The Braves are an eye-popping 48-34 as we’ve officially reached the halfway point of the season. This is what was expected in April, but the most optimistic Braves fans would not have predicted this a month and a half ago. Atlanta has been an entirely different team since Austin Riley was called up in the middle of May, and everyone is raking, which made this year’s mid-season awards the most difficult since I started doing them two years ago.
Silver Slugger Award
Winner: Freddie Freeman
While tons of Braves are having memorable offensive campaigns, Freddie Freeman is quietly having the best season of his entire career. The powerful lefty first baseman was just selected to his fourth All-Star game, and it will be the second consecutive one in which he will be starting. I had a feeling Freeman would be in for a career-year because he finally has some protection in the lineup. When you can’t pitch around him, he’s is up there with the best hitters in baseball. His average, as always, is impressive (.313) but it’s his power that is raising eyebrows this season. Freeman should easily surpass his career high in home runs (34), as he already has 22 before July. His greatness is taken for granted.
Comeback Player of the Year Award
Winner: Dansby Swanson
At the quarter-year awards, Dansby Swanson took this imaginary trophy home running away. He remains in the lead, but Ozzie Albies is nipping at his heels after a scorching June. Still, the former #1 overall pick is having a much-anticipated breakout campaign. His average sits a hair shy of .260, and he already has passed his career-high in home runs (was 14 now 15). Swanson is on pace for 30 bombs! Nobody could have predicted that, as he’s been the best surprise on the Braves this year.
Reliever of the Year Award
Winner: Anthony Swarzak
This one might have been the most challenging to choose a winner because the Braves bullpen has been lights out for the last month and a half. Luke Jackson, Sean Newcomb, and Jacob Webb all deserve consideration. But I’m handing the award to the newly acquired Anthony Swarzak. Since Alex Anthopoulos traded essentially nothing for Swarzak, the Braves have had the best bullpen in the majors. The righty has only given up one run (a homer to Howie Kendrick) in 16 appearances with Atlanta. He’s also brought a sense of swagger and confidence to the relief core.
Rookie of the Year Award
Winner: Austin Riley
This was another tough award to hand out. Both Mike Soroka and Austin Riley deserve recognition, so since (spoiler alert) Soroka will be featured later in this article, Riley wins the Rookie of the Year award. The 22-year-old has changed the complexity of this offense and turned it into perhaps the best in all of baseball. He possesses light tower power and already has 12 homers in less than a month and a half of pro-ball. Riley’s hit a little bit of a slump of late, but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. Look for him to be a key contributor in the season’s second half.
Cy Young Award
Winner: Mike Soroka
This one is easy. Soroka has unquestionably been the best pitcher on the Braves staff all season. For a while, he was even carrying a sub-one ERA. It now sits at 2.07, but I don’t believe it will get much higher. The 21-year-old is a surgeon on the mound, painting the corners like Michaelangelo. His WHIP on the year remains below one, and he has the opportunity to be in the running for the actual Cy Young Award if he keeps this up.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Freddie Freeman
If you were hoping for a surprise at the end, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This award, like the Silver Slugger, belongs to Freddie Freeman. Despite Ronald Acuña receiving most of the hype coming into the year (deservedly so), the Braves first baseman is up there with Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger as the elite talents in the National League. He’s arguably been the best player in baseball since May and will once again be a finalist for this award come October.