Baseball has been in the rearview mirror for Atlanta based sports fans in recent years. The Atlanta Braves have failed to finish the regular season above .500 since 2013. Now in 2018, Manager Brian Snitker has Atlanta off to their best start in five seasons (45-34) and a two-game lead in the NL East standings through 79 games.
Many fans and MLB pundits didn’t envision this impressive start from Atlanta, who were supposedly in their final stages of rebuilding. An infusion of top prospects have now jumped the gun and surprised many around the league. A large portion of their success has been displayed from two veterans, Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman, and a young, but proficient second basemen in Ozzie Albies. Fans are certainly showing their support in the NL All-Star Voting.
There’s a First for Everything
Nick Markakis is usually over-looked. He’s not a power-hitter, only 173 home runs in 13 seasons, nor is he the fastest athlete on the field. However, his consistency at the plate and in the outfield has helped spark this Atlanta baseball team and his chances to be an All-Star for the first time in his career. The two-time Gold Glove winner has become Atlanta’s most dependable hitter, in the four-hole position, leading the NL with 102 hits. His .326 batting average and 25 doubles are good enough to put him second in the NL in each of those categories. Out of 51 players who’ve had 250-plus plate appearances this season, Markakis lists second in the least number of strikeouts (36).
Where He Belongs
Freeman’s previously been an All-Star (2013,2014), but now, touted as one of the league’s top first baseman, he leads all NL All-Star voting with 2.2 million votes. Since 2014, he’s increased his performance at the plate each season, and in 2018, Freeman bolsters a .318 average. He’s only behind Scooter Gennett (.331) and his teammate Nick Markakis (.326) in the NL category. Amongst the NL, Freeman’s hot start puts him inside the top-five in batting average, hits, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. In his 9th year in the big leagues, Freeman is about to make his first MLB All-Star Game start.
First of Many
Now, the least expected member to be on this list is 21-year-old Ozzie Albies. Albies, ranked as one of the Braves best prospects during his minor league career, entered the scene in August of 2017. Following an impressive end to the regular season, Albies received an invitation to spring training and eventually began the 2018 regular season with the Atlanta Braves.
The 5-foot-7 second baseman is a five-tool player and he’s exhibited his talents in all phases of the game. Switching between the leadoff and two-hole hitter, Albies’ power (17 home runs) in this portion of the lineup has been beneficial in creating a lead in the NL East. His legs have carried him to first in the NL with 26 doubles and leads the league with 61 runs. His aggressive base running has only made Freeman’s and Markakis’ lives easier. Albies commonly turns routine singles into doubles, using that elite speed on the basepaths. His fearless baserunning has helped the Braves in several games this season. Expect this to be first of many All-Star invitations Albies receives during his time in the major leagues.
The contributions from these three have given Atlanta a two-game lead in the NL East, resting third in the entire National League. Along with leading their division, the Braves lead the NL in team batting average, hits, runs, total bases, batting average, and doubles. The performance during the first 79 games has been spectacular and each player is well-deserving of their All-Star positioning. Atlanta hasn’t sent three players to the All-Star Game since 2012, Chipper Jones’ final season. With this much talent, Atlanta should no longer be overlooked when discussing legitimate postseason contenders.