Braves: 7 things I’m looking forward to most this season

Braves Olson

Opening Day is quickly approaching as the Braves embark on their journey to capture their sixth straight NL East title. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for baseball fans, and with just one week until Atlanta kicks off their season, I thought I would start a countdown leading into Opening Day, covering a bevy of topics surrounding the Braves upcoming season, with the first edition focused on the seven things I’m most looking forward to in 2023.

Ozzie Albies‘ return

Albies might be the most slept-on player in the league. Because he’s surrounded by elite talent, he’s already not talked about enough. This, compounded by a 2022 season that was riddled with injuries, has many forgetting that he’s still one of the best second baseman in the game. In his last two full seasons, Albies led the league in hits in 2019 and finished 13th in the NL MVP race in 2021. He’s consistently produced at an All-Star caliber level ever since he arrived at the major-league level. Albies’ presence is one of the main reasons why I believe the Braves will be even better this year, and I can’t wait for his energy to return to the clubhouse.

Spencer Strider‘s dominance

If you follow the site, you know Spencer Strider is my favorite to win the NL Cy Young award. Bias aside, there is not a more dominant pitcher in the National League. The only thing that can hold him back is his health. If Strider can stay available all season, I only see him improving off a marvelous rookie campaign and setting even more records in the process.

A healthy Ronald Acuña Jr.

Acuña played most of last season, but he was a shell of himself. It was difficult to watch at times, because everyone knows he’s among the most talented players on the planet. The knee was noticeably bothering him, and he talked about how it affected his play all season. Following a full and healthy offseason, all signs point to him being back to the player he was pre-injury. I can’t think of many things more exciting than that.

Matt Olson‘s emergence

I was hard on Matt Olson last year because he didn’t live up to expectations, while Freddie Freeman turned in an MVP-caliber campaign for the Dodgers. But I firmly believe a monster year is coming from Olson. He’s been on fire during Spring Training, hitting a league-leading seven homers. There should be a lot less pressure on him this season, and the shift ban is guaranteed to do him wonders. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s in the MVP conversation at season’s end.

The new schedule

For the first time in 2023, the Braves will get the opportunity to play every team. The league is reducing the number of divisional games for this to happen, and while I love the intensity of division rivals, getting the opportunity to play every team over a 162-game season is the right way to go about it. There are so many intriguing matchups that we only get to see once every few years. That changes in 2023, which is great for fans across the country.

The Braves newest toy

The blockbuster move of the offseason was the Braves trading for Gold Glove catcher Sean Murphy. He’s an elite talent behind the plate, and while we haven’t heard much from him during Spring Training, I can’t wait to see what he brings to this team. The Braves now have arguably the best catching duo in baseball, which will be incredibly beneficial for their pitching staff, especially with the new rules.

The kid becomes a superstar

Michael Harris II was one of the best players in baseball once the Braves called him up in late May. Had he begun the year in Atlanta, he would have been in the NL MVP conversation. He was that good. Despite that, a lot of people seem to think he will regress in year two. I don’t see that happening. Harris is a true five-tool talent that has very few holes in his game. He also showed up to camp noticeably bigger. If Harris plays 162 games, he’s a lock for a 30/30 season and potentially even 40/40.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


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