The Athletic just recently released their pre-season MLB Power Rankings, and the Braves rang in at number three overall and first in the National League.
The Braves have won the National League East for five consecutive seasons and are coming off a 101-win campaign, the most wins they’ve had since the 2002 and 2003 teams won the same number of games. Shortstop Dansby Swansonleft in free agency to the Cubs, but the Braves believe a combination of 22-year-old Vaughn Grissom and veteran Orlando Arcia can handle the position. Their biggest move this offseason was acquiring catcher Sean Murphy from the A’s in a blockbuster trade that also included the Brewers. Murphy is an elite defensive player and a top-five overall catcher in the sport. The Braves also lost Kenley Jansen in free agency, but traded for Joe Jiménez, who is expected to be the right-handed setup man in front of new closer Raisel Iglesias. I expect a huge bounce-back season from Ronald Acuña Jr., who will be another year removed from ACL surgery. I expect Michael Harris II to replicate his Rookie of the Year season (but this time, Atlanta will enjoy his talents from the start of the year). Austin Riley and Matt Olson should combine for 70 to 80 homers on the infield corners. But the key for the Braves to win a top-heavy NL East will be their rotation: Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and Mike Soroka. Can Morton deliver consistently at 39 years old? Can Soroka return from all of the injuries and be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate? And finally, will the Braves get enough production, offensively and defensively, from left field? If the Braves answer those three questions positively, they should win the division again. If not, they’ll still make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
The Astros came in at number one, and the Yankees were second. The Astros should be number one in every power ranking made prior to the season. They’ve made the ACLS in six straight seasons, have been to four of the last six World Series, and are the current champions. If they aren’t first in someone’s power rankings, they are just fishing for clicks.
However, the Yankees being second is quite laughable. They are a team littered with holes in their lineup. The Carlos Rodon signing makes them much more formidable, but this was a team that wouldn’t have even made the playoffs if not for their torrid start to the 2022 campaign. They should be much further down the list.
Behind the Braves are their NL East foes. The Phillies came in at four and the Mets at five. It’s a testament to how deep the division is, but I’m still not sold on the Phillies as a threat to win the NL East, especially with Bryce Harper expected to miss significant time. The Mets were one of the best teams in the majors last year, and they should be again, even if I don’t think they got much better, if at all, this offseason.
There are some other aspects of this list that I strongly disagree with, like the Brewers being #10, but the one I want to talk about is the Dodgers ranking seventh. For years, Los Angeles has been the cream of the crop when it comes to the regular season. Frankly, they were the best team in baseball, but that’s not always the team that wins the World Series. Now, they’ve lost a lot, and people are wondering how they will fare this year. I’m not sure if they’ll be World Series contenders, but in the regular season, watch out. This remains a team that can be a wrecking ball over 162 games, and they should be higher up than seventh.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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