The new rule changes will encourage excitement on the basepaths. Not only is the distance between the bases slightly shorter, but the pitch clock and limited number of pickoff attempts allowed will give runners the opportunity to time their jumps much easier. It should be a more flavorful style of baseball, and it’s one of several reasons why I believe the pitch clock could actually be something fans come to enjoy.
This continues my series of bold predictions for the Braves in 2023. If you missed any of the previous editions to this series, follow the links below.
- Alex Anthopoulos locks up another core piece
- MVP candidates aplenty
- How many games will the Braves win in 2023?
- Expectations for Spencer Strider in Year 2
Braves lead the league in stolen bases
This might be my boldest take yet, because last year, the Braves finished smack dab in the middle of the pack (15th) when it came to swiping bags. However, there’s reason to believe that number will be much higher in 2023.
In an article for The Athletic, base-running coach Eric Young Sr. said he believes the Braves have three true 40-40 candidates — Michael Harris II, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Ozzie Albies. That’s a little bit overzealous, but not because of the stolen base capabilities of this trio, especially with the implementation of the new rules.
We already know Ronald Acuna can swipe 40 bags in a season. I think he’s a legitimate candidate to steal 50+ in 2023. He’s healthier, and the pitch clock should allow him to run wild. Michael Harris only played in 114 games last season and was 20/22 when attempting to steal. That number should rise considerably in his second season.
The Braves finished 15th in steals last year, and that was without Ozzie Albies for most of the season. He only accounted for three of those steals. If he can get that number to 20+, which is totally feasible, those three should easily account for 100+ steals this season.
There’s also Vaughn Grissom, who had five steals in just 41 games last year. I expect him to be the everyday shortstop this season, and over a full 162 games, he should be good for at least 20 steals, if not more.
The rest of the Braves lineup doesn’t exactly feature elite foot speed, but the Texas Rangers led the league in steals last season with 128. I expect that number to be much higher this year, so the the rest of the Braves will have to get a few steals if they want to lead the league in the category, but that should happen naturally. If the combination of Harris, Acuna, Albies, and Grissom can stay healthy, the Braves should be near the top of the leaderboard in the stolen base category at season’s end.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire