Braves News: Ian Anderson nears return, Austin Riley's rough stretch, AA's trade plans

Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves
Arizona Diamondbacks v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

The rough season continued for the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night after a heartbreaking loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Spencer Schwellenbach's second MLB start went well outside of the two runs he allowed through six innings.

Matt Olson launched a monster two-run game-tying homer in the top of the eighth inning to lift some weight off his and the Braves shoulders. Unfortunately, Joe Jimenez, who hasn't allowed a homer all season, gave up a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to give Baltimore a 4-2 lead.

Craig Kimbrel then closed things out as Atlanta suffered their fifth straight loss for the first time since 2017. The offense is 8-for-47 with runners in scoring position during the current road trip. That is not a recipe for success.

Alex Anthopoulos has his work cut out for him this season as the adversity keeps coming for Atlanta. He did recently comment on that very issue so let's check out that along with a couple of other pieces of Braves news.

Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos is already looking for solutions

It goes without saying the Braves have underwhelmed so far in 2024. They have suffered injuries to star players and the once historic offense has disappeared. Recent struggles find the team down 10 games in the division but they still hold the top wild card spot.

This means there's still hope for the postseason but it won't be easy if things continue the way they are. Alex Anthopoulos is well known for making great deals at the deadline and during the offseason. He surprised everyone in 2021 with four outfielders who all impacted the team and helped lead them to a World Series title.

AA spoke about the recent struggles on Wednesday and said that the team has been active in talks to improve the team. He set the expectation that nothing was imminent but reassured fans he was exploring all avenues to help improve the team.

He mentioned he's been more active than he has in the past but is trying to help the team in the way he can. There is no traction on a move yet but even if there was, AA wouldn't divulge that information. We know how the Braves like to play everything close to the chest.

Rumors have surfaced about Luis Robert Jr. being available and a well-known MLB insider has the Braves as a potential suitor for his services. With Atlanta's woes, a trade for a player of his caliber would be a nice boost. Atlanta also needs starting pitching so I'm sure that will be a focus for the deadline as well.

Ian Anderson nearing return for Braves in 2024

It's been a little while since fans heard an update on former top prospect Ian Anderson. The young right-hander needed Tommy John surgery in 2023 and the team announced back in February the recovery process was going well for Anderson.

The 26-year-old has been on track for recovery and hasn't run into any roadblocks. It was announced a couple of days ago that Ian threw a live batting practice session on Monday and that he's nearing a rehab assignment sometime soon.

Ian was great for the Braves in 2021 with a 3.58 ERA through 128.1 regular season innings and even pitched in the postseason with a 3.86 ERA over 17 innings. However, his sophomore slump in 2022 was concerning with a 5.00 ERA over 111.2 innings that season. His command wasn't good and his velocity dropped.

However, the culprit for the issue seems to be found and hopefully, this recovery process allows Anderson to regain some of the magic he found just a couple of years ago.

No timetable was announced but it seems Anderson could start that rehab process by the end of the month and maybe return to the team at some point this year.

Austin Riley's struggles continue to fester for Braves

2024 has been a season to forget for almost every Atlanta Brave with a few exceptions. The offense has been putrid for the Braves outside of Marcell Ozuna. For whatever reason, Atlanta has not found the solution to turn things around yet.

Austin Riley is unfortunately at the center of that issue. He is having one of the worst seasons of his career as through 224 plate appearances he is slashing .225/.295/.338 with three homers, 20 RBI, a .633 OPS, 18 walks, and 55 strikeouts.

This is a big change after Riley has a .286 average over the last three seasons with a 134 OPS+ with 108 home runs and 297 RBI.

Most of the issue stems from how poorly he is hitting against the fastball right now. Mike Petriello of pointed this out a couple of days ago and it's alarming. His numbers against the four-seam fastball have decreased every season.

As of June 13, Riley has seen 352 four-seam fastballs with a .120 batting average and a .187 slug. This includes a 22.4 K%, .211 xBA, .424 xSLG, .317 xwOBA, and 53.6 hard hit percentage.
Those 352 fastballs are worth 41% of the pitches Riley has seen in 2024.

His strikeout and whiff percentages aren't great and explain his issues. However, what's confusing is that he is in the 91st percentile for bat speed, 85th percentile for hard hit percentage, 79th percentile for average exit velocity, and 75th percentile for barrel percentage. Those numbers should equate to success but the results have been quite the opposite.

Riley's struggles aren't alone as many of Atlanta's bats have yet to find their stride. This has to change and soon or the Braves will be buried in the division more and may even fall out of playoff contention if they aren't careful.

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