The Braves entered the 2017 season still in “rebuild mode.” The lure of a new ballpark gave Braves Country plenty of reason to be more excited this year than the last few seasons.
The actual expectations of the team’s results on the field; they probably were a little bit more tempered. There is a great mix of young, unproven talent with veteran leaders who have strong resumes of success throughout their Major League Baseball careers.
To call the Braves 2017 season a roller coaster to this point would be an understatement. Entering play Thursday night, the Braves are 16-21, second in the NL East Division, eight games back of the first-place Washington Nationals. So far this season, the Braves have had three different losing streaks of five games or more. They have also had two different win streaks of at least four games and are currently on a three-game winning streak.
With all the ups and downs in the win-loss column, the one constant for the Braves has been at first base. All-Star, MVP candidate Freddie Freeman has been the epitome of consistency. He’s the constant drum beat to the tomahawk chop at SunTrust Park.
Wednesday night, in just one pitch, that drum beat went silent.
Freeman was hit on a bone on the inside of his left hand, by Blue Jays lefty Aaron Loup in the fifth inning. The Braves were winning at the time but the feeling at SunTrust Park was that the Braves just lost. The look of Freeman’s face as he was attended to by trainer Jim Lovell gave every Braves fans reason to fret.
Atlanta may have won the game, but it came at the cost of their biggest loss in 2017. They lost the best hitting first baseman in baseball this year. They lost 14 home runs, a .341 average and 1.209 OPS. The Braves lost the heartbeat of their team.
Freeman has spent time on the DL before, but not while putting up these kind of numbers. If in fact his hand is broken, the slugger will miss significant time. But the nightmare doesn’t end the day he’s activated off his inevitable trip to the disabled list.
Whether Freeman misses a few games, a few weeks or a few months, this injury could have long term effects. Even if Freeman recovers from the injury, he’s going to have to find his swing again. That could take more time than anyone can guess. It’s very rare that a player goes down with an injury and then returns to form right where he left off.
What will the Braves do with their workhorse stuck in the stable for an undisclosed amount of time? That’s the real question.
Wednesday night after Freeman left, manager Brian Snitker moved Jace Peterson from third to first. It was the first time Peterson had played first base in his career and he didn’t look too bad in his small sample size. But Peterson was already in the game, playing third for Adonis Garcia who was placed on the 10-Day DL earlier in the day.
The Braves don’t have any infielders in Triple-A Gwinnett currently on Atlanta’s 40-man roster, so they would have to purchase the contract for somebody in that role. The one man who could possible get the call? Top prospect Ozzie Albies. The 19-year old Albies is hitting .275 with two home runs and 13 RBI for the G-Braves this season.
My thought? Put Albies at third and have Peterson and Garcia (when he comes back from the DL) platoon at first base. It’s also possible to see Matt Kemp get time at first base as well.
The Braves will have to mull their options but there is no denying that if Freeman is going to miss weeks or even months, this is a body blow for Freeman and the Braves. It’s hard to continue a rebuild when the foundation of your team goes down with an injury. Let’s see if the team can tread water until Freddie returns. Get well soon buddy, the city of Atlanta is counting on you.