2021 Fantasy Baseball: Atlanta Braves Team Outlook - Still May Be a Pitcher Away From World Series Contention

Get the inside scoop! 2021 fantasy baseball player profiles, team analysis and stat projections for Atlanta Braves hitters and pitchers
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2021 Atlanta Braves

The Braves made the postseason for the third straight year while finishing first in the NL East each time. Their last trip to the World Series came in 1999. Atlanta has 17 NL Pennants and three World Series titles (1914, 1957, and 1995) in its 145-year history. They finished 15th in ERA (4.41), second in runs (348), and second in home runs (103).

Atlanta added SP Charlie Morton and SP Drew Smyly in the offseason. Their starting rotation should be much improved, especially with a healthy SP Mike Soroka. The Braves also have depth at the top of their minor league system, which will cover some in-season injuries.

The bullpen lost RP Mark Melancon, leaving the closing role to Will Smith. Atlanta’s bullpen showed growth late last season, and they have enough returning players to be very competitive again in 2021.

The Braves lost OF Adam Duvall, OF Nick Markakis, and C Tyler Flowers from their offense. The only additions to their bench were 1B Pablo Sandoval and Ehire Adrianza.

Atlanta ended up re-signing OF Marcell Ozuna, which is a bit win for the middle of the Braves’ starting lineup. OF Ronald Acuna and 1B Freddie Freeman are elite players. The core of SS Dansby Swanson, 2B Ozzie Albies, and 3B Austin Riley all offer upside. 

The Braves will be in the heat of the battle again this year, but their lack of aces may leave them short of another elusive championship. They should be a fun ride with more upside, with another piece or two added before spring training.

Atlanta Braves Freddie Freeman

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Ronald Acuna

Fantasy owners didn’t get a full-ride out of Acuna due to a couple of missed weeks with a left foot injury. His season started with 17 strikeouts over his first 33 at-bats with no home runs or RBI.

Acuna finished the year hitting .276 over his final 127 at-bats with 42 runs, 14 home runs, 29 RBI, and eight steals. His strikeout rate (26.0) was lower than his full-season stats (29.7) while falling in line with his first two seasons (25.9) in Atlanta.

Over three seasons with the Braves, Acuna hit .281 with 251 runs, 81 home runs, 194 RBI, and 61 RBI over 1,219 at-bats.

He maintained a high contact batting average (.400) while improving his average hit rate (2.325 – 1.851 in 2019). Acuna posted an elite run rate in 2019 (51) and 2020 (59).

His 2020 stats projected over 550 at-bats came to 158 runs, 48 home runs, 100 RBI, and 28 steals.

Acuna added more loft to his swing (43.0 percent fly-ball rate) while pushing his HR/FB rate (32.6) to an explosive level.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: This draft season Acuna will be a great addition as a five-tool player. His ADP (2) has a range of one to four in the early draft season. His only risk comes in batting average, which looks to a neutral asset even without improvement in his approach. Acuna’s baseline has to hit the 2019 season with a higher ceiling in all categories. Draft with confidence.

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2. 2B Ozzie Albies

Twelve games into the 2020 season, Albies landed on the injured list for 35 days with a right wrist injury.

His season started with seven hits in 44 at-bats with one home run and six RBI. Albies played well over his final 74 at-bats (.338 with 17 runs, five home runs, 13 RBI, and three steals).

In 2019, Albies played his second full season in the majors while showing growth in his approach (strikeout rate – 16.0 and walk rate – 7.7). He also pushed his RBI rate (17) and CTBA (.358) higher while setting career-highs in batting average (.295), hits (189), doubles (43), RBI (86), and stolen bases (15).

Albies dominated against lefties (.389 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI over 149 at-bats) while shining over the final four months (.312 with 70 runs, 17 home runs, 62 RBI, and 11 steals).

His HR/FB rate (15.4) improved for the third straight year while adding more loft to his swing in 2020 (fly-ball rate – 44.8).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His ADP (31) is slightly higher than 2019 (36) in the early draft season. I don’t expect a big jump in power, but his game could surprise in his area. Next step: .300 BA, 110-plus runs, 25 home runs, 75 RBI, and a pushover 25 steals.

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3. 1B Freddie Freeman

Freeman had a great season in 2020, which was helped by the projection and success of Marcell Ozuna (.338 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI) behind him in the batting order. His approach (strikeout rate – 14.1 and walk rate – 17.2) was the best of his career.

He led the National League in runs (51) and doubles (23) while posting the highest batting average (.341) of his career. Freeman was on pace for 131 runs, 33 home runs, and 136 RBI with 550 at-bats. His SIscore (3.99) was the fifth-highest for a batter in 2020.

Since Ronald Acuna's arrival, Freeman hit .308 with 258 runs, 74 home runs, 272 RBI, and 18 steals over 1,429 at-bats. He only missed four games over this span.

His fly-ball rate (37.3) rebounded from two short seasons (31.1 and 34.1). He posted an HR/FB rate of 19.7 or higher in four of his past five seasons.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Freeman is a top-notch foundation bat with a high floor in runs, home runs, RBI, and batting average. His success in 2020 pushed his ADP to 13th in the early draft season. I’d like to see Atlanta add another power bat behind him in the batting order. His runs should taper back this year, while Freeman draws a green light again on draft day.

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4. OF Marcell Ozuna

Ozuna was an excellent fit for the Braves in 2020. He led the National League in home runs (18), RBI (56), and plate appearances (267) while posting his highest batting average (.338 – .276 in his career) by a wide margin. His RBI rate (20) was also the best of his career.

He pushed his average hit rate (1.883) to a new level. His contact batting average (.458) isn’t repeatable over a long season. Ozuna has a rising fly-ball rate (40.2 – 34.5 in his career) while setting a career-high in his HR/FB rate (26.5).

His bat had strength against right-handed (.333 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI over 183 at-bats) and lefties (.356 with seven home runs and 19 RBI over 45 at-bats).

Ozuna has an improving walk rate (14.2) with a slightly below-average strikeout rate (22.5).

Last year his 200 RBI chances projected over a full year would have come to 540 runners on base, which is an elite RBI opportunity.

Over his past four seasons, he hit .287 with 280 runs, 107 home runs, 357 RBI, and 16 stolen bases over 1.908 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: After resigning with the Braves, Ozuna has an ADP of 47. He sits in the middle of a high-powered offense while showing growth in his game. With 550 at-bats, he looks to be on a path for 90 runs, 35 home runs, and 110 RBI with some help in batting average. His steals would be a bonus.

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5. SS Dansby Swanson

Swanson led the National League in at-bats (237) thanks to injuries to Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, which pushed him to the top of the Braves starting lineup. His strikeout rate (26.9) was a career-high with some regression in his walk rate (8.3).

He had growth in his RBI rate (17) and a significant jump in his contact batting average (.392 – .337 in 2019). Swanson still doesn’t have an impactful home run hitting average hit rate (1.692) despite being a career-high. He did with a rise in his HR/FB rate (15.6).

His final stats last year projected over a full season came to 114 runs, 23 home runs, 81 RBI, and 12 steals over 550 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Swanson should move down in the Braves' batting order with Ozzie Albies back on the field. His foundation skill set isn’t ideal for batting cleanup, but he could be the best Atlanta has in late January. Swanson now has an ADP of 104 as the 12th shortstop. He’s trending toward an 80/20/80/12 with some batting average risk until he cleans up his approach.

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6. C Travis d’Arnaud

Up and down the Braves’ lineup in 2020, there were players on pace for career seasons.

D’Arnaud finished with the best batting average (.321) of his career. His contact batting average (.461) gained more than 110 percentage points higher than 2019 (.348) while also being well above 2016 (.308) and 2017 (.294). The downside here is the jump in his strikeout rate (27.2 – 18.7 in his career and 21.9 in 2019).

Over the last two seasons, d’Arnaud hit .273 with 71 runs, 25 home runs, and 103 RBI over 516 at-bats. His fly-ball rate (30.2) was the lowest of his career (38.2 percent in 2019), but he did post the highest HR/FB rate (25.7) in his time in the majors. D’Arnaud became a line drive hitter (26.7 percent – 19.7 in his career), leading to much harder contact (hard-hit rate – 57.8), ranked second in baseball in 2020.

His average hit rate (1.660) is trending down despite his other factors pointing to more home runs. D’Arnaud was on pace for 52 runs, 25 home runs, and 93 RBI with 450 at-bats. He’s never had over 385 at-bats in any season in the majors.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His overall package and production projects well going forward, but there will be some trade-offs in his value in some categories. The Braves cleared out a viable second option at catcher, clearing a path for d’Arnaud to have the most playing time in his career. I don’t see the DH coming back in 2021, which would have been another win for more playing time. He has an ADP of 139 in mid-February in the 12-team high-stakes market as the sixth catcher drafted. I would be happy with 60 runs, 20 home runs, and 70 RBI while expecting him to hit closer to .270, but he needs to beat those numbers to pay-off based on his higher draft value.

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7. 3B Austin Riley

Two years into his major league experience, Riley hit .232 with 26 home runs and 76 RBI over 462 at-bats. He finished 2020 with respectable stats, but his batting average (.239) remained an issue.

His contact batting average (.324) was well below 2019 (.373) and his last two seasons (.430 and .378) in the minors. Despite the appearance in regression, Riley did start to clean up his weakness in his strikeout rate (23.8 – 36.4 in 2019) while taking a few more walks (7.8 percent).

He played well in August (.286 with five home runs and 17 RBI over 77 at-bats) while lacking follow-through in September (.239 with two home runs and seven RBI over 88 at-bats).

Riley finished with a more balanced swing path, despite a drop in his fly-ball rate (34.5). His HR/FB rate (16.7) came in lower than 2019, with Atlanta (22.0) and the minors (25.0).

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .283 with 86 home runs, 305 RBI, and eight steals over 1,788 at-bats.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Riley is a high upside power hitter, but his glove isn’t ideal (but improving), and his approach is on the improve. With an ADP of 214, fantasy owners expect him to become a much more complete player in 2021. His next step is .250 with 75 runs, 30 home runs, and 80 RBI. With a hot start to the season, Riley could bat cleanup for the Braves.

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8. OF Cristian Pache

The Braves signed Pache as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .283 with 207 runs, 21 home runs, 171 RBI, and 58 stolen bases over 1,649 at-bats. He failed to hit a home run over his first two seasons (689 at-bats) while offering a weak average hit rate (1.235).

Pache picked up 43 steals on 63 attempts over his first two years, but his baserunning was a lost asset in 2018 (7-for-15) and 2019 (8-for-19). At the same time, he started to get stronger, leading to 21 home runs over his last 960 at-bats. His approach should improve over time while limiting the damage in his strikeout rate (19.5).

The Braves gave him four at-bats late in September before turning to him in the league championship series against the Dodgers (4-for-22 with one home run and four RBI).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With only 95 career at-bats at AAA and a light-hitting power bat, Pache does need more time to develop. His ticket to the majors is his defense. He has an early bench ADP (403) in deep leagues. Pache draws a top prospect scouting report that gives him gold glove upside with difference-maker speed and a much higher ceiling in power when he gets stronger. A must-follow with bet on the come upside, but Pache may be a year away from realizing his potential.

Bench Options

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2B Johan Camargo

After seven light-hitting seasons in the minors (.278 with 15 home runs, 188 RBI, and 22 steals over 1,915 at-bats), Camargo made a huge step forward in his power swing with Atlanta in 2018. His average hit rate jumped to a career-high (1.683), which led to the most home runs (22 over 497 at-bats between AAA and the majors) of his career. Last year

Over the past two seasons, his opportunity was much lower, leading to 11 home runs and 41 RBI over 352 at-bats.

