TORONTO — The Braves are seeing just how deep their lineup can be, and it could keep getting better.
Despite navigating numerous injuries in the young season, the Braves’ offense ranks among MLB’s best. The team tops the National League in OPS (.804) and total bases (582) while ranking second in runs (199), homers (60) and on-base percentage (.342).
And that’s with key contributors Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Harris II and Orlando Arcia missing time. The team also is seeing improvement from left fielders Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario.
Ozuna is hitting .296 with a 1.147 OPS this month in 32 plate appearances. He did much of his damage against the Marlins to begin May, and his recent play has quelled some of the outside criticism that has surrounded him – at least for now.
Rosario, the 2021 National League Championship Series MVP, has encouraged. He’s 11-for-35 (.314) in May with three doubles and six RBIs. A Rosario reemergence would go a long way toward cementing the Braves as having MLB’s best lineup, if they aren’t considered that anyway.
“We knew it was in there; Eddie is starting to get himself going,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Which would be huge for us. You add Travis in there as the DH, it’s a pretty good lineup. What Arcia has been doing, Michael. Michael is starting to come (on). As he amassing more and more at-bats, it’s going to keep getting better for him, too, as he gets more consistent playing time. It’s a pretty good lineup.”
Rosario, who dealt with an eye issue during an underwhelming 2021 campaign, always will be revered for his performance in the 2021 postseason. He hit .383 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 16 games, helping the Braves win the World Series.
The Braves have seen Rosario at his best. He obviously isn’t going to produce at that rate regularly, but the team knows what he can provide.
“He’s making good contact,” Snitker said. “It all evens out. If you hang with yourself, and not allow yourself to get overwhelmed by that – it’s like a team that’s struggling a little bit. If you allow yourself to get (through) it, you’ll have something good on the other side.”
Take Friday’s lineup for the series opener in Toronto as an example of the lineup’s depth. Four of the nine hitters have been All-Stars. Those who haven’t: Rosario, catcher Sean Murphy, who’s a legitimate early MVP candidate; Harris, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and Arcia, who’s hitting .339 over 16 games as the team’s primary shortstop.
The Braves still haven’t determined their starting pitcher for Sunday’s finale in Toronto, Snitker said. The team could opt for another bullpen game – it has an off-day May 18 – or perhaps summon lefty Dylan Dodd from Triple-A Gwinnettt.
Soroka continues building himself back
There was some fan speculation that Michael Soroka, who’s from Calgary, Alberta, could return to the majors and be the starting pitcher Sunday, but the Braves are being extra patient with their 25-year-old righty – their circumstances aren’t going to make them accelerate Soroka’s timetable. Soroka has a 5.47 ERA at Triple-A, where he’s been working to get himself back on track. He allowed three runs on four hits in four innings Thursday during his latest start.
“He’s still working through things,” Snitker said. “He hasn’t pitched in a long time. As long as he’s healthy, and we keep him regular, because we’re going to need him before the year is over. We just need him to get settled in and get consistent starts.”
Soroka hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since June 2020. Soroka has undergone three Achilles surgeries since that outing, and he was stalled during spring training with a hamstring injury. Soroka, a 2019 All-Star, figures to make his way back this season, but the timing isn’t now.
“The reports have been good,” Snitker said. “He’s had his struggles, which I think everybody figured he would after such a long layoff. But reports on his stuff are good. It’s just the consistency you get by making starts.”