To no surprise of some, the Atlanta Braves will be without its 3-time Gold Glover throughout the entire postseason.
Adding to his original ailment (injured hamstring), Inciarte has apparently tweaked his quad, all but guaranteeing the fact that we won’t see him this postseason… whether the Atlanta Braves advance any further than the NLDS or not.
This unfortunate news comes just days after our own Fred Owens reported that the Braves shut down the Venezuelan defender, intending on resting Inciarte with hopes that he could return for a possible NLCS series if the Braves were to advance.
Instead, the savvy defending Inciarte will miss the postseason fun and settle for just a shortened 65-game season in 2019 — his last game came on August 16.
What this means
Well, to state the obvious: it’s not good. We knew the Atlanta Braves would have to battle without Inciarte in its upcoming matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, but there was at least a sliver of hope that the team could possibly receive a defensive boost in Round 2 (depending on your optimism regarding Inciarte’s initial hamstring injury).
And while it’s particularly rare for any one player to make or break a team’s chances in a playoff series, the insertion of Inciarte would’ve instantly lengthened not only the Braves’ outfield but also the team’s bench.
With Ronald Acuna Jr. back at left field, manager Brian Snitker could revert back to regulating his bench more appropriately, arranging Matt Joyce‘s plate appearances for righty pitchers only and Adam Duvall‘s for lefties.
And I don’t even need to mention the positives on defense Inciarte would’ve brought to the team; even with Ender having perhaps a down year in the outfield in 2019, his defensive metrics look a bit more appealing.
FanGraphs UZR/150 rating
- Inciarte: 1.4
- Duvall: –0.7
- Joyce: -10.3
Although, maybe that depends on your opinion of Rafael Ortega, who’s 13.3 UZR/150 is head-and-shoulders above Duvall and Joyce (albeit in a small sample size). But with Ortega batting just .205 (51 wRC+), you’d have to imagine his roster spot would be in serious jeopardy with an active Inciarte.
Of course, there’s always Billy Hamilton (15.3 UZR/150) and his elite glove. However, I find it far fetched to expect him in a full-time role at center field. At the least, though, Hamilton will most likely get some late-innings appearances at center during the postseason, as his presence on the basepaths is just too enticing.
Overall, the absence of Inciarte in the Playoffs technically doesn’t change much. The Braves have made it work without him for going on 2 months now. Snitker has his platoon mates in Duvall and Joyce… with Ortega and Hamilton in the mix as well. Really, it should be more of the same.
Ender’s 2019 numbers
Inciarte’s fourth season with the Atlanta Braves was by far his worst yet, though an injury in May derailed his 2019 campaign for 2 months (May 15 to July 18) and then of course his most recent absence hasn’t helped matters either (August 17 to end of season).
Altogether, Inciarte slashed just .246/.343/.397 (93 wRC+) with 5 home runs, 11 doubles and 7 stolen bases — good for a career-low 0.9 fWAR.
2019 also featured 13 minor league games for Inciarte, as he worked to come back from his May IL stint.
As I mentioned above, this season was also Inciarte’s worst defensive year, according to advanced defensive metrics.
After a peak of an 11.5 UZR/150 and 10.4 Def in his first season with the Braves (2016), Inciarte’s defense has started to slip a bit. However, he’s still an above average center fielder.
- 2016: 11.5 UZR/150, 10.4 Def
- 2017: 2.7 UZR/150, 5.2 Def
- 2018: 7.4 UZR/150, 9.5 Def
- 2019: 1.4 UZR/150, 1.4 Def
For the past couple of seasons there have been talks of the Atlanta Braves possibly attempting to trade Inciarte. Obviously those rumors haven’t come to fruition yet, but one could argue that such a thing could perhaps occur this winter or during the 2020 season.
Inciarte still has two more seasons left on his 5 year, $30.525 million deal that includes a 2022 club option. Obviously, with Ender coming off of the worst season of his career, the Braves would be selling ultra-low if a trade took place this winter, but with a strong first half in 2020, a trade appears more logical.
However, with the guy currently hurt, perhaps we should save that discussion for another time.
At the end of the day, hopefully Inciarte makes a full recovery and is able to get himself ready for a strong season in 2020. The Atlanta Braves will surely miss him today when they take the field in Game 1 of the NLDS.