Braves outfielders ready for action: (from left) Nick Markakis, Ronald Acuna, Marcell Ozuna and Ender Inciarte get in some work Wednesday during spring training activities at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

What would be some Braves storylines right now?

If the Braves were playing baseball, they’d be through 24 games. After Monday’s off day, they’d begin a homestand against the Diamondbacks and Mets.

On Monday morning, the quarantine had me pondering lost storylines. The Braves were mediocre at this time last year — of course, they went on to win 97 games. My guess is they would have started better out of the gate this time around, if for no other reason than 10 games against the Marlins and Giants, and six against the Padres, who have improved but remain an unknown.

I posed Twitter with the same thought — What would be some Braves storylines right now? — and really enjoyed the responses. In between the “Will the Braves ever lose?” and Nick Markakis remarks, I decided to share a handful. 

“Should the Braves have signed another starting pitcher in the offseason?”

Entirely possible. Cole Hamels wouldn’t have pitched yet. If Felix Hernandez was off to a poor start, the groans would grow louder. It would still be too early to say, given Kyle Wright is probably in Triple-A with a larger role possibly looming, but it’s easy to envision people already having concern. 

On the other hand, maybe Hernandez looks steady. Mike Soroka dominates. Fried seems to have made a leap. Sean Newcomb’s return to the rotation has been successful. Wright is still ready and waiting. The truth would probably fall somewhere in between.

“If Soroka is the best (starting pitcher) in the NL.”

That’s a hard sell while Jacob deGrom is in his prime. I do think Soroka would’ve established himself as one of the National League’s best five starters this season though.

“How much we hate saying Truist Park.”

I’m already there, and they haven’t played a game at the place.

“How the bullpen 7-9th (innings) is being used.”

This is an obvious one. The Braves invested in a super-charged bullpen that will never get its full chance. Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and potentially Darren O’Day are free agents after the season. Even if there’s a shortened campaign, the Braves won’t ever see what they hoped for out of that group.

Melancon, barring disaster, would still be the primary closer at this point. Greene and Will Smith would have their opportunities. The bullpen should be discussed as a legitimate strength. SHOULD.

“Why do they keep sending Luke Jackson out there!!!???”

A shoo-in. Jackson could be the best reliever in the majors and people would ask this.

“If Ender (Inciarte) was hitting anything below .300, when (Cristian) Pache would get called up.”

No doubt this would be one of them. Austin Riley was a popular topic last year when he was scorching earth down in Triple-A, but the Braves had nowhere to put him. I’d be interested to see how much Inciarte was playing, but if it’s one at-bat or 100, people will be clamoring for a prospect. Nature of the sport, especially when you have someone as prized as Pache.

“When will Pache be called up to replace the struggling (Marcell) Ozuna?”

If Ozuna is slumping so badly that you’re calling up Pache to fill the power void, the Braves are in trouble.

“With a healthy elbow, Freddie (Freeman) is flirting with .400 a month into the season ...”

A Freddie revenge tour would be fun to follow. The postseason last year overshadows what should be remembered as the best season of his career.

“Austin Riley is back.”

Going along with the suggestion that general manager Alex Anthopoulos made — that the Braves would’ve opened with Johan Camargo and Riley on the roster — it’s conceivable. Now, we’ve seen Riley on a hot streak before. The key is for him to find middle ground. This team looks entirely different with Riley translating the theoretical into the tangible. 

“We REALLY should have overpaid to re-sign Donaldson.”

This is the type of thought that, if Camargo and Riley are struggling, would be prevalent on social media but never drift through the Braves’ offices. They opted not to re-sign Donaldson because of a four-to-five-year projection. Not 24 games.

Now, if the rest of the roster is sound but third base is a gaping hole, I totally understand the overreaction. The Braves won 97 games behind one of the best offenses in franchise history and they lost their clean-up hitter for nothing. Ozuna’s production plays a part in this, too.

“Braves being up 10 games in the division.”

Hyperbole aside, no way. I predicted the Braves would run away with the East relatively early last season, but it’s going to be close next time.

“(Dansby) Swanson off to a hot start again.”

We’re still waiting on that fully healthy season. This was an important year for Swanson. As the Braves continue solidifying their roster, they may reach a point the best place to upgrade is shortstop. Swanson will have the chance to quiet those suggestions whenever there’s a season.

“Did Game 5 break Folty (Mike Foltynewicz)?”

I hope for everyone’s sake this isn’t the case. And I don’t think it will be.

“Ozzie Albies hot start.”

I can’t shake the feeling this would be happening. Albies is tearing it up in April — as he does — teaming with Ronald Acuna for a ridiculous 1-2 punch atop the order. Speaking of …

“Acuna on pace for 50/50 with Ozzie hot on his heels.”

The bad news: We’ve been robbed of Acuna’s 40-40 pursuit. The good news: He’ll have many more cracks at it, health permitting. If Acuna had a hot start, the 40-40 watch will begin early. They might be close initially, but Acuna is probably going to comfortably pass his buddy two months in.

“The thing that it’s going to be until it happens: “Can Braves Break Drought, Win First Postseason Series Since 2001?”

Another lock. The Braves are in the same category as the Houston Rockets, Georgia Bulldogs, Oakland A’s and others. No matter how successful the regular season is, detractors will mention the playoffs. And they’re right.

But hey, they did so with the Washington Nationals, Andy Reid and Toronto Raptors before their titles. Maybe the next season will be the Braves’ turn to break through.

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About the Author

Gabriel Burns
Gabriel Burns
Gabriel Burns is the Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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