Alex Anthopoulos deserves praise for Braves All-Stars

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The Braves are attempting to cap off a historic month in June against the red hot Marlins on Friday. Though the Phillies and Fish have had impressive stretches, Atlanta has still somehow widened their lead in the division over the last few weeks.

The bullpen has been better than ever, the defense has dramatically improved compared to the first two months of the season, and the bats are torturing opposing pitchers… literally. Their .920 OPS and 55 homers lead the league by a mile and even challenge some franchise records.

It’s a testament to the work Alex Anthopoulos has done building this roster, which was rewarded with the announcement of several All-Stars, featuring three Braves starters, two of whom are first-timers. 

Ronald Acuna Jr. was the leading vote-getter for the National League and is on his way to the MVP if he can stay healthy. No longer is 30 home runs and 60 steals the goal, which has never been done before, but 40/70 is in the Venezuelan superstar’s crosshairs.

However, it’s the other two starters that AA deserves praise for — Sean Murphy and Orlando Arcia. Though the veteran shortstop was on the team last year, they’re both new to the club in some capacity; Murphy coming over via trade and Arcia becoming a full-time starter.

Many, including myself, thought what the Braves had given up for the Gold Glove catcher was a heavy price. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Although they traded away an All-Star in William Contreras, they received the best backstop in baseball. Murphy has long been heralded for his defense, but it’s his offensive production that has caught most people by surprise and puts him into a league of his own.

The 28-year-old is on pace to eclipse his highest fWAR total by more than 1.0, thanks to career-highs in nearly every offensive metric — .289 average, .385 OBP, .540 SLG, .389 wOBA, and 150 wRC+. Moreover, he’s mashed 13 home runs through half the season, five away from matching a career best. He’s been a revelation behind the plate, but it seems moving away from the Oakland Coliseum and into a potent Braves lineup has benefited him more than anyone thought possible.

Somehow, he’s not even the biggest accomplishment of the offseason for Anthopoulos. That award belongs to Orlando Arcia. Coming into the year, nobody expected Arcia to win the starting job at shortstop. Vaughn Grissom was ultra-productive offensively during the 2022 campaign and filled in admirably at second base for Ozzie Albies. Many expected the youngster to seize the starting spot, especially with Ron Washington heaping his praise.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. To everyone’s surprise, Arcia was named the starter, but it quickly became clear why the Braves went to the proven veteran over the kid. When injury struck, Grissom was forced into the lineup, and he struggled mightily. Not only was he a liability in the field, but his offensive production dipped considerably.

When Arcia returned from a microfracture in his wrist, he didn’t skip a beat. Even though he’s experiencing a minor slump, he’s still slashing .303/.358/.436 with six long balls and a 116 wRC+ while playing very good defense at one of the most difficult positions on the diamond.

It seems AA knows what he’s doing. Oh yeah, the Braves also inked the starting shortstop in the All-Star game to a three-year deal worth $7.3 million contract that includes a $2 million club option for the 2026 season. If he continues to perform like this, he’ll be one of the biggest bargains in baseball, alongside some others in Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr., Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Sean Murphy.

Obviously, it’s the players doing the work, but Alex Anthopoulos deserves some praise for the moves he has made.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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