The World Series might be the most challenging championship in sports to win. The best team doesn’t always raise the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end; it’s about finding a way into the dance and getting hot at the right time. The Braves’ 2021 and 2022 teams are perfect examples.
The club was a significantly better all-around team last season compared to 2021, but it was the 2021 group that came into October scorching hot, which is why they ended up bringing Atlanta its first World Series since 1995.
Last season didn’t end how Braves Country wanted, but Alex Anthopoulos has done a marvelous job setting up this club to contend for titles for the rest of the decade. All you can ask for is a shot in October, and the Braves will have it for years. With the 2023 season right around the corner, projections are flying off the wall, and ZiPS early 2023 World Series odds favorited the Braves.
Early 2023 World Series odds via ZiPS:
1. Braves 12.0%
2. Mets 10.9%
3. Astros 9.1%
4. Cardinals 8.1%
5. Yankees 8.0%
6. Padres 7.9%
7. Dodgers 7.5%
8. Blue Jays 7.0%
9. Giants 4.3%
10. Rays 4.2%
— MLB Metrics (@MLBMetrics) February 11, 2023
I actually might prefer to be the underdog rather than the favorite. There’s something special about being counted out and proving naysayers wrong. Hell, the Braves have consistently been under-projected in recent years. I digress.
For Atlanta to win two championships in three years, a few things must go right. Chase examined what those keys might be:
Resurgent Years From The Outfield
Michael Harris II came up last year and carried this unit last year. He was arguably the best player on the team, and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t produce similarly in 2023. There are no weaknesses in his game, but the Braves outfield as a whole was underwhelming last season.
Ronald Acuña Jr. didn’t look like the same player following his ACL injury. He can be miles better in 2023 than he was in 2022, and I expect him to become an MVP candidate again as he gets further and further away from the injury. That will be a considerable boost, but left field was also a black hole for the team last season.
Eddie Rosario might have been the worst starter at any position in 2022, and a lot of that had to do with vision issues that cost him a couple of months. Before undergoing surgery in late April, he was hitting an abysmal .068 with just one extra-base hit in 15 games. Unfortunately, Rosario wasn’t too much better when he returned, but it’s difficult to gauge how much his vision was a factor post-surgery. Assuming he’s back to 100%, he could be a revelation for the team in 2023.
As terrible as Rosario performed, however, Marcell Ozuna was equally as unproductive. I’ve given up on him ever being decent in the field, but he’s been a dangerous hitter his entire career. If he can return to form, the Braves will be much better in left field and at DH next season, which should lead to several more wins.
Young Stars Stepping Up
The Braves are relying a ton on their youth going into 2023, a strategy that has worked well for them in recent years, but there’s no guarantee that all of these players will live up to expectations this upcoming season. Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider performed like All-Stars in 2022; that must continue if they expect to win the division again this year.
On top of that, Vaughn Grissom is set to take over for Dansby Swanson. The Braves don’t need Grissom to perform like an All-Star, but at the very least, he needs to take a stranglehold of the role and prove he’s ready to be an everyday shortstop. If the Braves end up relying on Orlando Arcia as their starting shortstop, it’s going to be tough for them to eclipse the 100-win mark.
Sean Murphy To Come As Advertised
Baseball isn’t all analytics, but they do a fantastic job of showing how teams can improve on a year-to-year basis. Catcher was not a weak spot for the team in 2022. In fact, the Braves had arguably the best duo at the position of any team, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be even better in 2023.
Sean Murphy has blossomed into one of the best catchers in the league. Some believe he’s the second-best at his position behind JT Realmuto. While Contreras was an exciting young player, Murphy is even better. If Murphy performs similarly to the way he did last year with the Athletics, the Braves should produce more WAR at the position than any other team in the majors. That won’t be easy, but Alex Anthopoulos made this blockbuster trade for a reason. They believe Murphy will be a tremendous upgrade over Contreras.
Do you agree with the 2023 World Series odds?
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire