2018 Braves: Highly-Touted Acuna Leads Group of Promising Young Players

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 1:03 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 1:03 PM UTC

Our MLB handicapper Mark Lathrop starts his NL East previews with the Atlanta Braves. Read up as he breaks down a team hampered by penalties in the international prospects market.

We will be breaking down each division team-by-team as we approach the 2018 MLB season to identify futures value and upcoming betting trends. Today we will take a look at the Atlanta Braves out of the NL East. The Braves cashed 'Under' tickets in 2017 with a 72-win season that came under their 73.5 total line in futures markets. The market has adjusted upwards in 2018 with a win total line set at 74.5 over at Bovada.

Pitching Staff

The move to a new, batter-friendly stadium did not help the Atlanta pitching staff in 2017, especially staff ace Julio Teheran. He struggled all year with an FIP that skyrocketed from 3.69 to 4.95 on the season. He’s projected for some improvement in 2018, but not much. Behind Teheran are two veterans with interesting possibilities. Brandon McCarthy put up a 3.28 FIP over 92.2 innings in 2017 with the Dodgers, and lefty Sean Newcomb put up a 4.19 FIP over 100 IP with Atlanta. Either one of those pitchers are capable of putting up a very successful season, it’s just the variable of if they can stay healthy or not.

The bullpen of the Braves is anchored by projected closer Arodys Vizcaino, but after that is full of question marks. The best arm of the rest of the bunch seems to be A.J. Minter, who only has 15 innings of major-league experience. He put up a 0.96 FIP in those 15 innings, though, and the hard-throwing lefty should continue to have success. Not to be trite, but the rest of the bullpen could be very bad in 2018.

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[Full] Squad Goals ⚾️⚾️#BravesST | #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/O7R4jMICB0

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) February 19, 2018
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Lineup

The Braves are at least blessed with one superior major-league hitter in first baseman Freddie Freeman, but reinforcements may not be too far off. Of special note for the future of Atlanta’s lineup is 20-year old outfielder Ronald Acuna. He blazed through the minor leagues in 2017, starting in A+ ball and ending up batting .344 in Triple-A over 243 plate appearances. The No. 1 overall prospect in MLB is only projected to put up 0.9 WAR in 2018, but some of that is because it is fully expected that the Braves will hold Acuna back a few weeks in the minors to gain another year of club control. The other youngster to look for is Ozzie Albies, an undersized second baseman who looks to be a high batting average speedster who will be hell on the base-paths.

Wild Cards and Betting Trends

Other than Teheran looking for a bounce-back season, Luiz Gohara stepping up in major-league innings pitched should be a positive for the Braves’ pitching staff. Gohara put up a 2.75 FIP in limited action in 2017 and is expected to put up 2.2 WAR in 2018 – double his output in 2017. I’d consider his possible output even better than that. The Braves look to be a team with a high variability of outcomes coming into the season, and I will be inspecting their spring training results with care as I look at making a call against their 74.5 win total mark in MLB futures.

Current 2018 Win Total: 74.5Best Line Offered: Bovada
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