Braves now have good defense across outfield

While there don’t seem to be any simple answers for the offensive woes plaguing the Braves their everyday outfield should be good defensively.

The return of Ender Inciarte from the disabled list gives the Braves three solid defenders across the outfield: Inciarte in left, Mallex Smith in center and Nick Markakis in right.

“You feel good about that,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “The outfield defense should be impeccable. You’ve got two center fielders (in Smith and Inciarte). You’ve got ‘Nicky’ Markakis in right field with two Gold Gloves under his belt and playing a good right field because he’s healthy (now). I want to continue to somehow, someway make the defense better.”

Inciarte’s return to the active roster Saturday after a month on the disabled list helps to stabilize the outfield defense.

The Braves began the season with Hector Olivera trying to make the transition from third base to left field. The Braves tried to make Adonis Garcia the everyday left fielder but he struggled there in four games last week before being optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday.

Inciarte, who is in his third big-league season, already has established himself as a plus defender. Last season he ranked second among major league outfielders in The Fielding Bible’s defensive runs saved metric while playing all three positions over 1,063 1/3 innings. The Fielding Bible named him the best multi-position defender in the majors.

Smith, the Braves’ top outfield prospect, has played just 164 innings in the center field since being promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s already tied for first among NL outfielders with seven DRS.

Markakis won a Gold Glove in 2011 and 2014 while playing for the Orioles. His defensive numbers slipped last season as he returned from offseason neck surgery but are above-average so far this season.

When the Braves face a left-handed starting pitcher Gonzalez plays to play Inciarte instead of Smith in center field. On those days another good defender, Jeff Francoeur, usually will play left field.