Camargo had a spike in his strikeout rate (27.6 – 17.3 in 2019) while taking fewer walks (4.7 percent). His contact batting average has been low in back-to-back seasons (.286 and .282), setting a low ceiling in batting average. He did have an uptick in his average hit rate (1.833) last season.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Camargo will work off the bench this year. He does offer sneaky power if given starting at-bats while playing well. Camargo will be found in the free-agent pool in all leagues.

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OF Ender Inciarte

Inciarte ended up being a bust in 2019 while losing more momentum last year. Over his last 315 at-bats, he hit .225 with 47 runs, six home runs, 34 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. His bat was trending forward in 2018 and 2019 when Inciarte last had a starting job.

When at his best, he hit .285 with 176 runs, 21 home runs, 118 RBI, and 50 stolen bases over 1,259 at-bats.

His average hit rate (1.318) offers no upside in power, and his contact batting average (.242) fell off a cliff in 2020. Inciarte did take more walks (10.5 percent) over the past two seasons, but he also finished with a much higher strikeout rate (18.3 – 12.1 over his first five seasons).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Inciarte has been downgraded to a bench player. This season he may be a bridge player for one of the Braves' young outfield prospects, but his bat needs to regain his previous form. Inciarte is a low flying dart that has a minimal chance of sticking to the draft board.

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OF Drew Waters

Waters hit .298 with 185 runs over three seasons in the minors, 20 home runs, 115 RBI, and 45 steals over 1,185 at-bats. He has almost a full season at AA under his belt while gaining some AAA experience in 2019 (.271 over 107 at-bats with two home runs, 11 RBI, and three stolen bases).

His contact batting average (.401 in 2019) has been high each year in the minors. Waters continues to have a low average hit rate (1.485) that points to a ceiling of 15 home runs early in his career.

He needs to clean up his strikeout rate (26.2), or Waters will be exposed in the majors. His walk rate (7.0) came in below the league average.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Once Waters solves his plate discipline issues, his bat is going to come fast. With a full year off from playing in the minors, he may offer more power in 2021. The Braves will give him a chance at winning a starting job this spring. Waters projects to offer help in batting average with a future 20/20 skill set. His speed has more upside than his home runs at this point of his career.

Alex Jackson (C): Jackson will compete for the Braves’ backup catching job this spring. He bashed 28 home runs with 65 RBI over 306 at-bats in 2019 at AAA, but he did whiff 118 times (34.2 percent).

Over six seasons in the minors, Jackson hit .233 with 76 home runs and 280 RBI over 1,692 at-bats. He has two hits over 20 at-bats with Atlanta with nine strikeouts.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: His swing and miss approach leads to slumps and many empty nights. Jackson offers power off the bench while projecting to have no starting fantasy value.

Ehire Adrianza (IF): Adrianza worked off the bench for the Twins from 2017 to 2020. He hit .253 over 788 at-bats with 13 home runs, 88 RBI, and 14 steals. The Braves signed him to a minor league in late January.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Adrianza will try to make the majors roster out of spring training as a utility player.

Pablo Sandoval (1B): Sandoval lost his way after signing with Boston before the 2015 season. Over his last 1,321 at-bats, he hit .242 with 43 home runs and 166 RBI. The Giants only gave him 84 at-bats in 2020, leading to a .214 batting average with only one home run and six RBI.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: After signing a minor league contract with Atlanta, Sandoval hopes to win the backup corner field spot. He still has power, but his batting average looks to be a lost asset.

Atlanta Braves Max Fried

Starting Pitching

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1. SP Mike Soroka

After a pitch in his third start, one bad step led to Soroka blowing out his right Achilles that required surgery in August. The Braves expect him to be ready for spring training.

In 2019, he made some progress late in March, but he started the year at AAA (four runs over 9.1 innings with ten strikeouts). After a call up to Atlanta, Soroka allowed one run or fewer in each of his first eight starts (5-1 with 1.07 ERA and 46 strikeouts over 50.2 innings). He looked mediocre over his next nine games (3.83 ERA) before rebounding over his final 12 starts (2.99 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 72.1 innings).

