Opening Day is tomorrow, as the Braves are set to begin their 60-game sprint against the New York Mets. From there, Atlanta will play 20 games in 20 straight days and 60 games over 65 days. Before you know it, the playoffs will be around the corner, and in such a short season, anything is possible, including a Marlins playoff berth. With that in mind, I can get pretty aggressive with these bold predictions.
Dansby Swanson earns a contract extension
It’s time for the Braves to decide on Dansby Swanson. Last year, he was on pace for 25+ bombs with a .270 average before a heel injury stopped him in his tracks, and he was never the same when he returned. However, I don’t believe what we saw in the first half of 2019 was a fluke. Swanson’s looked great in Spring Training 2.0, and I expect him to be a critical piece to this Braves offense, earning him a contract extension this offseason.
Travis d’Arnaud proves to be a significant upgrade
Brian McCann is a Braves legend and fan-favorite. But let’s face it, he was a shell of his former self last year and has been for quite some time. d’Arnaud was fantastic for the Rays in 2019, smacking 16 homers in just 92 games, and he’s carried that with him to Atlanta in Spring Training. If that’s a sign of things to come, which I believe it is, the Braves will have upgraded significantly behind the plate.
Freddie Freeman hits .330 on his way to NL MVP
All the MVP hype on the Braves is surrounding Ronald Acuña, and rightfully so. The phenom is already one of the most talented players in the majors. However, Acuña hasn’t been a notoriously fast starter, which will be necessary for an MVP candidate this season. Freddie Freeman is the type of player that could hit .300 with his eyes closed. I think he starts hot and never cools down, leading to his first MVP award.
Austin Riley starts at third base and leads the team in home runs
Many people are sleeping on Austin Riley after the way he ended last year, but I still see a guy who can be a perennial 40-home run guy at the major-league level. If he puts last year’s woes behind him, he’ll lead the Braves in dingers this year.
Max Fried leads the team in ERA
No disrespect to Mike Soroka; I just think this is Max Fried’s breakout year. He’ll have to improve upon his control, but his stuff is just so damn good, and he looks to be gaining more confidence every time on the mound.
Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, and Cristian Pache make their MLB debuts
The Braves have a boatload of prospects nearing their MLB debuts. Had this been a full season, I think these three would have been locks to reach the majors. However, it will be a bit more difficult for that to happen with only 60 games. Still, Davidson and Weigel could become critical pieces to the bullpen, and Pache is an injury, positive test, or slump away from receiving the call.
Kyle Wright starts a playoff game
This might be the boldest take of them all, but I have a ton of faith in Kyle Wright. The former 5th overall pick has the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm, and the Braves have a lot of questions after Mike Soroka and Max Fried. This will be the year Wright establishes himself as a member of the rotation for years to come.