to fly out to center, and the Phillies kept ahold of the lead at 6-4.
Often times in this frustrating season, the Phillies offense would run dry and the bullpen would squander the lead, and the club would suffer a disheartening defeat. That would not be the case on this afternoon.
In their half of the 7th, the Phillies offense responded. Harper drew a one-out walk, and Rhys Hoskins followed by blasting a two-run home run to left, pushing the lead out to 8-4. Then with two outs and two runners on, Haseley delivered again, ripping a ground RBI single to right field, give the Phillies their final cushion of 9-4.
Nick Pivetta would come on to shut down the Braves over the final two frames, allowing just one hit while striking out two batters, including Charlie Culberson to end the game. The win went to Nola, who moved to 9-4 on the season. The Phillies will now enjoy another off-day on Monday before welcoming the hot San Francisco Giants to town for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Phillies – Aaron Nola: 6.2 IP, 7 hits (2 HR), 4 earned, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts. 102 pitches, 72 for strikes
Braves – Kevin Gausman: 6 IP, 9 hits (3 HR), 6 earned, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts. 100 pitches, 70 for strikes

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: J.T. REALMUTO

The Phillies catcher stepped to the plate in a game that was still up in the air. With a 2-0 lead, the Phillies had loaded the bases with nobody out in the 5th inning. But after Harper struck out and Hoskins popped out easily, it appeared as though Gausman would wriggle off the hook. Realmuto made sure that didn’t happen, with the All-Star catcher crushing a grand slam to make it 6-0.

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How do the Phillies match-up with the Braves?

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Following a half-decade of losing baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying desperately to build their roster back to a truly competitive level.

Ownership opened their wallets this past off-season, shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the starting lineup.
Last summer, the Phillies surprised many by taking and holding first place in the National League East Division for much of the summer. However, the club eventually collapsed over the final seven weeks of the season to finish in third place, once again with a losing record.
Bolting past the Phillies were the Atlanta Braves, who themselves were coming off a string of losing campaigns. Heading into the 2018 season, the Braves had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons. From 2015-17, Atlanta never finished closer than 23 games to the top of the division.
So, both the Phillies and Braves were awful for years coming into the 2018 season. But in the end, the Braves won a division crown, only their second since 2005. The Phillies missed the postseason for a seventh consecutive season.
There was a surge in excitement around the Phillies after the big cash outlay this past off-season. And as the 2019 season got underway at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies swept the Braves, outscoring their rivals by 23-11 over three late-March games and looking for all the world like the better ball club.
Flash forward four months, and things could not look any different. The two teams have met seven times since that opening series, with Atlanta winning five of those. Over the last three meetings, the Braves have now outscored the Phillies by a 30-10 margin.
The standings reflect this change as well. The Phillies early season lead in the division evaporated in a cloud of injuries, poor pitching, and inconsistent offensive production. Meanwhile, the Braves caught fire and again bolted to the top.
After Friday night’s 9-2 victory, Atlanta now leads the Washington Nationals by 5.5 games in the NL East standings, with the Phillies now 6.5 games back. And the fact is, the talent gap appears grimly wider than that between the two teams.
An examination of the two starting lineups, both now and projected over the coming seasons, reveals a major challenge ahead for the Phillies in trying to catch and stay with the Braves.

FIRST BASE

Harper and Hoskins give the Phillies two legitimate long term weapons. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
Freddie Freeman (29) v. Rhys Hoskins (26): The Phillies have a three-year age edge here. But it’s not as if Freeman is going to be old over the next few years. As he ages into his early-30’s, Freeman is likely to remain an All-Star caliber run producer. Hoskins is a good run producer. Freeman is elite. Neither is a great defender. Unless there is some leap forward from Hoskins, this match-up is likely to favor the Braves for the next 3-4 seasons. But this is not a position where the Phillies need a change.
Advantage: Braves

SECOND BASE

Ozzie Albies (22) v. Cesar Hernandez (29): The Braves smartly signed Albies to an extremely club-friendly contract that will keep him with Atlanta through the 2025 season, with two more club option years. Meanwhile, Hernandez is due to become a free agent following the 2020 season. This could well be his last year with the Phillies, possibly his last week in red pinstripes if dealt before the deadline. The real future match-up is with 25-year-old Scott Kingery, who should be the future at second base for the Phillies. Kingery has a chance to be much more impactful, and would make this an “even” push for years to come. All three are solid defenders.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

SHORTSTOP

Dansby Swanson (25) v. Jean Segura (29): This is a reversal of the Freeman-Hoskins situation, age-wise, with the Phillies having the veteran who will be aging into his 30’s. Swanson likely has at least three more seasons in Atlanta before he can become a free agent. Segura has a Phillies contract through those same three years, with a club option for one more. Segura is a slightly better hitter, but Swanson has improved his approach this year and may still have more upside to come. Defense is an important part of the shortstop position, and there Segura has it all over Swanson. This is a Phillies advantage, but just as with the first base edge to the Braves, it is not a position where Atlanta needs to be overly concerned about the difference in talent.
Advantage: Phillies

THIRD BASE

Phillies desperately need top prospect Bohm to become truly impactful to keep pace with Braves young talent. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Josh Donaldson (33) v. Maikel Franco (26): This is an extremely interesting match-up, because the two players currently occupying the positions are not likely to be with either team over the next few seasons. Donaldson is on a one-year contract, and the Braves have his heir apparent in-house with Austin Riley, who they have mostly played out of position in left field for now. Franco cannot be a free agent until after the 2021 season. However, the club’s top prospect, Alec Bohm, could be ready for a full big-league shot as soon as next season. Franco is a better defender right now, Donaldson a more impactful hitter. This season, I would prefer the 2015 AL MVP Donaldson. Longer term, it’s hard to know what Riley and Bohm will become. But Riley was considered a strong prospect as well, and has 16 home runs in just 243 plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie. So even with the Phillies getting better at the position by bringing up their top prospect, they only remain a likely ‘push’ at this position over the long term.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

LEFT FIELD

Austin Riley (22) v. Andrew McCutchen (32): There is no way to gauge these two as a fair comparison, since ‘Cutch’ is out for the season following knee surgery and Riley will not be in left field longer term, probably not beyond this season. Right now, with Jay Bruce (32) on the IL as well, the Phillies have a revolving door in left field, mostly using some combination of Nick Williams (25) and Adam Haseley (23), either of whom it would be difficult to define a future role for. For the Braves, the outfield is where you can begin to see a scary future developing for the Phillies to compete. A future Atlanta configuration would well see Acuna (see below) flip over here to left, with their top two prospects taking over in center and right. Those would be a pair of 20-year-olds in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both of whom are tearing up the minors and could arrive next summer. McCutchen, assuming health, can keep the Phillies competitive here for a few years.
Advantage: Braves now, ‘Even’ over next 2-3 years, Atlanta beyond that

CENTER FIELD

Moniak’s recent development has been encouraging. If he can become a true big-league talent, the Phillies job keeping pace becomes much easier. (Cheryl Purcell)
Ronald Acuna Jr.(21) v. Scott Kingery (25): Another position where these two are not likely to be the longer term answers for either club. That is not indictment on either. Kingery should be headed to second base to become the Phillies starter at the keystone for years to come. And Acuna is likely to slide over the left, making way for Pache, who is considered an elite defender. The real question will be, who is going to become the Phillies long-term center fielder? Is it Haseley? 2016 top overall draft pick Mickey Moniak? Frankly, if the answer isn’t either one of these two players, that will be a massive indictment of the organization. Again, Moniak was the first overall pick in the draft. Haseley was selected at 8th overall just a year later. Right now, Acuna, who was the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year and one of the game’s brightest young stars,
Advantage: Braves

RIGHT FIELD

Nick Markakis (35) v. Bryce Harper (26): Finally, a position where the Phillies have a clear advantage. Almost a decade younger and just entering the prime of his career, Harper is both a more impactful run producer and a better defender at this stage of their careers. However, Markakis is no slouch for now. The three-time Gold Glover was an NL All-Star as recently as a year ago. He is working on a one-year contract with a team option for next season. He could very well find that option exercised as the Braves give Pache and/or Waters most of another year to develop more fully. As well all know, Harper will be with the Phillies for a long time to come. He is likely to keep this a Phillies advantage position for at least the next 3-4 years, but just how big an advanage will depend on the development of the Braves youngsters after Markakis departs.
Advantage: Phillies

CATCHER

Brian McCann (35) & Tyler Flowers (33) v. J.T. Realmuto (28): By almost every measurement, Realmuto is the best defensive catcher in the game today. He is also in his prime. The Phillies gave up a major package in order to obtain him from the Marlins. He is signed only through next season, and there is no doubt that the Phillies must get an extension with him for at least three more years at some soon point. The McCann (LH) and Flowers (RH) platoon is very effective for Atlanta in the shorter term. They have combined this year for 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. The Braves addressed their lack of a long-term answer by selecting Shea Langeliers at 9th overall in last month’s MLB Draft. This is a Phillies advantage due to Realmuto’s elite defense. But again, they must extend his deal, and the Phillies need a better backup than Andrew Knapp.
Advantage: Phillies
For the Phillies, the three key youngsters as they move into the 2020’s and try to compete with Atlanta will be Bohm, Moniak, and Haseley. If two of those three youngsters become truly impactful big-league ball player, the Phillies should be fine. If only one, it makes it tough. If none develop as hoped, then the Phillies will have an uphill battle.
None of this even takes into account the situation on the mound, where the Braves have strong, young, highly-rated youngsters already in the big-leagues and where they have a number of well regarded prospects on the way. The Phillies really need someone such as Spencer Howard to develop fully, and are probably going to have to spend soon in free agency for a top-level arm or two.

