Our Simulation Model Projects This Team To Be Dominant
We simulated the shortened MLB season 10,000 times; here are the results.
- Our model simulated every game in the shortened MLB season 10,000 times and gave the Atlanta Braves a 93.82% chance to make the playoffs (-1515 implied odds) and a 69.31% chance to win the NL East (-226 implied odds).
- MGM has Atlanta listed at -120 (54.55% implied probability) to make the playoffs and +180 (35.71% implied probability) to win the NL East.
- Even though Freddie Freeman’s status is unclear due to his positive COVID-19 diagnosis and the team will miss the contact-hitting skills of Nick Markakis, Ronald Acuna Jr. will headline what should be a dynamic and dangerous lineup.
- With Cole Hamels (shoulder) out at the beginning of the season, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb will likely make up the first four spots in the rotation, leaving the door open for one of the team’s top prospects to win the fifth spot.
- Our model projects the Braves to finish with a tie for the league’s best regular-season record (39-21). Keep reading to find out why that’s the case.
Breaking Down The Offense
Despite the unknown status of COVID-19 afflicted first baseman Freddie Freeman (.295, 38 HR, 121 RBI, 158 G in 2019) and void left by outfielder Nick Markakis (.285, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 116 G), the Braves offense will be formidable. Ronald Acuna Jr. (.280, 41 HR, 101 RBI, 156 G) is projected to take another step forward and contend for the 2020 NL MVP honor. Per DraftKings, he has +900 odds to win that award and MGM set his 60-game over/unders at 63.5 hits, 14.5 HR, 36.5 RBI, 11.5 steals, 37.5 runs and a .285 average. His .238 ISO, .369 wOBA, 126 wRC+ and 5.6 WAR already vaulted him into superstar status, and this lineup will be built around him.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies (.295, 24 HR, 86 RBI) and shortstop Dansby Swanson (.251, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 127 G) will man the middle of the infield while Johan Camargo (.233, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 98 G) will likely see the majority of the time at the hot corner. First baseman Yonder Alonso (.199, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 121 G) struggled badly last year, but posted 28 homers in 2017 and 23 in 2018 and should be a boom-or-bust replacement against right-handed pitchers if/when Freeman returns. Adam Duvall (.267, 10 HR, 19 RBI, 41 G) will likely see time at first base (and in the outfield) against left-handed starters. Travis D’Arnaud (.251, 16 HR, 69 RBI, 92 G) will do the split catching duties following his solid 2019 campaign at the dish for the Tampa Bay Rays. Defensive stalwart Tyler Flowers (.229, 11 HR, 34 RBI) will be the other half of the backstop duo.
In the outfield alongside Acuna, Marcell Ozuna (.241, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 130 G), Ender Inciarte (.246, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 65 G) and Austin Riley (.226, 18 HR, 49 RBI, 80 G) make up a talented and dangerous group. Riley can play multiple positions and might also spend time at corner infield spots. Despite the fact that Freeman’s status is unclear and the team will miss Markakis’ contact-hitting skills, this lineup is going to be deep and will be a nightmare against southpaws in particular. Keep an eye on prospects like outfielders Drew Waters (.309, 20 HR, 115 RBI, 130 G in AA and AAA) and Cristian Pache (.277, 12 HR, 61 RBI, 130 G in AA and AAA) to potentially make a difference as the season progresses.
Breaking Down The Pitching Staff
First things first: after signing a one-year, $18 million deal in the offseason, Cole Hamels (7-7, 3.81 ERA, 27 G) is going to miss the start of the season due to a couple of throwing arm-related injuries he suffered. However, Atlanta is loaded with options. Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68, 29 G), Max Fried (17-6, 4.02, 33 G) Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54, 21 G) and Sean Newcomb (6-3, 3.16, 55 G) will likely make up the first four spots in the rotation, which means that prospect Kyle Wright (11-4, 4.17, 21 G in AAA), Tucker Davidson (8-7, 2.15, 25 G in AA and AAA), Ian Anderson (8-7, 3.38, 26 G in AA and AAA), Kyle Muller (7-6, 3.14, 22 G in AA) or Bryce Wilson (10-7, 3.42, 21 G in AAA) could be in the mix.
However, one name in particular stands out as a breakout candidate and that’s Fried. The lefty’s 4.02 ERA was deceiving last year. His 3.32 xFIP (which adjusts for events that a pitcher has control over) ranked 9th among 61 qualified pitchers, above guys like Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Noah Syndergaard and Luis Castillo. How’s that the case? The dude was incredibly unlucky. In fact, he was the second-unluckiest pitcher in baseball, as indicated by the .336 BABIP he allowed. Looking at his batted ball profile, he allowed a 2.41 ground ball:fly ball ratio (52.6% to 22.2%), which was the 2nd-most stark ratio among starters. Therefore, a lot of those grounders found holes, even if they weren’t hit particularly hard. Expect him to be a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate in the shortened season; he’s +3000 on FanDuel.
Back-end reliever Will Smith (COVID-19) will miss the start of the season, but this bullpen should be in solid shape, as Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson and Darren O’Day, among a few others, make up a reliable unit.
Simulation Model Results
Our model simulated every game in the shortened MLB season 10,000 times and gave the Braves a 93.82% chance to make the playoffs (-1515 implied odds) and a 69.31% chance to win the NL East (-226 implied odds). MGM has Atlanta listed at -120 (54.55% implied probability) to make the playoffs and +180 (35.71% implied probability) to win the NL East. Since we project the Braves to go 39-21 and tie for the best record in the MLB during the shortened regular season, both of these bets should be made with confidence.