Ender Inciarte just completed his third year with the Braves, and he’s been the same player nearly three years in a row. That is far from a bad thing; given his consistency in the field and at the plate with his low cost, he’s been a bargain for Atlanta since coming over in the Shelby Miller deal.
The past season was Ender’s worst at the plate, batting .265/.325/.380 with a 90 wRC+. While those numbers were a decline from his 2016-17 campaigns (98 wRC+), a quick glance at his Batting Average on Balls In Play tell the story; while he was a tad lucky with a .334 mark his first two years, the number dipped to .293 this past season. Balance out his luck on balls put in play and he would’ve been right in that 95-100 wRC+ window he’s spent his entire career at.
Oddly enough, Ender actually hit the baseball harder in 2018 than he did in any prior season. His walk and strikeout rates remained nearly identical. He hit for a little more power (.116 ISO vs. .101 career mark) but it was negligible amount over 660 plate appearances. He is who he is at the plate, for better or worse.
Ender continued to thrive in center field, and the metrics actually graded the past season as his best one yet at +17 runs saved. A big reason why the Braves were able to go from 72 wins to 90 wins was the team’s defensive improvements as a whole, and Inciarte certainly helped the pitching staff every night with his elite fielding work.
Bottom line, what did he do in 2018? Defense is Ender’s calling, and while this was his worst season at the plate, he was more than serviceable as he posted a 3-WAR season for the third year in a row.
Will Ender be on the roster next year? I’m not sure. I don’t think the Braves will actively shop him given his certainty in center field and cheap team control for another four years, but Ronald Acuña Jr. would ideally play center field moving forward. I’d put it 75/25 Ender is in Atlanta next year, but don’t be stunned if he’s traded.
Highlight of 2018: There were a few options here, but I’ll go with this home run robbery against the Phillies:
Lowlight of 2018: It’s hard to come up with a specific moment, although his first half left a lot to be desired as he hit just .241 with a .649 OPS. His struggles led to the acquisition of Adam Duvall before the trade deadline and, well, we all know how that worked out.