7 Braves 2023 bounce back candidates

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Outside of the Braves blockbuster trade for Sean Murphy, they were incredibly quiet this offseason for a team with championship aspirations. That upset the fan base, especially as they watched teams in the division like the Mets and Phillies spend hundreds of millions. I do wish the Braves had done more to upgrade their situation in left field and at DH. Those areas have the potential to be sore spots again for the team in 2023; however, there remains a chance this team is far better than the one that won 101 games a season ago if some of their key pieces experience positive regression for one reason or another.

Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario

I lumped these two together because these are the guys the Braves are relying on the most in left field and DH. Combined, Ozuna and Rosario were a black hole in 2022, recording an unsightly -1.7 fWAR. It’s almost absurd the Braves had as much success as they did with these two performing so poorly, but it also could be looked at as a positive moving forward. There’s almost no way Ozuna and Rosario can be as horrific — both at the plate and in the field — as they were in 2022. Both of them have an extensive track record of success. If they can just be average in 2023, that’s a tremendous boost for the Braves.

Ozzie Albies

Albies had a forgetful 2022, but it was primarily due to injuries. A lower leg injury cost him most of the season, and right when he was finally healthy enough to return, he broke his pinky, which kept him out for the rest of the year. As long as Albies is healthy, he’ll be one of the top second basemen in baseball. He’s a true five-tool player, and the Braves sorely missed his presence last season.

Ronald Acuña Jr.

Injuries may not have kept Acuña from playing, but he was a shell of the player he was before suffering a torn ACL in 2021. It’s something he talked about on numerous occasions throughout the season. He wasn’t comfortable, and it showed. However, all signs this offseason point to Acuña returning to his MVP form in 2023. The further he gets away from the injury, the more comfortable he should feel. If Acuña looks like the pre-injury version of himself in 2023, the rest of the league is in deep trouble.

Ian Anderson

Anderson needs to wipe 2022 from his memory bank. Following another outstanding postseason, he was expected to be a critical piece to the rotation again, but his lack of a reliable third offering plagued him, and he found himself in Gwinnett a few months into the season, where his struggles continued. Unlike the previous players I’ve mentioned on this list, there’s no guarantee that Anderson will be better in 2023, but he has the talent to bounce back and once again be a critical piece to the team.

Matt Olson

The last two on this list are going to be a bit different than the rest because both of them were actually productive members of the team in 2022. For most people, Matt Olson’s numbers last season were a career year. He had 44 doubles, 34 homers, and recorded an .802 OPS. That’s nearly All-Star caliber production, but I believe Olson can be significantly better in his second season. This is a player that finished top-ten in the AL MVP race in 2021, and there might not be anybody in the league that stands to benefit more from the shift ban. Add in the fact that Olson should feel much more comfortable in his second season with the Braves, and I’m expecting a monster year from Atlanta’s first baseman.

Charlie Morton

A lot of people have already given up on Charlie Morton, which is understandable. In 2022, he posted his highest ERA since 2015 when he was with the Pirates. Morton also isn’t getting any younger, as he turned 39 this offseason. Most pitchers don’t have resurgent seasons at that age, but there is enough reason to believe Morton can return to form in 2023. For starters, his stuff is still nasty. Morton was touching 98 with movement last season, and his curveball remains one of the filthiest pitches in the game. On top of that, he’s coming into this season off of a fully healthy offseason. Remember, Morton suffered a broken fibula in Game 1 of the 2021 World Series, ending his season and costing him much of the following offseason. He also was unable to work with team doctors because of the MLB lockout. All of that can be attributed to his sluggish start to 2022. I have a lot of confidence that Morton will be a much more productive pitcher this season than he was last year.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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