Atlanta Braves: Here is the Braves most exciting spring training battle

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The Atlanta Braves are in the self-made fortunate position to where there are not many position battles in spring training.

With the moves that Alex Anthopoulos has made in securing the core for years to come, most of the team is set for 2023 and beyond. All of the infield, plus catcher is set. It is safe to say that Right Field and Center Field is set as well.

The rotation is mostly set with some small question marks as to who will fill the back end, but truly the back end of a rotation is almost always in flux on competitive teams. The bullpen is set to yet again be one of the best in MLB.

The biggest question mark is the platoon partner for Eddie Rosario

Many fans may not love that Rosario will most likely get most of the playing time in LF. However, the reality is that once he came back from his eye surgery, and had some time to ramp up, he did just fine against right handed pitching.

From August 1st through the end of the season, Rosario had a wRC+ (2 percent below average) against righties. That is obviously not ideal, but if your team’s worst hitter is 2 percent below average, that is a great place to be in. Rosario also has been very successful against righties in his career. From 2017 through 2021 he has had a wRC+ of 136, 122, 106, 134, and 107 respectfully. It is not a stretch to say that Rosario’s 2022 was an anomaly with him getting adjusted from his eye issues and having to get ramped back up after an extended absence.

Rosario has not been good against lefties. Even in his stretch of his 98 wrC+ against righties last year, his wRC+ against lefties was an abysmal -12 wRC+ (112 percent below average). For his career, he has only had one season in which he had a wRC+ over 99 and that was way back in 2015.

Of course, there is much more to a player than just his bat. Defense matters, and Rosario had some issues in 2022. However, it is easy to see why with a bad eye.

With that being said, that leaves us with what could arguable the most intriguing spring training battle in figuring out who should be the platoon partner for Eddie Rosario in LF.

Jordan Luplow

At first glance, Luplow does not seem that exciting as an option. In 83 games and 234 plate appearances in 2022 he had a slash line of .176/.274/.361 which equates to a wRC+ of 78.

However, he did have a WAR of 0.2, showing he did bring positive value to his team.

Luplow is not going to be a full time starter, so let’s explore how he would do against lefties, since it appears Rosario will be the main starter versus righties.

In 2022, Luplow did not set the world on fire. He had a wRC+ of 85. However, for his career he has been 25 percent better than league average, and in 2019 had a wRC+ of 202. If he can come anywhere close to his 2019-2020 numbers, his bat against lefties would be a huge asset.

Since 2017, Luplow has 5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in LF. In 152.1 innings in 2022, he had a league average 0. As far as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) he has a career 4.2 in 729.1 innings.

Eli White

The Rangers cut ties with Eli White this off-season after he put up a 0.9 fWAR in just 117 plate appearances in 47 games. Remember, WAR is an accumulative stat, like home runs, and unlike rate stats like batting average.

Doing a little math here, White was used as a defensive replacement in some games and so he averaged 2.48 plate appearances per game. If we want to get a better idea how well White would have done by extrapolating how much WAR he would have had had been a starter for an entire season, we can look at his WAR had he played 150 games at 3 plate appearances per game. If that were the case, he was on track to have an FWAR of approximately 3.45. For reference, Matt Olson had an fWAR of 3.1 in 2022.

Now, that is purely speculation, but is fun to point out that when on the field, White was bringing well above average output.

The issue with White is that his value is not because of his bat. 2022 was his best season with the bat was a wRC+ of 67 in which he had a slash line of .200/.274/.305.

He is better against lefties than he is against righties. In 2022 he had a wRC+ of 74 against lefties with a slash line of .204/.291/.306.

His bread and butter is what he brings outside of his bat. In 291.1 innings in the outfield in 2022, he had 7 DRS, and 4.5 UZR. For reference, Michael Harris had 8 DRS and 4.9 UZR in 1021.0 innings.

White is also good on the base paths being in the top 2 percent in MLB in sprint speed, and having an ultimate bae running (UBR), which measures all base running outside of steals, of 1.9 in 2022. Using Harris as a reference again, he had a UBR of 2.8.

So the question is if an elite defender with good base running is worth it in the field against lefties.

Kevin Pillar

Pillar is an interesting option. He is obviously on the tail end of his career, He only had 13 plate appearances in 2022, but from 2020-2021 he had a streak of doing decent against lefties. In 223 plate appearances against lefties in 2020 he had a wRC+ of 105, and in 347 plate appearances against lefties in 2021 he had a wRC+ of 90.

Pillar has long been known for his defense. In his most stint in LF, he had 2 DRS and -0.1 UZR in 182.2 innings in LF. As can be seen, he is not bad, but he is not what he used to be.

Marcell Ozuna

While Ozuna is listed as a left fielder, we can save time here and say that odds are that most of his playing time will be at DH. He has no business being in the field, and will not be challenging the likes of the other players to get more time actually on the field itself as a left fielder.

The battle for the platoon partner for Rosario is going to be a fun one to watch where there is not a clear favorite as of right now.