ESPN recently came out with their list of MLB’s top 100 players, and while there will always be things I disagree with when it comes to these kinds of arbitrary lists, I like this one much better than the one MLB.com released this offseason.
The Braves had eight players make the cut, and not only are they all considered top 100 players, but they all also cracked the top 75.
Coming in at #74 was Ozzie Albies, who did not make MLB.com’s top 100 list, which I thought was just silly. Sure, Albies suffered two significant injuries, limiting him to just 64 games, but we are talking about one of the most consistent players in all of baseball when he’s healthy. Albies is a lock for 25+ homers a year, is consistently among the leaders in hits, can steal 20+ bags, and plays elite defense. He’s one of the best second basemen in the game. Leaving him off any top 100 player list is blasphemy.
At #66 is the Braves’ newest toy, Sean Murphy. The Gold Glove catcher is one of the best backstops in the league, posting above-average numbers offensively, but his calling card is his defense. He will be a potent addition to an already-loaded Braves core for a long time after signing a six-year extension with the team a couple of months ago.
Next up, ringing in just outside the top 50 at #53 is Matt Olson. The Braves first baseman had a down year for his standards in 2022, but if his Spring Training performance is any indication, he’ll be well inside the top 50 this time next year. I’m expecting an MVP-caliber performance from Olson in 2023.
Three spots higher than Olson is the man that finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year race last season, Spencer Strider. He did things last year we’ve never seen before, striking out batters at a historic pace, and I see no reason why he won’t improve upon his performance in his second season. Strider is already one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors. He’s my pick to win the NL Cy Young in 2023 as long as he stays healthy.
Just ahead of Strider at #41 is the man who stole the NL Rookie of the Year award away from Strider, Michael Harris II. I have no problem with him coming in so low on this list. My only issue is that Julio Rodriguez, who won the AL Rookie of the Year and put up almost identical numbers, clocks in at #7. I love Rodriguez, but I see no reason why Harris can’t be just as good or even better than him in year two. He’s my dark horse candidate for the NL MVP in 2023.
At #32 is the Braves ace Max Fried. He’s coming off a career year that earned him second-place honors in the NL Cy Young race. Given how many talented pitchers there are in the National League, it will be difficult for Fried to ever win the award. However, few pitchers have been as consistent as him in recent years.
Austin Riley is the second-to-last Brave on the list, coming in at #18. He’s established himself as a perennial MVP candidate and one of the premier offensive players in the league. If his defense can ever catch up, he will start to crack the top 10 on these lists.
The highest-ranked Brave is none other than Ronald Acuña Jr., who barely misses out on the top 10, coming in at #14. I don’t think anyone would argue that Acuña is a top 10 talent in baseball. He’s probably top five or higher. However, he is coming off a career-worst year and has yet to show he’s back to 100% since tearing his ACL in 2021. The expectations are high for him coming into 2023, but I’m fine with this ranking until he shows everyone that he’s all the way back.
What did you think of ESPN’s rankings of the Braves in their list of the top 100 MLB players? Who is too high? And who is too low?
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire