Way too early Atlanta Braves trends and notes after 2 games

Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with Dansby Swanson #7 after hitting a home run in 2021 vs. Washington. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with Dansby Swanson #7 after hitting a home run in 2021 vs. Washington. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

Sure: trends are not usually evident after just two games, but these Atlanta Braves are already showing hints of what’s to come.

At least it didn’t take a week this year: the Atlanta Braves won Friday night — barely — after slugging their way to a big early lead before perhaps taking the Reds’ offense for granted… weak exit velocity notwithstanding.

But after this 1-1 start, there are some things worthy of notice… and that doesn’t even include the fact that in the other dugout, these Cincinnati Reds might be better than many gave them credit for.

  • Early in Spring Training, Dansby Swanson finished up a batting practice rotation and declared that he was ready to go north and get the season underway.

Well… whether that was in jest or not, Dansby Swanson ended up hitting only .207 in 31 plate appearances in Florida (6 hits, 1 of them a homer) and started on Thursday with a Golden Sombrero.  I doubt they sell that alongside those spiffy new gold-trimmed uniforms in the MLB Shop.

Friday was slightly better as Swanson took a pair of walks in 4 trips, scoring once.

The real point is that this is Swanson’s walk year.  He needs to get himself together for lots of reasons, but the biggest one involves ensuring that he’s a desirable sign next off-season — whether he sticks with Atlanta or not.

  • There is real power in having membership on the 40-man roster.

We here at the Take — and several others — went into the last Spring week with the assumption that both Darren O’Day and Phil Gosselin would make the Opening Day roster… the latter because of a need to have a second hot backup infielder in the event of injury.

O’Day did indeed make the roster… and his position was secured thanks to the injury to Luke Jackson.  That much was pretty obvious.

However, a funny thing happened… Gosselin didn’t make it.  Instead, the slot went to William Contreras, who most folks assumed was to stay behind at Gwinnett to get consistent reps as a catcher.

Also surprising was the inclusion of Sean Newcomb… who was one batter away from having to save Kenley Jansen‘s bacon on Friday night (a scary proposition).  We’ve detailed our thoughts about why Newcomb was a DFA or release candidate before; I won’t belabor those points now.

But this illustrates just how important the bonds of the 40-man roster are to Alex Anthopoulos.  GM’s generally don’t make 40-man changes until they have to, but the end of the Spring generally does bring such changes.

Anthopoulos has decried the fact that he had to compact so many major decisions into so little time as the lockout ended.  Perhaps he took a step back in this regard and chose to not act in this case as the team prepared to go North for the regular season.

He still has Gosselin… he’s hitting leadoff for the 2-2 Stripers and hitting .400 (he only went 1 for 8 in an abbreviated Spring).  And he still has Newcomb.  We’ll have to see how all this plays out.

  • Watch out for Austin Riley

Yeah… it’s only 2 games, but we’re already seeing signs about how Austin Riley could be starting an unbelievable year.

Yes: he went 3 for 4 with a homer in Game 1.  But that’s not the trend I want to show you:

  • Game 1.  4 plate appearances, 17 pitches seen.
  • Game 2.  5 plate appearances, 22 pitches seen.

He’s also taken 2 walks and hasn’t struck out yet.  But Riley’s averaging 4.3 pitches per plate appearance.  League average was 3.9 in 2021… and that’s where Riley was last season.

Note that in 2020, his average was 3.75… and 3.76 during his 2019 rookie year.

The trend is rising, which speaks of his expanding ability to lay off pitcher’s pitches and those outside the strike zone.

Sure… it’s only two games so far.  But if this keeps up — particularly with the results we’ve already seen — then this plate discipline could be the key to a next-level breakout on top of what we saw in 2021.

Next. He's a secret no longer. dark

Oh and lest we forget:  Charlie Morton is awesome.