Phillies head to Atlanta for key early July series with first-place Braves

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The Freeze will be doing his race thing this weekend in Atlanta

The Philadelphia Phillies (44-40) slumped during the month of June, and watched as the defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves (50-35) stormed past them to take over the division lead.

With the calendar flipped to a new month, the Phillies hope to make a clean start. They will try to begin pecking away at the Braves five-game lead in the loss column during a three-game series this week at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
The two teams have met for two series in the 2019 season’s first half. At Citizens Bank Park in late March, the Phillies swept the Braves, setting the stage for the first two months which saw the Phillies hold the division lead for all but seven days.
In mid-June, Atlanta took two of three games in front of their home fans at SunTrust Park, winning the opener in walkoff fashion and then blowing the doors off the Phillies with a 15-1 thrashing on Father’s Day.

ATLANTA BRAVES

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Freddie Freeman: .312/.399/.592, 22 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 63 runs, 3 steals
Ronald Acuna Jr. .295/.376/.513, 20 homers, 33 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 64 runs, 13 steals
Ozzie Albies: .281/.342/.465, 13 homers, 32 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs, 51 runs, 6 steals
Nick Markakis: .275/.354/.426, 8 homers, 27 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs, 54 runs, 0 steals
Dansby Swanson: .269/.332/.483, 15 homers, 36 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs, 55 runs, 7 steals
Josh Donaldson: .253/.358/.478, 15 homers, 35 extra-base hits, 39 RBIs, 44 runs, 2 steals
Austin Riley: .273/.326/.582, 14 homers, 22 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 32 runs, 0 steals (just 43 game; promoted 5/15)

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Brian McCann: .267/.339/.466, 8 homers, 13 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, 17 runs scored.
The 35-year-old played the first nine seasons of his now 15-year big-league career in Atlanta after the club originally selected him in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of a local Georgia high school. He became a 7x NL All-Star during that first stint with the club and won five Silve Slugger Awards, becoming recognized as the top offensive catcher in the National League over the first decade of the 21st century.
McCann became a free agent following the 2013 season and signed with the New York Yankees, where he won an American League Silver Slugger in the 2015 campaign. The Yanks dealt him to the Houston Astros in November 2016, and McCann helped Houston to win the franchise (and his) first World Series championship in 2017.
A free agent once again this past off-season, McCann returned to the Braves, inking a one-year deal. He has proven a bargain at $2 million bucks, taking on the role of the lefty side of a catching platoon with the righty-swinging Tyler Flowers.
McCann is a noted Phillies-killer, slashing .280/.351/.484 with 23 home runs. That marks the most that he has blasted against any one team, and he has consistently produced at key moments over 136 career games against the Phillies. He produced a three-hit game that included one of those homers back on June 14 during a 9-8 Phillies victory in Atlanta.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Dallas Keuchel: 31-year-old veteran lefty is 1-1, 5.06 ERA, 1.781 WHIP, 16 hits over 10.2 IP with a 5/3 K:BB. Signed with the Braves as a free agent on June 6 and joined the big club after making two minor league tuneup starts. This will be just his third start in an Atlanta uniform, his first in front of the home crowd. Keuchel has made two career starts vs the Phillies, but those were way back in 2012 and 2014 while he was with the Houston Astros.
SATURDAY – Bryse Wilson: 21-year-old rookie right-hander is ranked as the Braves #5 prospect. He has pitched in three big-league games, making two starts, allowing 11 hits over 8.2 IP with a 10/5 K:BB. Wilson started against the Phillies back on March 30, allowing 4 earned runs on 5 hits over just 3.1 innings and surrendering a homer run to Maikel Franco.
SUNDAY – Mike Soroka: One of the leading contenders for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, the 21-year-old righty has been named to the NL All-Star team. He has gone 9-1, 2.13 ERA, 0.980 WHIP. Soroka has allowed 64 hits over 84.2 IP with a 67/19 K:BB over 14 starts after debuting in 2018 with five solid starts. This will be his first time facing the Phillies.

THE SKIPPER

Guys are starting to feel it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said per Mark Bowman for MLB.comafter his squad crushed the Phillies on Father’s Day. “I kind of felt as the weather got warm we’d get going.” Man, have they ever got going? Snitker’s club has gone 32-15 since ending a four-game losing skid on May 9 that left them two games below the .500 mark.
The 63-year-old Snitker worked his way up the ladder in the Braves organization, taking over as skipper during the 2016 campaign. He has fashioned an overall 271-262 record as the manager, leading the Braves to the 2018 NL East crown.

THE BALLPARK

SunTrust Park is located 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. The ballpark opened for the 2017 season, and has a regular capacity of just over 41,000 seats.
Dimensions at the ballpark are 335 to left and 325 feet down the right field line. It is 375 to right-center and 385 out to left-center, and a shot to dead-center field will have to clear the fence at an even 400 feet away.
The Freeze‘ is a between innings foot-race attraction, as a lucky (?) gets a chance with a large head start to defeat a member of the Braves grounds crew in a foot race.