Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Reynaldo López makes All-Star push, prospect updates and more (2024)

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Reynaldo López makes All-Star push, prospect updates and more (1)

By The Athletic MLB Staff

Jun 6, 2024

The Atlanta Braves have yet to hit their stride as a 9-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday made clear. The Braves remain nine games above .500 but hardly resemble the ruthless victory machine of a year ago during the regular season. Are they about to get hot? We take the temperature in this week’s Braves Digest.

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Power rankings: Atlanta Braves are No. 6

This week’s topic looks at potential first-time All-Star candidates around the league. Some are slam dunks, almost guaranteed to be there when the best of the best gather in the Lone Star State next month. (Record as of Tuesday morning)

Record: 34-22
Last Power Ranking: T-5

First-time All-Star candidate:RHP Reynaldo López

López, 30, had been shifted into a relief role in recent years and put together solid numbers for theWhite SoxandAngels. But he never lost faith in his ability to start, a belief that the Braves have indulged since signing López to a three-year, $30 million contract last winter. The gamble looks like a good one so far. López entered Sunday’s games leading the National League with a 1.73 ERA. Atlanta has been cautious about his usage, affording him extra rest as he re-adjusts to starting. For a team that missesSpencer Strider, López has filled some of the void. — Andy McCullough

The latest hits

ICYMI, our national writers weighed in with what they are hearing and seeing

1. Jim Bowden on Braves’ deadline needs

On Monday, our resident ex-GM organized the 30 teams into trade deadline tiers: buyers, sellers and those in between. He slotted the Braves with the buyers.

TheBraveswill try to overcome the losses of two of the sport’s best after aceSpencer Striderand reigning NL MVPRonald Acuña Jr. suffered season-ending injuries. They have fallen behind the Phillies in the division but sit atop the NL wild-card standings. To get back to the playoffs, they will need the trio ofOzzie Albies,Matt OlsonandAustin Riley to step up in the lineup and their starting pitchers to stay healthy and deliver. Remember, the Braves lost Acuña to season-ending ACL surgery three years ago and won the World Series, so it’s still possible.

The Braves will look to acquire a fourth outfielder type to mix and match on the corners with Adam Duvall and Jarred Kelenic. They’ll also look to trade for a starting pitcher if Spencer Schwellenbach, AJ Smith-Shawver (IL), Ian Anderson (minors) and/or Hurston Waldrep (minors) can’t take the fifth spot by the end of July.

2. Keith Law ranks Top 50 prospects after two months

The Braves landed a pitcher on the list that was published Monday.

No. 41: Hurston Waldrep, RHP
Preseason Ranking: 80

Waldrep got bombed in his first outing of the year, but since then he’s been cruising with a 1.74 ERA and, most importantly, a reasonable walk rate just over 8 percent. Atlanta has him throwing his slider much more often so he’s not so reliant on his grade-70 split-change, and he’s having success with it, especially against lefties.

Hurston Waldrep is back in Triple-A and showing out.

6 IP | 5 H | 3 R | 1 BB | 11 K

— Gwinnett Stripers (@GoStripers) June 2, 2024

3. Jim Bowden makes his early All-Star picks

The 94th Midsummer Classic will be played at Globe Life Field on July 16. Which Braves deserve to go? Bowden has two Atlanta pitchers among his picks, placing Chris Sale and Reynaldo López among the reserves. He also lists a Braves hitter as a top candidate to start at DH:

Marcell Ozuna,Braves
(2.2 WAR, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 181 OPS+)

It’s not easy to pick between Shohei Ohtani and Ozuna for the DH starter, but based on their performances to date, I gave the edge to Ohtani because of his speed and base-running ability. However, Ozuna leads the league in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS and deserves serious consideration to start.

4. The book on Spencer Schwellenbach

Our scouting columnist Andrea Acapida shared her impressions of the right-hander in this scouting notebook before Wednesday’s game:

Schwellenbach has a simple and repeatable delivery. He does a great job of staying composed on the mound to execute consistently.


