The Braves may elect not to include superstar prospect Ronald Acuna on their opening-day roster. If that’s the case, they likely will go with a Lane Adams and Preston Tucker platoon in left field.
“If that happens, you may look at a platoon like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Saturday. “Like I said, we still have a long way to go. I know (general manager) Alex (Anthopolous) is constantly working and talking. But if we were going and everything stood like it was right now, that’s probably a situation that you’d look at. And I think too, spring training will tell a lot of that. You’re not talking about established big-league guys. Going in, as you plan forward looking at that, that’d be an honest thing to say.”
The Braves had interest in outfielder Christian Yelich, who was traded from Miami to Milwaukee last week. Anthopoulos has since said that adding an outfielder is less of a priority because the team doesn’t want to block Acuna.
Adams was a pleasant surprise in 2017. After considering retirement the season before, Adams played in 85 games for the Braves. He hit .275 with 20 RBIs and five home runs.
The 28-year-old also proved invaluable as a pinch-hitter, and the Braves led the league in pinch-hit RBIs. Adams was also worked in as a late-game defensive replacement.
It was a breakthrough campaign. He appeared in only six games before that, all coming in 2014 with the Royals.
In 84 at-bats against righties, Adams has hit .310 with with a .904 OPS. He’s hit only .143 with a .437 OPS in 28 at-bats against lefties.
Enter Tucker: The Braves acquired him from Houston in December. Like Adams, he’s bounced between the majors and Triple-A. He hit 24 homers and seven triples in the minors last season.
Tucker, 27, has a career .229 average with 16 homers across 350 major league at-bats against righties, while posting a .179 average with one homer in 84 at-bats against lefties.
The bulk of that work came in 2015, when Tucker appeared in 98 games and hit 13 homers with 33 RBIs in 300 at-bats.
Acuna, the near-consensus top prospect in the sport, will contribute in 2018. The Braves are counting on that. But there’s benefit to leaving him at Triple-A Gwinnett for a couple of weeks to open the season, primarily in that it gives the Braves an additional year of control in free agency.
That may not mean much given that if Acuna becomes what evaluators say he is, the team would try to extend him long before free agency. But the extra year still has its benefits, as David O’Brien outlined in his Tuesday blog.
Acuna’s arrival is imminent, but Adams and Tucker might get a chance to make their marks in the meantime.