These Braves players need to step up before the season spirals out of control

There is no cause for panic yet, but the Braves are going to need some guys to step up to navigate some early season obstacles in 2024.

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Early in any baseball season is prime overreaction season and the Atlanta Braves have certainly not been immune to that in 2024. Despite the fact that they have led the NL East since the start of the season and the rest of the divison has shown little interest in pushing the Braves early, losing Spencer Strider to an arm injury combined with some crummy losses and Max Fried's struggles have many Braves fans thinking that the sky is falling.

This is everyone's reminder that the baseball season is a long season and it is probably best to not get too hung up on individual game results or events especially early in the season. There is a lot of baseball that needs to be played out before we will learn much and at the end of the day, every team is going to lose 50 games and win 50 games. It is those middle 62 games that will determine who is going to be playing in October and who is going to be left wondering where things went wrong.

That said, the Braves can't afford to just assume that games in April and May don't count because, well, they absolutely do. Given some of the obstacles that the Braves are up against (which are not dissimilar to what they had to deal with last year), they are going to need have some guys step up in a big way.

Here are some of the Braves that need to step up before it is too late

Players aren't on this list because of lack of effort or even anything beyond some dumb early season luck. However, it is undeniable that when guys get hurt or things start to go sideways, the only way that that gets fixed is by guys rising to the occasion to help put wins up on the board. Here are a few of the more important Braves players that the team is going to need that sort of performance from going forward if Atlanta has any hope of getting where they want to go.

Travis d'Arnaud

Asking a 35 year old catcher with a lot of mileage on his body and with a history of injuries including concussions to play almost every day and contribute at a high level is a big ask. However, the fundamental problem is that Atlanta's primary catcher, Sean Murphy, is out for a while with an oblique injury and that means the Braves have no choice but to hope that TdA can turn back the clock at least for a little while.

As of 4/12, d'Arnaud is slashing .214/.267/.321 in his 30 plate appearances so far in 2024. While asking him to become the version of himself from 2020 where he put up a .919 OPS isn't going to happen, being a .700+ OPS guy at the plate while continuing to be an excellent shepherd of the Braves' pitching staff would go a long way.

Jarred Kelenic

The truth of the matter is that the Braves' pitching staff is going to be a work in progress all season long. Will the Braves keep Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation all year? Who will fill in for Strider if he misses the rest of the season? How will Charlie Morton and Chris Sale look in the second half at their age? Those are just some of the "ifs" and that means the Braves' offense is going to have to be awesome once again.

For that to happen, the Braves are going to need the newly acquired Jarred Kelenic to rake, plain and simple. The results thus far this season have been fantastic (he must have read all of your mean tweets and comments from spring training) as he is slashing .462/.517/.577 so far, but that has been buoyed by some fortunate BABIP luck and he has yet to really showcase his power or demonstrate the ability to get on-base when the good batted ball luck isn't rolling. Atlanta needs that to happen before too long.

Max Fried

Everyone knows what is at stake for the Braves and Max Fried this season. Fried is a free agent at the end of the season and all Braves fans want to know if Atlanta will be able to keep him long-term or if they even should. The latter question has become a lot more relevant over the last couple of weeks or so as this hasn't exactly been a banner start to the season for Fried and his struggles have come at a brutal time for the Braves.

No one probably thinks that Fried's 18.00 ERA through his first two starts is going to stick long-term because he is just too talented for that. However, results are results and he hasn't helped the Braves stay in his starts so far nor has he helped his own contract case. There is also a chance that some of the injury issues Fried dealt with last year may be a factor here as well. For the Braves to weather the expected loss of Strider, Fried is going to have to turn things around and stay healthy in 2024 which may be easier said than done.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

This is not an alarm bell about Ronald Acuna Jr. as he is still making things happen in almost every game even if that is limited to occupying a lot of the opposing team's attention. Still, his .233/.353/.279 line to start the season has left a lot to be desired even though he at least appears to be well past any concerns with the minor knee injury he dealt with this spring based on how much he is running so far.

Look, coming off one of the best offensive seasons ever in the history of baseball was going to be a near impossible bar to clear this season and that shouldn't be the standard for success for him. That said, Acuna Jr. is going to have to be one of the best players on the Braves in 2024 if they want to repeat as division champions and make a deep run this postseason. History suggests that he will be just fine, but it would be great if he started looking like himself soon.

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