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  • Grant McAuley

Get to know the 2021 Atlanta Braves

Opening Day has arrived and the Atlanta Braves now begin their march back to October. The 26-man roster boasts the reigning MVP, several All-Stars, and no shortage of homegrown talent, all focused on reaching – and winning – the World Series in 2021.


In celebration of a new season, here are some stats and notes on each member of Atlanta's Opening Day roster, led by manager Brian Snitker.


INFIELDERS...


Freddie Freeman – The 2020 National League Most Valuable Player led the league with 23 doubles and 51 runs scored. He ranked second with a ,341 AVG, 53 RBI, .462 OBP, .640 SLG and 1.102 OPS. Not only is Freeman the NL's hits leader since 2018 with 440 of those, he is also Major League Baseball's RBI leader since the start of 2018 with 272.


Ozzie Albies – An All-Star in 2018, Albies followed that campaign up with an even bigger 2019. He led the NL with 189 hits and became the first Braves second baseman to win a Silver Slugger. After battling a wrist injury for much of 2020, Albies batted .333 (9-for-27) with two homers and seven RBI in the NLCS.


Dansby Swanson – After a pair of injury-plagued seasons, Swanson played all 60 games in 2020, leading the NL with 237 at-bats. He finished 4th among NL shortstops with a 1.9 fWAR and led all shortstops in MLB with 10 defensive runs saved in 2020. Swanson owns a .302 AVG (19-for-63) with three home runs and 11 RBI in 17 career postseason games.


Austin Riley – Slugged 26 home runs in 503 career plate appearances over his first two seasons in the majors. Riley cut his strikeout rate from 36.4% in 2019 to 23.8% in 2020, the biggest improvement by any hitter in MLB. While he enters 2021 as Atlanta's starting third baseman, Riley has started only 49 games at the hot corner and 64 times in the outfield in his young career.


Ehire Adrianza – Made the club after slashing .400/.500/.700 with six doubles, two homers, 12 RBI and nine runs scored this spring. The Venezuela native made his MLB debut in 2013 with San Francisco. Spent parts of four seasons with the Giants and the next four with the Twins. Natural shortstop can play all four infield positions and both outfield corners.


Pablo Sandoval – After joining the Braves for their postseason run in 2020, Sandoval re-signed with the club over the winter. Earned a spot on the Atlanta bench after batting .400 and leading Atlanta with 16 hits this spring. Three-time World Series champion holds a .338 AVG with six homers and 20 RBI in 42 career postseason games.


CATCHERS...


Travis d'Arnaud – Enjoyed a breakout season in the shortened 2020 campaign. Led all catchers in MLB with 34 RBI and 53 hits. Owned highest average exit velocity among catchers (93.4 mph) and ranked fourth in all of MLB in average exit velocity (min 100 batted ball events), trailing only Fernando Tatis Jr., Mike Trout, and Christian Yelich.


Alex Jackson – Former first round pick of the Mariners (#6 overall, 2014) was traded to the Braves in 2016. Made his MLB debut in 2019 and spent limited time with Atlanta in 2020. Collected his first major league hit on July 28, 2020. Belted 28 HR in just 345 PA with Triple-A Gwinnett in 2019 (85 games), but struck out 118 times that season (34.2 K%).


OUTFIELDERS...


Ronald Acuña – Ranked eighth in the NL (15th in MLB) with a 2.4 fWAR despite missing two weeks with a sore wrist. Earned his second Silver Slugger in as many years and finished 12th in NL MVP voting. Acuña's career-high walk-rate (18.8%) fueled a career-best .406 OBP last season. His .331 ISO, .413 wOBA, 158 wRC+ were all career-bests as well.


Marcell Ozuna – Narrowly missed becoming the National League's first triple crown winner since 1937. Led the NL with 18 HR and 56 RBI and finished 3rd with a .338 AVG. That average would’ve been good enough to win the National League batting title in nine of the last 11 seasons. Finished sixth in MVP voting after ranking seventh in the NL with a 2.5 fWAR.


Cristian Pache – Regarded as the finest defensive outfield prospect in baseball. Earned the starting center fielder's job after being pressed into everyday action during the 2020 NLCS. Spent most of last year at the Alternate Training Site after slashing .277/.340/.462 with 36 doubles, eight triples, and 12 home runs in 538 PA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019.


Ender Inciarte – Three-time Gold Glove Award winner opens 2021 as the fourth outfielder for Atlanta. He was an All-Star in 2017 when he collected a career-high 201 hits, the most by an Atlanta player since Marquis Grissom's 207 hits in 1996. Inciarte batted a combined .225/.314/.343 in 111 games in 2019 and 2020, dealing with a handful of injuries in the process.


STARTERS...


