Atlanta Braves: Current Left Field Mix

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 09: Eddie Rosario #8 of the Atlanta Braves acknowledges the crowd during the World Series Ring Ceremony at Truist Park on April 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 09: Eddie Rosario #8 of the Atlanta Braves acknowledges the crowd during the World Series Ring Ceremony at Truist Park on April 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images) /

There is still plenty off-season left, and Alex Anthopoulos is known for pulling of trades that no one saw coming, but there is a distinct possibility that the Atlanta Braves could start the season with a left field mix of Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario, and newly added Jordan Luplow.

The good news is, if a team can pinpoint areas that can be upgraded down to a few (SS and LF, for example), then that team is a really good team.

The question is, if there is not a shakeup in the left field mix for the Atlanta Braves before Opening Day, what can we expect?

The good news is, according to Fangraphs Depth Charts (FGDC), not a single player in the Atlanta Braves current projected lineup has a wRC+ below 100, which means they are all projected to be above league average offensively. Even Marcell Ozuna has a projected wRC+ of 107 with a wOBA of .325 and 20 HRs.

If the season were to start today, the left field mix would most likely be Eddie Rosario against righties, and Marcell Ozuna against lefties in a perfect world where defense is not an issue. However, that is simply not the case. Defense matters, and Ozuna is a liability. Another angle to consider is that with Sean Murphy on the squad we could see Travis d’Arnaud taking DH opportunities away from Ozuna against lefties. d’Arnaud had an excellent 154 OPS+ (54 percent better than league average) against left handed starters in 2022.

With the addition of Luplow, it has added the ability to mitigate the defensive liability of Ozuna. Luplow has a history of having extreme platoon splits where he hits lefties quite well, but can’t survive against righties. He also is much better than Ozuna in the field, especially with his arm. Luplow was in the top 4 percent in MLB in arm strength with Ozuna being in the bottom 15 percent.

That being said, let’s look at the LF options for the Atlanta Braves

Marcell Ozuna

It obviously would not be ideal for Marcell Ozuna be in the field. The wRC+ projections mentioned above have Ozuna as the left fielder. This scenario would not happen in a perfect world considering in only 52 games in left field (420.0 innings) he had -6 defensive runs saved, and -3 Outs Above Average (OAA). For reference, -3 OAA ranked him 179th in MLB. Again, in only 52 games. If he would have played all his games in the field he was on pace for -7 OAA, which would tie him with Austin Riley for bottom 5 percent in MLB.

On the offensive side, there is a reason the wRC+ projections are higher than his 2022 output. His BABIP was extremely low. His BABIP against righties was .248 in 361 plate appearances, and .263 against lefties in 146 plate appearances. For reference, his career BABIP against righties is .307 and .314 against lefties. Generally, the league average is around .300, depending on the season.

He also had an expected weighted On Base Average (xwOBA) that was .039 higher than his actual wOBA.  This also includes an expected slugging percentage that was top 10 percent in MLB.

In a nutshell, he was extremely unlucky last year offensively. His groundball rate was higher than his past 4 seasons at 44.1 percent of the time. The question here, is if the limit on the shift will help that BABIP go up.

Eddie Rosario

We all know that Eddie Rosario dealt with the effects of needing eye surgery. That being said, last year was not Rosario’s year. Offensively, he struggled to a .212/.259/.328 which equated to an OPS+ of 64, which was easily the worst of his career. The next season where he came close to struggling this bad was in 2016 where he had a 91 OPS+. This could be looked at as a good thing. His history shows that this could have been a fluke year.

Of course, from April 7th through April 24th Rosario was playing with a bad eye. During this span he hit .068/.163/.091, albeit with a .088 BABIP.

Once he came back on Independence Day, we saw much better results for the rest of the season. Rosario slashed a .243/.281/.379. For reference, if he would have hit at this rate all season long, he would have ranked 118th in MLB in OPS, tied with Ke’Bryan Hayes. This is in no way excellent, but is a much more palatable slash line than his season as a whole.

Even fully healthy, Rosario makes the most sense as a platoon partner on a contending club due to his ability to hit righties better than lefties. Rosario hit righties to a 70 OPS+ in 2022 while hitting lefties at a terrible 40 OPS+. However, if we look at his career, he has hit at a 106 OPS+ against righties, even with his terrible 2022.

If we look at Rosario’s defense, it is eye popping how bad it was in 2022. His -9 defensive runs saved (DRS) put him in the bottom of the league. Only 19 players in all of MLB had worse DRS than he did, and he missed 2 full months.

The bright spot to his defense, at least in terms of DRS, is that -7 of the total -9 came in RF. Of all 529.0 innings he played in the field, 119 of them were in RF. 96 of those innings in RF were before he had eye surgery, while filling in for Acuña. It is not rocket science to say that had he not had a bad eye, his DRS would not have been nearly as bad. Prior to 2022, Rosario has had positive results in terms of DRS with a career 4 DRS. In LF alone, he had a career 10 DRS prior to 2022.

Jordan Luplow

In a move that not many saw coming, the Atlanta Braves added cheap depth in the form of Jordan Luplow. Luplow has experience in every position except SS and C, although the large majority of his work has been in RF or LF.

In 2022, Luplow had 413 innings in the outfield. 228.2 were in RF, and 152.1 were in left. In terms of DRS Luplow has been fairly average in comparison to his peers. In LF he had 0 DRS in 2022, and owns a career 5 DRS in that position since 2017. It should be noted that 4 of those came in 2018 alone.

Luplow is an obvious upgrade over Ozuna as a fielder, and his arm is stronger than Rosario’s (who’s arm strength was top 54 percent), but the real gem is Luplow’s ceiling as a lefty masher.

There is no doubt about it, his slash line of .176/.274/.361 and 79 OPS+ in 234 plate appearances was not good last year. Interstingly, his OPS+ was better than Rosario’s though.

That being said, like Rosario, Luplow has a much better history at the plate. In 970 plate appearances, he has a career 101 OPS+, which is 1 percent above league average.

If we look at how he hits lefties, it is even better than that. In 2022, he had an OPS+ of 87 against lefties in 127 plate appearances. However, he had a paltry .155 BABIP against them last year. He is bound to rebound. If we look at his career, he has an OPS+ of 125 against lefties while sporting a BABIP that is still abysmal of .235 against them.

If he can rebound to his career norm after shaking off his terrible BABIP luck, Luplow could be a legitimate asset as a platoon partner for Eddie Rosario that would allow them both to play to their strengths.

Next. Braves sign Luplow, Atlanta’s shortstop plans, more. dark

The off-season is not over, and there is a chance that another player could be in the mix. But, should not be an addition, the current LF mix is still much better than most teams in MLB. If LF is the worst faucet of the Atlanta Braves’ team, rest assured that they are going to win many ball games in 2023.