As the Atlanta Braves seek to improve their defense, Milwaukee’s Brett Phillips should be on their radar
If the phrase “Defense wins championships” is true, this explains why the Atlanta Braves never sniffed the playoffs in 2017.
While the season had its exciting moments, watching the Braves play defense was not one of them. Therefore, when new Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos came on board, he stated multiple times that his goal was to improve the defense. As scores of talented pitching will find its way to Atlanta over the next several years, this initiative is imperative.
Kemp has already been traded, as he and his comedy of defensive errors found their way back to the Dodgers. This clears the way for Ronald Acuña, who should be an improvement over Kemp on D and at the plate. However, even after the Kemp deal, Anthopoulos found himself once again saying he wanted to improve the Atlanta Braves’ defense.
On the infield corners, first baseman Freddie Freeman is a lock. Third base is still up in the air, with Johan Camargo as the most likely current option. He has the range and arm to handle the hot corner, if no outside additions are made.
Although shortstop Dansby Swanson struggled defensively during 2017, his defense has historically been a hallmark of his play and he should rebound in 2018. Plus, no matter what some of Braves Country might tell you, it’s too early to give up on him. AJC’s Dave O’Brien recently discussed a possible shift back to second for Swanson, a position he played well at Vanderbilt. This switch would allow Ozzie Albies to return to his natural position at shortstop, which would be an upgrade.
Behind the plate, Tyler Flowers’ framing skills are indispensable. Kurt Suzuki is also serviceable behind the dish, and his defensive metrics stand to improve without having to catch R.A. Dickey every five days.
Barring a franchise-altering trade, Ender Inciarte will start in center field for the third year in a row. Whether Acuña starts the season in Atlanta or Gwinnett, he will roam the Braves’ outfield in 2018.
This leaves one position which could use a drastic defensive upgrade, and that is right field. My deepest apologies to the diehard Nick Markakis supporters, but if AA is determined to improve the defense, ‘Kakes will be mashing singles elsewhere in 2018.