Max Fried – Earned his first Opening Day start after finishing fifth in NL Cy Young voting in 2020. Though he missed qualifying among the league leaders, Fried owned a 2.25 ERA and ranked second in the NL with a 7-0 record. In the postseason, he turned in a 3.04 ERA across 23.2 innings, fanning 23 hitters and walking just six over the course of four starts.


Charlie Morton – Returns to Atlanta, where he began his major league career in 2008. The 13-year veteran has routinely been among the American League’s top hurlers since 2017. He owns a 47-18 record with a 3.34 ERA while averaging 10.6 K/9 across 546.1 IP over the past four seasons. Morton is 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 61.1 career postseason innings.


Ian Anderson – Atlanta's top pick (#3 overall) in 2016, Anderson debuted on August 26, 2020, out-dueling Yankees ace Gerrit Cole to win his first career start. Anderson finished 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and just one home run allowed across 32.1 IP in 2020. He then struck out 24 batters in 18.2 innings and posted a 0.96 ERA in his four postseason starts


Drew Smyly – After getting his career back on track in San Francisco, Atlanta signed Smyly to a one-year deal. He posted a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP) with 14.4 K/9 in 26.1 IP for the Giants in 2020 despite missing a month with a finger injury. Smyly saw the highest average fastball velocity of his career (93.8 mph) while throwing his curveball a career-high 36.3% of the time in 2020.


RELIEVERS...


Will Smith – Atlanta's big free-agent signing after 2019, Smith inked a four-year deal but had his first season delayed by Covid-19. He posted a 4.50 ERA in 18 appearances with 2.3 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9 in 2020. Was an All-Star for San Francisco in 2019 when he saved a career-high 34 games to go along with a career-best 13.2 K/9 in 63 appearances.


Chris Martin – Acquired from Texas in a trade deadline deal, Martin signed a two-year deal to return after the 2019 season. He's walked just four batters – one intentional – in 39 appearances for Atlanta while posting a 2.52 ERA with 10.6 K/9 in 35.2 innings. His 1.0 BB/9 since 2018 is the best among all relievers in MLB (minimum 110 innings pitched).


A.J. Minter – Enjoyed a big comeback season in 2020. After posting a 7.06 ERA in 2019, Minter rebounded with a 0.83 ERA in 22 appearances for Atlanta in 2020. Fired a career-high three scoreless innings at the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, striking out seven batters. Saved a career-best 15 games in 2018.


Tyler Matzek – Another great comeback story for Atlanta last season, Matzek made his first major league appearance since 2015 with Colorado. Posted a 2.79 ERA (1.92 FIP) with 13.3 K/9 in 29 innings out of the bullpen in 2020. Struck out 14 batters across 8.2 innings of relief during the postseason for Atlanta, allowing just one run in seven appearances.


Nate Jones – Made the big league club after signing a minor league deal with Atlanta. Nine-year veteran spent most of his career with the White Sox before joining the Reds in 2020. Owns a 3.31 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 310 career innings. Made 21 appearances for Cincinnati last season, finishing with a 6.21 ERA (5.49 FIP) and 11.1 K/9 in 18.2 innings.


Luke Jackson – After emerging as a key member of the Braves bullpen in 2019, Jackson struggled to replicate that success last season. His 106 strikeouts in 2019 were second only to Josh Hader of the Brewers among NL relievers. Last season, he turned in a 6.84 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 19 appearances, while his K/9 plummeted from 13.1 in 2019 to just 6.8 in 2020.


Sean Newcomb – Enters his fifth major league season. Made just four starts for Atlanta in 2020 before being optioned to the Alternate Training Site after compiling an 11.84 ERA, 4,0 BB/9 and just 6.6 K/9 in 13.2 IP. Newcomb found success in the Braves bullpen in 2019, turning in a 3.04 ERA with 9.6 K/9 in 51 appearances.


Huascar Ynoa – Hard-throwing righty was acquired in a 2017 trade with Minnesota. Made his major league debut in 2019 and remains a candidate to take turns in the rotation. Owns a 7.30 ERA (5.10 FIP) in 11 regular season appearances (five starts) for Atlanta. Fired four innings of one-hit, shut-out relief at the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLCS.


Josh Tomlin – Strike-throwing righty served as Atlanta's long reliever for the past two seasons after spending nine seasons as a starter for Cleveland. Tomlin is 4-3 with a 4.08 ERA in 68 appearances for the Braves. Since he debuted in 2010, Tomlin's 1.3 BB/9 are the lowest among all major league pitchers with at least 1,000 innings.


Grant Dayton – Joined the Braves in 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Compiled a 2,72 ERA with 10.5 K/9 in 32 appearances for Atlanta over the past two seasons. Dayton has limited left-handed hitters to a .158/.242/.301 line in 150 plate appearances in his career, including a .121 AVG with just two extra-base hits in 38 plate appearances in 2020.