The Atlanta Braves had themselves a busy offseason post-MLB lockout. After flirting with the idea of re-signing first baseman Freddie Freeman for several months, the Braves front office ultimately decided to go in a different direction altogether.
They sent a blockbuster trade package to the Oakland Athletics for Matt Olson. They then promptly extended Olson to a $100-plus million deal. Much to the surprise of Freeman, the Braves have themselves a new franchise first baseman.
Between this new addition and star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. still recovering from his torn ACL, the Braves‘ Opening Day lineup will have some changes compared to last season.
Who leads off for the Braves during Acuña’s absence?
1. Eddie Rosario (RF), 2. Ozzie Albies (2B), 3. Matt Olson (1B)
Once Acuña is back in the lineup, he’s expected to return to his leadoff duties. He’s thrived in this spot for Atlanta over the past few seasons. There’s zero reason to move him off the role. However, in the meantime, it makes the most sense for the Braves to turn the leadoff job back over to the recently re-signed Eddie Rosario.
Rosario exploded onto the national scene during the 2021 postseason, hitting leadoff for the Braves. He won’t be that good in 2022, but he should be able to hold things down until Acuna returns.
Ozzie Albies is a natural in the two-hole. There’s zero reason to move him off that spot either.
The first significant change comes in the three-hole, where Olson will be replacing 2020 NL MVP, Freddie Freeman. Olson isn’t as good as Freeman. However, he has a similar batting style to Freeman. Both are left-handed bats who thrive off a healthy blend of contact and power. It makes sense to simply slot Olson into Freeman’s batting order spot.
Some added thump returning to the middle of the order
4. Austin Riley (3B), 5. Marcell Ozuna (LF/DH), 6. Adam Duvall (CF)
Thanks to Austin Riley’s breakout season last year, the Braves didn’t miss Marcell Ozuna’s bat all that much (he was out due to suspension). However, now that the slugger has served his time, he will presumably be welcomed back into the middle of the order.
His power stacks up behind Olson and Riley quite comfortably in the five-hole. Last year’s deadline acquisition of Adam Duvall sitting in the six-hole stretches out the Atlanta lineup as well.
A top six of Rosario, Albies, Olson, Riley, Ozuna, and Duvall projects to be one of the better in the National League.
The Braves still have to fill their DH role
7. Dansby Swanson (SS), 8. Travis d’Arnaud (C}, 9. Alex Dickerson? (DH/LF)
Shortstop Dansby Swanson and catcher Travis d’Arnaud round out the seven and eight holes in the Braves lineup. But, there’s no clear favorite to fill the final spot. The Braves signed outfielder Alex Dickerson to a small, one-year contract this offseason. However, he’s by no means a serious bat.
If anything, the Braves would be wise to invest in a true designated hitter at some point this season via trade. Ozuna can hold his own out in left field, and it seems like a waste to burn the newly implemented DH spot on someone who’s been away from baseball for a year.
The other option the Braves could utilize in that final DH/OF spot is Guillermo Heredia, who is also nothing special. Keep an eye on this position throughout the 2022 season. It will likely be shuffled around and platooned until Acuña returns to the lineup. If Ozuna struggles, it could be replaced altogether by someone external.