Braves: Bold Predictions for the 2021 season

dansby swanson sep 23 2020

With Opening Day creeping up on us, it’s time for my annual bold predictions article. I’m not going to pat myself on the back too much, but I basically nailed these last year, predicting that Max Fried would lead the rotation in ERA, an MVP season from Freddie Freeman, a breakout from Dansby Swanson, and much more. That will be pretty difficult to duplicate this year, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Dansby Swanson makes his first All-Star Game

I’m all in on Dansby Swanson. He’s becoming what everyone thought he would be when he was drafted first overall out of Vanderbilt — one of the best all-around shortstops in the game. Swanson still needs to show he can do it over a full season and stay healthy, but this feels like the year it all comes together. I expect him to hit around .280 with 20-25 homers while playing above-average defense. With a hot first half, he will make his first All-Star Game.

Ronald Acuna joins the 40/40 club and wins the NL MVP

Yes, I’m predicting back-to-back MVP awards for the Braves. Acuna will win an MVP — if not multiple — over his career, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be considered one of the favorites in 2021. He’s arguably the most electric player in the game, and if he stays healthy, he will most definitely become just the sixth player in MLB history to join the 40/40 club. I actually think there’s a genuine chance Acuna becomes the first player ever to record 45 homers and 45 steals in a single season. If he does that or comes close to it, I don’t see how he doesn’t win the NL MVP.

Cristian Pache wins a Gold Glove

Pache is universally recognized as the best fielding prospect in baseball, and there is no reason why he can’t win the Gold Glove as a rookie. He covers a tremendous amount of ground in center field with his instincts and speed to go along with his cannon for an arm. We’ve seen him make some highlight plays in Spring Training, and I’m sold. Pache will be a Gold Glove award recipient in 2021.

Mike Soroka returns, finishes with a sub-3.50 ERA, and wins NL Comeback Player of the Year

I think you can argue whether this is even bold, considering Mike Soroka has a 2.86 ERA for his career. Still, the sample size is pretty small, and he’s coming off a challenging injury to recover from. However, this is me saying he will be just fine. Soroka’s stuff isn’t overpowering; he just knows how to pitch and avoids walks. Achilles’ injuries are brutal, but the Braves have taken things slowly with him, and I expect him to hit the ground running when he returns.

Tyler Matzek ends the season as the Braves closer

Brian Snitker has yet to announce it, but it certainly seems like Will Smith will begin the year as the Braves closer. He’s the high-priced arm in the bullpen and has looked the part this spring. However, I will go out on a limb and say Matzek ends the season closing games. I love his repertoire and feel like he’s more unhittable than Smith when he’s on. Matzek will have to prove last season was no fluke, but I like him to take over the ninth-inning duties for the Braves if he does.

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