In late June of 2019, his right forearm had some tightness, but the issue ended up being minor.

Soroka wasn’t major league ready against left-handed batters (.282 with nine home runs over 277 at-bats).

His AFB (93.0) came in at the league average. He gained his advantage via his slider (.175 BAA) and changeup (.120 BAA). Soroka is a sinkerball pitcher with a high ground ball rate (50.9).

Over five seasons in the minors, Soroka went 23-20 with a 2.84 ERA and 331 strikeouts over 370.2 innings while offering outstanding command (1.9 walks per nine).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: If Soroka is a full go in spring training, he will be a great value based on his early ADP (176). Controlling WHIP is an essential part of winning in 5 X 5 Roto leagues. Soroka throws strikes, with the arsenal to add more strikeouts to his stat sheet. A chance at 15-plus wins with a sub 3.00 ERA and 150 strikeouts with 180 innings pitched.

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2. SP Max Fried

Despite some regression in his walk rate (3.1), Fried was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2020. He went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 56 innings. In his two seasons with the Braves, Fried went 24-6 with a 3.57 ERA and 233 strikeouts over 221.2 innings.

His AFB (93.7) fell in line with his time in the majors. Fried gains his edge with his plus curveball (.172 BAA) and favorable slider (.238 BAA). His show-me changeup (.154 BAA) was also tough to hit.

At this point in his career, Fried has out-pitched his minor league career (19-33 with a 4.18 ERA and 417 Ks over 420.1 innings).

Fried is a ground ball pitcher (53.0 percent). His massive HR/RB rate (20.2) in 2019 was corrected in 2020 (4.9).

This season he needs to add more length to his starts and improve his strikeout rate (8.0 – 9.4 in 2019).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: For a fantasy owner banking on wins with one of their first two starters, Fried has to rank in the top ten based on his success in this area over the last two seasons. He flashed strikeout ability and command in 2019 while offering tougher to hit stuff in 2020. If he puts these successes together, fantasy would have an elite arm. I’m torn here as his ADP (64) is created by a small sample size. I’ll take the conservative approach on his ERA (3.50) and WHIP (1.25) while hoping for 15 wins and 175 strikeouts.

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3. SP Charlie Morton

Morton started the season with a disaster game (six runs and eight baserunners over four innings). He looked better in his next three games (2.84 ERA and 13 strikeouts over 12.2 innings). Despite the improvement, Morton landed on the injured list for three weeks with a right shoulder injury.

Over his final five games, Morton posted a 4.22 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 21.1 innings.

From 2017 to 2019, Morton went 45-16 with a 3.24 ERA and 604 strikeouts over 508.1 innings.

His AFB (94.0) came below his previous three seasons (96.1, 95.6, and 95.1), which was expected considering his shoulder issue. Morton still had success with his secondary pitches (curveball – .220 BAA and slider – .200 BAA) while losing the life of his sinker (.352 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.273 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Morton should be a good fit for the Braves. He gives them veteran experience while pitching at the highest level at the backend of his career. His ADP (128) is 61 picks lower than 2019 (67). Look for a sub-3.25 ERA with a run at 200 strikeouts as long as his shoulder injury doesn’t flare in 2021.

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4. SP Ian Anderson

Anderson gave the Braves’ starting rotation a significant boost over the last five weeks of the season. He went 3-0 over 32.1 innings with 14 strikeouts. His arm even held form over his four starts in the postseason (2-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 18.2 innings).

Over four seasons in the minors, Anderson went 17-21 with a 2.91 ERA and 451 strikeouts over 377.2 innings. His only fault was a weak strikeout rate (4.0), which was also the case in his time with the Braves (4.1).

Left-handed batters only hit 1.45 against him with no extra-base hits over 62 at-bats.

His AFB (94.7) was an edge. Batters had no answer for his changeup (.071 BAA), and his four-seam fastball (.205 BAA) played well. Anderson only offered a league-average curveball (.257 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With six starts under his belt, Anderson has an ADP of 97 in the early draft season. I’m a fan of pitchers with great changeups, and he flashed one in 2020. Once his command gets under control, Anderson is going to be a yearly top pitching option. A 3.00 ERA with 200-plus strikeouts almost seems like his floor. He can overcome some of his WHIP risk by being tough to hit.

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5. SP Drew Smyly

Smyly started 2017 on the injured list with a left elbow strain that eventually led to TJ surgery in July. In 2018, he was only able to throw one shut inning at A ball with three strikeouts.

Over a year and a half between 2014 and 2015, Smyly went 14-12 with a 3.30 ERA and 210 strikeouts over 219.2 innings. In 2016, he showed value in strikeouts (167 over 175.1 innings) while allowing too many HRs (1.6 per nine), leading to many disaster starts and a 4.88 ERA.

In 2019, Smyly struggled with his command (4.3 walks per nine), but he did finish with a high strikeout rate (9.5). Over his 21 starts, Smyly reached the sixth inning in just eight games while allowing two runs or fewer in five contests in which he pitched at least five innings.

Last year he gave the Giants 26.1 good innings, leading to a 3.42 ERA and a jump in his strikeout rate (14.4).

His AFB (94.0) was the best of his career by almost two MPH. He settled into a three-pitch rotation (four-seam fastball – .225 BAA, curveball – .180 BAA, and cutter – .133 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Despite short innings last year, Smyly now has an ADP of 222. He only pitched into the sixth inning once in his five starts. His arm projected well early in his career with better command. The added velocity helps his pitches across the board. Smyly is worth a flier in shallow leagues where his price point feels more reasonable. Possible 3.50 ERA while trending higher in strikeouts.

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SP Kyle Wright

Wright crushed his investor for the second straight season thanks to a massive HR/FB rate (1.7) and an infuriating walk rate (5.7). Over 19 games in the majors, he went 2-7 with a 6.22 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 63.2 innings.

Despite some lousy stats, Wright did have a pulse over his final three starts (2.37 ERA, .174 BAA, and 14 strikeouts over 19 innings). He pitched well vs. Miami in the postseason (no runs over six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts), but the Dodgers beat him for seven runs, seven baserunners, and two home runs over two-thirds of an inning.

Over three seasons in the minors, Wright posted a 3.70 ERA with 267 strikeouts over 267.1 innings. Atlanta drafted him with the fifth overall pick in 2017.

His AFB (95.0) offers upside while relying on three viable secondary pitches (curveball – .143 BAA, slider – .250 BAA, and changeup – .231 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Wright doesn’t have a path to starts for the Braves in 2021 without an injury. His lack of command is a huge problem. Atlanta should push him back to AAA, where he can work on his striking throwing.

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SP Bryse Wilson

Over four seasons in the minors, Wilson went 29-20 with a 2.94 ERA and 429 strikeouts over 410.1 innings. In 2019, he made 21 starts at AAA (3.42 ERA and 118 strikes over 121 innings) with an exceptional walk rate (1.9).

The Braves gave him three different chances to prove his worth over the first half of 2019, but Wilson struggled in just about every game (6.75 ERA, 1.714 WHIP, and four home runs over 18.2 innings).

Wilson failed to make the Braves’ starting rotation in 2020. In his spot start on August 11th, he allowed two runs and five base runners over 1.2 innings, leading to a trip back to minor league camp until early September.

He looked better over his final five appearances in the regular season (3.21 ERA and 13 strikeouts over 14 innings). Wilson pitched well in his only start in the playoffs (one run over six innings with five strikeouts)

His AFB (94.7) came in as an asset while working off an upside changeup and cutter.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Wilson has the command and fastball to succeed, but he needs his secondary stuff to reach a higher level to create more upside. Wilson has a breakout type arm with a chance at a sub 3.25 ERA and 175 strikeouts if given 30-plus starts. He’ll compete with Drew Smyly for the final spot in the starting rotation in 2021.

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CL Will Smith

A July battle with Covid led to Smith starting the year on the injured list, and his opportunity to close games was lost. When he returned to game action in the second week of August, his arm wasn’t in top form. Smith allowed seven runs, 12 baserunners, and six home runs over 10.2 innings with 12 strikeouts. Over his final seven games, Smith allowed one run and two hits over 5.1 innings with six strikeouts.

He should be the top closing option for the Braves in 2021 based on his success in 2018 and 2019 in San Francisco (2.66 ERA, 167 strikeouts, and 48 saves over 118.1 innings).

In 2019, Smith proved to be more than worthy of being a top closing arm. His season started with a 1.98 ERA, 53 strikeouts, and 23 saves over 36.1 innings. He did trip up in multiple games in July and August, which led to a drop back in value (4.64 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 21.1 innings). His struggles came from six home runs allowed (1.4 per nine innings).

He missed some time in September (1.17 ERA over 7.2 innings with 14 strikeouts) with a back issue. Smith finished with the highest strikeout rate (13.2) of his career, with a slight step back in his walk rate (2.9).

He regained some of his lost velocity on his fastball (93.3 MPH) in 2020. Smith offers a plus slider (.200 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: He has the potential to be a 100-strikeout reliever with 40-plus saves and an edge on ERA and WHIP. Smith has a favorable ADP (272) unless the Braves re-sign Mark Melancon.

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RP A.J. Minter

Minter pushed his way through four minors' levels in two seasons (2.14 ERA and 77 Ks over 59 innings) to get a late-inning job in the majors in 2017. He looked closer-worthy in his first two years with the Braves (3.18 ERA, 95 strikeouts, and 15 saves over 76.1 innings).

After a brutal 2019 season (7.06 ERA and 2.011 WHIP) that required a trip back to AAA (3.57 ERA), Minter regained his form last year. He allowed two runs over 21.2 innings with 24 strikeouts.

His AFB (96.0) remains elite while relying on a plus slider (.158 BAA) and developing changeup (.208 BAA).

2021 Fantasy Outlook: Minter has the tools to compete for the closing role, but he still doesn’t throw enough strikes (3.7 walks per nine 2020). Minter will be free on draft day, and he does make a lot of sense as a late closing in waiting (ADP – 545). With improved command, his arm will make a significant step forward.

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RP Touki Toussaint

Over six seasons in the minors, Toussaint went 27-44 with a 4.31 ERA and 601 strikeouts over 569.2 innings. His failure continues to be a high walk rate (4.5 – 6.4 at AAA in 2019) in the minors.

In 2018, his arm made an excellent step forward at AA (2.93 ERA and 107 strikeouts over 86 innings) and AAA (5-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 50.1 innings).

Toussaint struggled over three seasons with Atlanta (6-3 with a 5.97 ERA and 107 strikeouts over 95 innings). He had a rising strikeout rate (11.1) last year, but he walked 5.9 batters per nine innings. His arm had no success in 2020 (8.88 ERA over 24.1 innings.

His AFB (94.3) is above the league average while offering two pitches of value (split-finger – 134 BBA and curveball – .134 BAA) in his time with the Braves.

2021 Fantasy Outlook: With Atlanta having more depth and talent in front of him in the starting rotation, Toussaint should be shifted to the bullpen, where he can focus on a smaller rotation of pitches. He has a ton of work to do with his fastball command while starting miles away from an essential set up role.

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2021 Fantasy Baseball Team Outlooks

American League

East: BAL / BOS / NYY / TAM / TOR
Central: CWS / CLE / DET / KC / MIN
West: HOU / LAA / OAK / SEA / TEX

National League

East: ATL / MIA / NYM / PHI / WAS
Central: CHC / CIN / MIL / PIT / STL
West: ARI / COL / LAD / SD / SF