Braves popular in Baseball America’s ‘best tools’ poll

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman celebrates his solo home run with left fielder Ronald Acuna in Game 3 of the National League Division Series Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Atlanta.

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman celebrates his solo home run with left fielder Ronald Acuna in Game 3 of the National League Division Series Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Atlanta.

The Braves fared well in Baseball America’s annual “best tools” poll, which consists of votes from managers, scouts and executives to rank players based on specific abilities following the 2018 season.

In the National League category, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was voted the best hitter. He topped Cincinnati’s Joey Votto and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt (then with Arizona). That’s an illustrious honor for Freeman, who hit .309 with 23 homers and 98 RBIs while playing all 162 games. He’s not only the centerpiece of the Braves’ lineup, but the entire organization.

He also graded second at best strike-zone judgement, trailing only Votto. Freeman struck out 132 times in 618 at-bats. His approach at the plate is oft-praised, while his defense was voted the second-best in the senior circuit behind Goldschmidt. Freeman and Anthony Rizzo tied for the 2018 NL gold glove.

Freeman will likely get some preseason MVP buzz with his team now slated to be among the NL’s best.

Ender Inciarte was named the best defensive outfielder. Coming off three consecutive gold gloves, it isn’t overly surprising the industry views him as a premier defense. Inciarte’s defense was a bright spot during the Braves’ dark days, and now alongside Ronald Acuna, the team boasts two of the best defensive outfielders in the game.

Inciarte was also voted the second-best bunter in the NL, behind Philadelphia’s Cesar Hernandez.

Acuna rated as the third-fastest baserunner after Billy Hamilton (then Cincinnati, now Kansas City) and Washington’s Trae Turner. Acuna stole 16 bases in his rookie campaign and projects to be a threat on the bases through the prime of his career.

Second baseman Ozzie Albies was voted No. 2 among the NL’s most exciting players, topped by Chicago’s Javier Baez. Albies burst onto the scene with 22 extra-base hits in April, captivating spectators with unexpected pop and frequent flying helmets as he rounded the bases.

Albies, who earned his first All-Star nod, tailed off as the season progressed but still ended with dynamic numbers over his first full season. He hit 24 homers, 40 doubles and five triples while adding 14 stolen bases.

That production also came with solid defense – a skill that placed him third among best defensive second basemen in Baseball America’s poll. He finished behind Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu (currently a free agent) and Baez.

Third baseman Johan Camargo was also rewarded for his defense. Camargo was third in third baseman defense, behind Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and Washington’s Anthony Rendon. Camargo’s defense was a vital part of the Braves’ run to 90 wins, and while he won’t hold a concrete starting job in 2019 after the franchise netted Josh Donaldson, Camargo will play around the diamond, again emphasizing his defensive capabilities.

Starter Julio Teheran possesses the NL’s second-best pickoff move, which comes as no surprise. Teheran has arguably the fastest pickoff move in the bigs and has been well-regarded for the skill through his career. His six pickoffs in 2018 were tied for third-most in the majors.

Baseball America's list can be read in its entirety here.