2018 Atlanta Braves
2018 Atlanta Braves / Franchise: Atlanta Braves / BR Team Page
Managed by Brian Snitker
History, Comments, Contributions
After a few years in the wilderness since their last postseason appearance in 2013, the 2018 Atlanta Braves were expected to be a lot more competitive, as their youth movement was starting to bear results. But no one really expected that they would be that good. They started the season strong, going 16-11 in March/April, then went 17-12 in May. They reached first place for the first time on May 2nd and hardly looked back after that. Their main opponents in the division were not, as was expected, the Washington Nationals, but the Philadelphia Phillies, who were the only team that managed to displace them from the top of the hill during the season, albeit for short stretches. The Nats never managed to play much above .500, while the Phils hit a rough patch starting in late August, leaving the Braves almost all alone in the divisional race in September. They clinched the division title on September 22nd with a 5-3 win over the Phillies, the first NL team to do so.
One of the key dates in the season was April 25th, which is the day 20-year-old outfielder Ronald Acuña made his major league debut. Everyone expected him to contribute at some point during the season, after being named the Minor League Player of the Year the previous season, and he would likely have been a starter on Opening Day had financial considerations linked to postponing his eligibility for salary arbitration by a year not intervened. So he played a few weeks in the minors before being called up, then scored the winning run in his debut game and was off to the races from that point forward. His rookie season became the stuff of legend, with feats such as being the youngest player to homer in a 1-0 win, leading off both games of a doubleheader on August 13th with a homer, and generally putting up numbers that completely belied his young age. Next to him was 21-year-old 2B Ozzie Albies, who had made his debut late the previous season and was among the leading power hitters in the majors in the first fdew months of the year, earning him a trip to the 2018 All-Star Game, one of four Braves - and three first-timers - to make it to the Midsummer Classic. Also making his debut in the game was young pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, one of a number of young players added to the team through shrewd trades during the rebuilding period, but also 34-year-old RF Nick Markakis, who had been a steady major leaguer on both sides of the ball for years, but suddenly had his best season, to the point that he was voted among the starters for the game, and beat Ron Fairly's record for most games played before a first All-Star Game appearance. The last of the All-Star was 1B Freddie Freeman, who had always been one of the team's best hitters, and indeed one of the best in the league, during the lean years and was now rewarded for his patience by having a set of equally-gifted teammates surrounding him.
Foltynewicz was far from the only very good played snapped up in a trade in previous years. SS Dansby Swanson and CF [Ender Inciarte]] were both products of a trade for Shelby Miller that had turned out to be a veritable steal, and another starting pitcher, Sean Newcomb was the return for trading SS Andrelton Simmons.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Ozzie Albies, Mike Foltynewicz, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis
- NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna
- NL Comeback Player of the Year Award: Jonny Venters
- NL Gold Glove: Freddie Freeman (1B), Ender Inciarte (CF) and Nick Markakis (RF)
- NL Silver Slugger Award: Nick Markakis (OF)
- NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker
- 2018 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Ronald Acuna (OF) and A.J. Minter (LhP)
- Mark Bowman: "Markakis, Freddie, Albies, Folty named All-Stars", mlb.com, July 8, 2018. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "6 reasons Braves are this year's surprise team", mlb.com, February 17, 2018. 
- Richard Justice: "6 reasons to believe in Braves after strong start: Atlanta staying competitive in National League East in first month", mlb.com, April 27, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "With Mike Soroka's debut, Braves boast 3 youngest players in MLB - all impact talents", USA Today Sorts, May 1, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Brian Snitker has young Braves poised for return to glory years", USA Today, September 23, 2018. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Top prospect Ronald Acuna has Braves dreaming of return to glory days", mlb.com, March 17, 2018. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "'Future is now' for Braves thanks to historic young duo of Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr.", USA Today Sports, May 23, 2018. 
- Joe Posnanski: "This is how the Braves managed to shock MLB", mlb.com, May 22, 2018.