5 Braves Bold Predictions: A different Brave wins NL MVP

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With just a couple of days until Opening Day on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, it’s time to conclude my Braves bold predictions series over the next three days. If you missed any of the previous parts of this series, follow the links below

Another Braves First Time MVP

Ronald Acuña Jr. put it all together last season, becoming the first player to ever hit 40+ homers and swipe 70+ bags, unanimously winning his first NL MVP award. Unsurprisingly, he’s the favorite to do it all over again in 2024, and I honestly believe he has not even peaked yet as a player. I expect him to top those numbers in the future, but there is also a trio of his teammates that could challenge him for the award this year.

After a somewhat sluggish first season with the Braves — for his lofty standards — Matt Olson erupted with a career year in 2023, leading Major League Baseball in homers (54), RBIs (139), and slugging (.604). In many seasons, that’s enough to take home the MVP award, but last year was unique, resulting in him finishing fourth. If he replicates his 2023 campaign this year, or even comes close to it, he’ll have a great chance at winning his first NL MVP, but he’s not the guy I have reaching the top of the mountain in 2024.

Just like last year was the year of Ronald Acuña Jr, something similar could take place with Michael Harris II. The 23-year-old continues to grow into his incredible frame and get stronger, which is going to eventually result in a power explosion if he can elevate the ball some more. Harris is a true five-tool athlete, with his best tool actually being his Gold Glove defense in centerfield. Once he puts it all together, he has the potential to go 30/30 while hitting .300 and winning a Gold Glove. In many seasons, that could be enough to win the NL MVP.

But not this year. In 2024, I have Austin Riley taking home the award. The Braves third baseman has blossomed into a top 10 offensive player over the last few years, finishing inside the top seven of the NL MVP race in each of the last three seasons. I have him taking it to the next level this year, recording his first 40+ home run season, but what’s really going to make the difference is his improved defense.

For much of Riley’s career, he’s been a below average defensive third baseman. The highlight plays are there, but the consistency in all facets has not been. That changed in the second half of last season. It’s clearly been a focus for him as he finished as a finalist for the Gold Glove award. If that improvement continues into this year, his WAR is going to skyrocket, putting him over the top in the MVP race and giving the Braves their third different MVP recipient since 2020.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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