Chicago Cubs series preview: Are Atlanta Braves remedy for average start?

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Heading into the series: Atlanta Braves

Record: 7-5, 2nd in National League East

Record (Last 10): 6-4

Team ERA: 2.98 (5th in MLB)

Team OBP: .338 (3rd in MLB)

Team HR: 14

Team Leader (WAR): Freddie Freeman–4.0

At 7-5, the Braves are off to a solid start considering where preseason predictions pegged them to finish. Atlanta’s offense is spearheaded by three players (35 at-bats+) hitting at least .300. Dansby Swanson (.348) is leading the way for the Braves.

Drafted No.1 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, Swanson, 24, struggled mightily in 2017. The shortstop hit just .232 in 144 games (488 at-bats). His .636 OPS was 100 points lower than any other Braves player with at least 200 at-bats.

Based on what their first 12 games, here is a lineup the Braves could roll out Friday at Wrigley Field:

Projected starting lineup

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Kurt Suzuki, C
6. Preston Tucker, LF
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Ryan Flaherty, 3B
9. Anibal Sánchez, P

Despite having few household names, the Braves’ offense has been tremendous to start the season. In their seven wins, Atlanta has scored 8, 15, 13, 7, 8, 4 and 5 runs, respectively. Their collective 14 home runs are tied for 10th in the MLB.

Freeman, a two-time All-Star, is leading the way offensively with an impressive .325/.518/.625 slash line. And while Freeman and Swanson’s strong starts should not be underestimated, Flaherty’s production has been a pleasant surprise.

A career .219 hitter, Flaherty is hitting .333 with a .886 OPS in 36 at-bats this season. Even more impressive is the fact that he signed with the Braves on the last day of spring training.