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Atlanta Braves Season Preview and Offseason Review

Ozzie Albies throws the ball on defense for the Atlanta Braves.

The Atlanta Braves are poised to follow up their stellar 2023 season with an even better campaign and real World Series aspirations in 2024.

Familiar Faces

Outside of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves are arguably the best team in the National League. Reigning MVP OF Ronald Acuña, Jr. will once again anchor the lineup with his blazing speed and tremendous power–a combination that produced the first 40 home run/70 stolen base season in baseball history. Alongside him is 1B Matt Olson who himself slugged 54 home runs and drove in 139 runs last season.

All-Stars 3B Austin Riley and 2B Ozzie Albies each walloped over 30 home runs last year and drove in 97 runs or more, and at just 26 and 27 years old, these two sluggers are primed to hit big once again. Rounding out the infield is SS Orlando Arcia, who received his first All-Star nod last season and plays excellent defense to boot.

OF Michael Harris II will also return for his third big league season. The 2022 NL Rookie of the Year has a 123 OPS+ in 252 career games with Atlanta, and at just 23-years-old, his game is only going to get better. The newly acquired C Sean Murphy made the most of his first season with the Braves, earning himself an All-Star nod and blasting 21 homers in just 108 games. Even DH Marcell Ozuna quietly smashed 40 bombs and drove in 100 runs of his own, receiving MVP votes for his efforts.

On the Hill

The mustachioed flamethrower SP Spencer Strider will once again lead the starting rotation as the ace, looking to build off a fourth place Cy Young finish in 2023. His 281 strikeouts and 13.5 K/9 both paced the National League and motored Strider to an MLB-best 20 wins.

SP Max Fried is the other most exciting returnee in the Braves rotation. 2023 was largely stolen by injury for Fried, but when healthy he was brilliant, tossing a sparkling 2.55 ERA in 14 starts. If healthy, Fried could give Strider a real run for his money in pursuit of the National League Cy Young award.

SP Charlie Morton, meanwhile, was solid as ever. At 39-years-old, Morton posted a sturdy 3.64 ERA in 30 starts with 183 strikeouts and a 3.87 FIP. After a disappointing 2022 in which he posted a 4.34 ERA, many wondered if the right hander’s valuable years had come to an end, but it seems there’s more left in the tank for at least another season.

While not part of the Braves starting rotation plans come Opening Day, RHP Bryce Elder will undoubtedly be a contributor in 2024. Elder is just 25 years old and entering his third season with the Braves. His 3.81 ERA across 31 starts shows great promise, though his underlying metrics warn for any optimism to be met with caution.

Notable In:

  • LHP Chris Sale
  • RHP Reynaldo Lopez
  • OF Jarred Kelenic
  • LHP Aaron Bummer
  • OF Adam Duvall
  • IF Luis Guillorme
  • IF David Fletcher
  • LHP Ray Kerr

Notable Out:

  • 2B/SS Vaughn Grissom
  • RHP Kirby Yates
  • RHP Kyle Wright
  • 1B/DH Jesus Aguilar
  • OF Eddie Rosario
  • LHP Jared Shuster
  • RHP Mike Soroka
  • OF Sam Hilliard
  • RHP Jesse Chavez
  • RHP Nick Anderson
  • LHP Brad Hand
  • OF Kevin Pillar
  • RHP Michael Tonkin
  • RHP Collin McHugh
  • INF Nicky Lopez

Offseason Grade: B+

Braves General Manager Alex Anthopolous could have sat on his hands all winter and still entered 2024 as the favorite in the division with legitimate World Series dreams, so it makes sense that the moves they made this winter were smaller and more supplementary.

The Braves lineup is securely locked up on team-friendly pacts for the foreseeable future, so going out and grabbing a bigger free agent bat would be overkill and force unnecessary playing time decisions on Manager Brian Snitker. Trading for Jared Kelenic was absolutely a positive–his offensive numbers showed a promising uptick last season and at just 24 years old, the former first rounder may have a great career ahead of him yet.

Acquiring and extending Chris Sale were undoubtedly the most head-scratching moves to come out of Atlanta’s camp this winter. Since August of 2019, the lanky lefty has thrown just 151 innings and cost the Boston Red Sox nearly $120 MM. He failed to reach double digit starts until 2023 when he started 20 games across 102 innings.

Apparently his 4.30 ERA, injury history, or age (35 years old) didn’t faze the Braves. In the final days of December, the young 2B/SS Vaughn Grissom was dealt to Boston to acquire Sale. Less than a week later, the team extended Sale through 2026 for a $38 MM price tag. Only time will tell, but it seems that the Red Sox got the better of Atlanta this time around.

All told, Atlanta did what they needed to do. Supplemental major league talent was brought in to fill gaps, free agent signings were economical, and the team got better. The sky’s the limit for this Braves crew and their hunt for a championship will be must-see TV.

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