Atlanta Braves

Amid youth in Atlanta, Josh Donaldson has become a star again

As the Atlanta Braves try to seize control of the NL East with young stars at the forefront, Josh Donaldson has become a top power hitter again.

After a down, injury-shortened season in 2018 split between two teams, the Atlanta Braves took a one-year, $23 million flier on Josh Donaldson. Through his first 62 games this season (through June 10), he was solid, with eight home runs and a .775 OPS, but not outstanding.

The Braves completed a sweep of the New York Mets on Sunday, winning 2-1 for their eighth consecutive victory. Donaldson hit two solo homers to account for all of Atlanta’s offense, and he now has 32 home runs on the season and three over the last two games.

Atlanta’s batch of young talent, led by Ronald Acuna Jr., gets most of the attention as they try to take control of the National League East and win a second straight division title. But while you may not have been looking, Donaldson has become a force in the lineup.

Donaldson started what would be a 10-game hitting streak on June 11. Since then, he is hitting .289 with a 1.044 OPS over 288 plate appearances (66 games). His home runs on Sunday were his 23rd and 24th since June 11, which ties him with Mike Trout for the most home runs in baseball during that span.

The biggest key in the resurgence for Donaldson has been health. He has played in 128 of Atlanta’s 132 games entering Monday, with 121 starts at third base. It could have been thought foolish for a National League team to sign Donaldson, with no DH to use outside of interleague games in an American League park, but the Braves took that risk and have gotten a renewed power hitter and above replacement-level defense (0.6 bdWAR) at the hot corner.

Last year’s significantly injury-hampered campaign makes it easy to forget Donaldson hit 33 home runs with a .944 OPS in 113 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. So the power was still there; all he needed was to find a way to stay on the field.

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That latter point may be a credit to the Braves’ training staff, or just random good fortune for a 33-year old player motivated to prove he has something left. In any case, Atlanta has benefited from the “Bringer of Rain” making a comeback.

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