Atlanta Braves 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Sitting on a Gold Mine

Atlanta Braves 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Sitting on a Gold Mine article feature image
Credit:

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ronald Acuna Jr.

  • Despite signing Josh Donaldson earlier in the offseason, the Atlanta Braves have been the quietest contender in the NL East this winter.
  • With a deep pitching staff, young star players and one of the best farm systems, they are very well positioned for the next handful of seasons.

Original analysis published on Feb. 25. 

The Atlanta Braves were pretty happy at the end of the 2018 season. They went from 72 to 90 wins and won a division title. They watched Ronald Acuña Jr. burst onto the scene and mash some long dongs. They had, and still have, one of the best farm systems in the game, especially in the pitching department.

Then the Mets decided to go out and acquire a bunch of assets. And the Phillies decided to do the same. The Nats lost Bryce Harper, but could certainly bounce back after an uncharacteristic season.

Can Atlanta go from first to worst in this loaded NL East?

2018 Results

  • Record: 90-72 (+18.5 units), 82-80 ATS (-5.4 units)
  • Over/Under Record: 78-79-5
  • Preseason World Series Odds: 175-1
  • Win Total: 75
  • Most Profitable Starter: Julio Teheran (18-13, +4.9 units)

The 2018 Braves were among a handful of teams that far exceeded their win total and won bettors fistfuls of units throughout the season. After a third consecutive season with 72 wins or fewer, Atlanta finally got back to its winning ways.

A new era of young Braves all chipped in: Acuña, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Dansby Swanson and so on. Mike Foltynewicz went from mediocre to very good. Freddie Freeman Freddie Freemanned.

There are plenty of promising things developing in Atlanta and they appear to be well-positioned to get even better.

2019 Odds

  • World Series Odds: +1800
  • Division Odds: +300
  • Win Total O/U: 86
  • Playoff Odds: Make +175, Miss -210

The Braves entered the offseason with 12-1 World Series odds, but have dropped back to 18-1 thanks to the offseason activity of their division foes.

When Harper rumors heated up, the Phillies’ win total went from 86.5 to 88.5, which also caused the rest of the NL East teams to all drop back by one-half win.

The NL East division odds are very intriguing to me. Not necessarily the Braves’, but these odds are going to vary quite a bit around the market. I plan on fading the Phillies, and may end up taking any of the other three if the price is right. Following the Harper signing, I did take the Nats at +300, but may still take the Braves — especially if they sign Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel

Roster Notes

  • Additions: Josh Donaldson, Brian McCann, Raffy Lopez, Josh Tomlin, Matt Joyce, Ryan LaMarre (minors), Andres Blanco (minors)
  • Subtractions: Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Ryan Flaherty, Rene Rivera, Kurt Suzuki, Lucas Duda, Peter Moylan, Adam McCreery
  • Potential Lineup
    1. Ender Inciarte – CF
    2. Josh Donaldson – 3B
    3. Freddie Freeman – 1B
    4. Ronald Acuña Jr. – LF
    5. Nick Markakis – RF
    6. Ozzie Albies – 2B
    7. Brian McCann – C
    8. Dansby Swanson – SS
  • Projected Rotation
    1. Mike Foltynewicz (Injured)
    2. Kevin Gausman (Injured)
    3. Julio Teheran
    4. Bryce Wilson
    5. Kyle Wright
    6. Sean Newcomb
    7. Max Fried
  • Prospect Watch: Mike Soroka (No. 24, RHP), Kyle Wright (No. 30, RHP), Austin Riley (No. 38, 3B), Touki Toussaint (No. 50, RHP), Bryse Wilson (No. 82, RHP), Kolby Allard (Unranked, LHP), Luiz Gohara (Unranked, LHP)
  • Key Injuries: Mike Foltynewicz (Elbow, April), A.J. Minter (Shoulder, April), Kevin Gausman (Shoulder, expected to miss one start)
  • MVP Candidates: Freddie Freeman (+1800), Ronald Acuna Jr. (+2500), Josh Donaldson (+4000), Ozzie Albies (+6000), Nick Markakis (+20000)
  • Cy Young Candidates: Mike Foltynewicz (+5000), Sean Newcomb (+8000), Julio Teheran (+10000), Kevin Gausman (+30000)

Analysis

Player to Watch: Ronald Acuña Jr. 

Ronald Acuña Jr. — the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of 2018.

Acuña was called up to the show early last year at the spry age of 20. Though the Braves weren’t expected him to do much, Acuña was one of the big reasons why they won 90 games and the NL East.

Most 20-year-olds are being jackasses in college. Meanwhile, Acuña was producing at a well above-average rate in the majors.

Before the All-Star break he showed off some pop, but had a wRC+ of 98, which is a hair below league average. A 30.4% strikeout rate compared to just 6.5% walk rate explains why his production was somewhat limited in the early going, but it’d be stupid to not expect some growing pains for such a young player.

The second half of the year is when he really took off.

  • 1.028 OPS, 171 wRC+, 22.1% K%, 10.9% BB%

Freaking legit.

Can he produce at that level for an entire season? Eh, perhaps not, but it’s not often you see a player have his best baseball at age 20.

Acuña will likely be among the NL MVP favorites for years to come. This is a guy with 30-30 potential and could even push for some 40 home run seasons seeing how he yanked 26 in just 111 games, and he’s still getting stronger.

I’m curious to see what his MVP odds look like this year and may even take him if the price is right. His advanced defensive metrics have much to be desired, but given his athleticism, I believe he can certainly improve on his fielding.

Freddie Freeman was the face of this franchise for a decent stretch, but this electric young ballplayer will be taking over that role going forward.

Pitcher to Watch: Touki Toussaint (Will begin the year in minors)

One of many Top-100 right-handed pitching prospects in the Braves’ system, Touki Toussaint is probably the name you’re most familiar with. He spent some time in the bigs last year, starting five games and pitching 29 total innings.

Toussaint throws some lively cheddar and has a very highly rated curveball per the scouts. See it for yourself …

He was able to use his two most valuable weapons to strike out nearly 10 batters per nine innings in his MLB stint.

Where he had trouble is where a lot of young pitchers with nasty stuff have trouble — control. He walked 21 batters in those 29 innings, which equates to a horrendous 6.52 BB/9. It wasn’t just a problem in the majors, though, as he’s averaged 4.3 per nine in over 500 minor league innings.

Any number above four is bad, no way around it. Heck, you really don’t even want to see it much higher than three.

If young Touki can cut his walk rate by two-thirds, he’d literally become one of the better pitchers in baseball almost immediately. Do not hold your breath for that to happen, though.

With other pitching prospect Mike Soroka dealing with some shoulder issues, Toussaint is in line to land in the starting rotation unless he really botches spring training.

Of the four NL East contenders, some people would say Atlanta has the worst pitching staff. It is the least proven, for sure, but if Toussaint and some of its other prospects can improve and contribute this season, it’ll be better than you think.


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Summary

The Braves can hit, but can they pitch? Well, I can’t say for sure, but they certainly do have a lot of guys with the talent to do so.

They could have about 10 starting pitchers get hurt at the same time and still be able to call up troops from the minors to fill their spots. They have so much pitching depth that it’s almost comical.

If Toussaint struggles, or anyone else for that matter, the Braves can stick them in the bullpen. There are several top prospects dying for a chance to stick in an MLB rotation.

Meanwhile, the Braves’ everyday players are among the best in baseball. Acuña and Freeman have MVP potential, but don’t forget about Josh Donaldson. He is coming off a down year in which he was injured for an extended stretch. Before that, he had posted four straight seasons with at least 5.0 fWAR.

One potential X factor who I haven’t really talked about yet is Swanson. The former #1 overall pick, Swanson is a decent shortstop, but can’t hit. At least he hasn’t been able to thus far in more than 1,000 MLB plate appearances.

Allegedly, he played with wrist discomfort for the large majority of last season before undergoing surgery this offseason to remove a “loose body.” Is it just me or are more and more athletes having loose bodies surgically removed these days?

Wrist injuries can be the death of a hitter. I’ve seen it a million times. Hopefully for Swanson he can get back to 100% because before he sustained the injury on April 20, he was hitting as well as he has at any point in his young career.

The Braves have the assets to really do whatever they want, but given their youth I believe they shouldn’t get crazy this season. If they hold onto their prospects, they could develop into an excellent homegrown team like the Astros.

Sitting back and watching the other NL East teams go nuts this offseason is the right move for Atlanta.

All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 25

Transactions accurate as of Mar. 25. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign

Advanced data via Fangraphs.com, prospect ratings via MLB.com, prospects in prospect watch expected to be MLB-ready in 2019

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