Second baseman Brandon Phillips hit above .290 each of the past two seasons for the Reds, and could slot into the sixth spot in the Braves batting order. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Braves lineup could cause problems for opposing pitchers, managers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Trading for Matt Kemp last summer and Brandon Phillips this month gave the Braves a lineup that’s likely to have left- and right-handed batters alternating through at least the first six spots in the order.

Manager Brian Snitker hasn’t divulged plans for his batting order, but said he was leaning toward moving rookie Dansby Swanson up to the second spot behind Ender Inciarte. And there have been indications Phillips is likely to bat sixth behind the entrenched 3-4-5 trio of Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis.

That would give the Braves a first six of left-handed-hitting Inciarte, righty Swanson, lefty Freeman, righty Kemp, lefty Markakis and righty Phillips. When Adonis Garcia is at third base and either Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki is catching, the Braves would have right-handers in presumably the last two spots in the order.

“When you stack righties or lefties on top of each other it makes it easier for the other manager to manage his bullpen,” Kemp said. “You put left-right, left-right – I know probably four times last year with Kemp hitting, (Nationals manager) Dusty Baker would bring in a righty just to face him, and I got to face the righty.

“They bring in a lefty for Freddie and a righty for Kemp, and I’m stuck with the righty. I was like, alright, I’ll take it.” (Markakis smiled — he hit .280 with an .800 OPS vs. right-handers and .243 with a .613 OPS vs. lefties).

On days when lefty hitter Jace Peterson is at third base, the Braves could bat him seventh and have lefty-righty hitters alternating throughout the lineup.

“(Kemp) was a big right-hand bat that we haven’t had since Justin Upton left,” Freeman said, “and it just lengthened our lineup. Moved Nick to five and just put three guys in the middle of the lineup that had a chance to drive in 100 runs. And now we’re going to have Ender hopefully stay healthy all year, we’re probably going to have Dansby in the 2-hole…. Brandon was .280, .290 with 100 RBIs in Cincinnati — we just put him in the 6-hole. Adonis can change a game with a swing, Tyler can do that, so it’s just like there’s really nowhere to go in our lineup right now.

“Obviously now it looks good on paper but we’ve got to go out there and play. But if we stay healthy I think we’re going to be right there.”

Markakis added, “Sometimes a piece here and a piece there is all it takes to get things going. Get some guys rolling, it makes pitchers feel uncomfortable. I wouldn’t say we have the most powerful lineup in baseball, but opposing pitchers are going to run into some trouble when they get into our offense. That’s because we’ve got some guys that are going to put a barrel on the ball, that aren’t going to strike out, and we’re going to make things happen.”

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