At the highest level, Schwellenbach offers a valuable combination of high strikeout stuff with above-average control. He has a five-pitch mix that allows him to face both hands effectively — the splits below show how strong he has been against right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters, which is not typically seen.

Career MinorsFIPK%BB%
Vs RHH2.6929%6%
Vs LHH2.8120%6%

He does a great job of getting ahead in the count, as demonstrated by his career 71 percent first-pitch strike rate.

Let’s dive into his pitch mix:

  • Four-seamer (95-96mph): Below average ride and run
  • Slider (86-88mph): Plus depth, average sweep (for a gyro-slider)
  • Cutter (91-92mph): Average cut and depth
  • Curveball (78-80mph): Below average depth
  • Changeup (82-83mph): Small sample — flashed plus depth

Viral moment of the week

Adam Duvall does the can-can.

Adam Duvall did one of the greatest things I've ever seen on a baseball field.

— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) June 4, 2024

Baseball beat

Our beat writer David O’Brien picked out what you need to know.

1. Ronald Acuña Jr. stays positive before upcoming surgery

The Braves star said that well-wishes from the organization and fans have made him emotional more than once.

“All that support finds me crying at home by myself,”’ Acuña, 26, said through an interpreter in his first media session since his season-ending injury, “and the reason that’s happening is because I feel like I’m the one abandoning the team. It feels like I’m the one letting everyone down. But there’s nothing I can do, just continue to work hard, continue to heal.”

Acuña smiled.

“You know,” he continued, “the last time this happened (in 2021), the team won the World Series. That’s the goal right there.”

“All that support finds me crying at home by myself. The reason that’s happening is because I feel like I’m the one abandoning the team. It feels like I’m the one letting everyone down”

Ronald Acuña Jr. on the support from teammates, coaches & Braves Country after his injury🔊

— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) May 30, 2024

2. Brian Snitker says it’s no time for team meeting

The Braves manager contrasted the circ*mstances from 2022 to how the Braves have played during a 13-17 stretch before Friday to explain why he wasn’t going to have a team meeting as he did two years ago.

“We’re not playing bad,” he said. “Pitching is really good. We’re making really good plays defensively. I mean, we’re just not hitting, that’s all. There’s nothing I’m going to tell them (to change that). You know what, when you do that and (the team) does good, it’s just a coincidence. It’s not like a light’s going off or anything like that.”

Did you catch this?

Left fielder Jarred Kelenic disclosed this week that the Braves adopted a new long-term mindset this year after listening to Strider’s mental performance coach during spring training.

“He said that we’re preparing for October, the playoffs. That we don’t want to be playing our best baseball right now. We’re a playoff team,” Kelenic said.

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Reynaldo López makes All-Star push, prospect updates and more (2)

Jarred Kelenic, who has turned things up recently, said the Braves look at the season with long-term vision. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Yes, the Braves would prefer to be leadingMLBin virtually every major offensive category, the way they did last season. But as veteran catcherTravis d’Arnaudand hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said, they would rather slump early than late in the season. They would rather not see their bats go completely cold in the NL Division Series as happened each of the last two years in postseason series losses to thePhillies(.180 average, .594 OPS in 2022, .186/.519 in 2023).


The approach has helped the Braves roll with some early season struggles at the plate.

“Whatever the numbers say now, we have too many guys in here that are way too talented,” Kelenic said. “Like, we’re a playoff team. And I think that come October, all this stuff that we’re going to go through this year, the waves and the things that we’re going to learn as a team, I think come October we’ll be playing our best baseball. And that’s when it matters.”

Picture of the week

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Reynaldo López makes All-Star push, prospect updates and more (3)

Chris Sale, who spent six seasons with the Red Sox, acknowledged the Fenway Park crowd during the second inning Tuesday. (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

(Top photo of Reynaldo López: Patrick Gorski / USA Today)

Atlanta Braves Covering the Bases: Reynaldo López makes All-Star push, prospect updates and more (2024)
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