Today marks the halfway point of the season, and not much has gone wrong thus far, outside of injuries. The Braves are 53-27 and have an opportunity to extend their 6 game lead in the division this weekend in a pivotal series against the second place Marlins, one of several surprising teams this season.
Hopefully, the Braves can take care of business, as they have all June. But regardless, they are in a prime position to win a sixth straight NL East title. FanGraphs gives them a 96.4% chance of winning the division, and they have the Braves as an overwhelming favorite to win the World Series at 22.5%, but here are a few things worth watching closely in the second half of the season.
Is Orlando Arcia actually an All-Star?
Of course, we learned yesterday that Orlando Arcia will be the starting shortstop in the National League. He wholeheartedly is deserving of that honor, but the MLB All-Star Game is quirky because it only rewards the players for the first half of the season. The league should probably consider figuring out a way to honor the entire body of work for the entire campaign, but that’s another story for another day.
Arcia looks to have figured something out offensively since joining the Braves. He was an above average offensive player last season while filling in for Ozzie Albies, and his numbers are even better in 2023. It’s enough of a sample size to where it may be sustainable, but there’s always a chance he begins to regress significantly and starts to look like the player he was in Milwaukee, where he was an offensive zero.
Who will fill in the spots in the rotation?
The Braves rotation could be in a very envious position in a couple of months. Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder, and Charlie Morton have held it down to this point, but the other two spots have been a revolving door. That will change as guys get healthy, but who will establish themselves as the final two starters?
Max Fried is an obvious answer. As long as he returns from the IL, he will occupy the spot at the top of the rotation. After that is where things get interesting. Kyle Wright is expected to return at some point, but that won’t be for a while, and shoulder injuries aren’t easy to recover from. Kolby Allard just tossed a gem in his season debut against the Twins, and Michael Soroka returns to the bump for the Braves tonight. Atlanta also has AJ Smith-Shawver at their disposal if needed, who looked more than capable in his first few major-league outings. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but it’s going to be a battle between these guys for innings.
Can the outfield (minus Acuña) hold up their end of the bargain?
This has been a weird year for the Braves outfield. Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna got off to abysmal starts, but since May, they’ve performed at an All-Star rate. Is that sustainable? They do have a track record of success, but they are also two very streaky hitters.
Michael Harris also began the year terribly. He was arguably the worst offensive player in the league for about two months. A couple of injuries certainly played a part in that, but now, he looks healthy, and the results have been outstanding. Over the last three weeks, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year is hitting .434 with five homers and an 1.180 OPS. If Harris can be who he was last year, it might not matter much how Rosario and Ozuna perform.
Photo: Photographer: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire