BS Report: May 29th
Two things have happened in the last two weeks to change the Atlanta Braves. First, they switched the lineup – putting Ronald Acuna at the top of the order and dropping Josh Donaldson down to the four hole. The Braves are 12-5 since then. And second, on May 15th, the Braves brought Austin Riley up from Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves are 9-4 since then. Let’s focus on Riley. In 13 games, Riley has six home runs. We cannot talk about Riley without talking about Josh Donaldson, the overpaid third baseman the Braves brought in last winter. General manager Alex Anthopoulos brought Donaldson in because he was his G-M in Toronto the year Donaldson was the American League MVP in 2015. He believed Donaldson would provide the power the lineup needed, so Anthopoulos gave Donaldson a one-year, $23 million-dollar deal. There was no way for Anthopoulos to know that Riley would do what he is doing. He should have known, however, that coaches in the minor league system believed Riley was going to be a star. So, why block that path with Donaldson? And the problem with Donaldson is as much about the lack of moves to improve the bullpen as anything. If the Braves had spent money on the bullpen after they sunk all of that money into Donaldson, who would care as much about what Donaldson is doing? And if Donaldson was providing that power we expected, how could I say a word about him regardless of what Riley was doing. But the problem is Donaldson is not providing that huge presence in the lineup. He’s on pace for 21 home runs and less than 70 runs batted in. Is that worth $23 million? Statheads tell me on social media it is, considering how well Donaldson is playing defensively at third base and the fact his on base percentage is .384. Well, that only means Donaldson is walking a lot – which is good – but I don’t believe we wanted Donaldson to walk a lot. I wanted him to be a slugger. I wanted him to carry this team on his shoulders for a week or two – just like Freddie Freeman has, just like Ronald Acuna has and just like Austin Riley has. Riley has played in one-quarter of the amount of games Donaldson has played in this season, and yet Riley has one fewer home run and six fewer RBI than Donaldson. And if this is about that stat called WAR – that refers to the value of a player compared to a player who could replace him – then tell me how much better the Braves have been with Donaldson as the starter at third base compared to Johan Camargo, who had 19 home runs and 76 RBI last season. — We’ve got to hope that Donaldson will become that slugger and that he will carry this team at some point. If he does, the Braves are going to be tough to beat. But don’t lecture fans who are simply waiting to see it. If a 22-year-old kid can come up from the minor leagues and do what Riley has done, then why not have the expectation that it’s time for the man making $23 million to do great things – besides just walking a lot. Let Donaldson help the Braves win more games, and not one person will care how much he’s making. We just haven’t seen it much – at least not yet.