Our own Alex Lord just wrapped up his series of FanGraphs predictions at each position for the Braves. If you haven’t ready those yet, check them out. FanGraphs is a fantastic tool to use throughout the season, and one of my favorites for predictive stats. However, it’s impossible for them to get everything correct, and there’s plenty of stuff I disagree with, so I’ll be coming up with my own individual projections leading up to Spring Training, starting things off with the most polarizing player on the team to me, Matt Olson.
Matt Olson’s 2023 Stats
Matt Olson will always be highly scrutinized because of the Braves decision to move on from Freddie Freeman in favor of Olson. If you follow the site, you’re well aware how I feel about that decision. It could go down as one of the worst moves in franchise history, but that’s not Olson’s fault. He’s a really good player; Freddie Freeman is just the best first baseman in baseball and was already an icon in Atlanta. Letting him walk over one year was a mistake, but I’m not going to harp on that. This is about Matt Olson, whose best years in Atlanta are in front of him.
While Olson put up some more than respectable numbers in his first year with the Braves — 34 homers, 44 doubles, .802 OPS — it wasn’t close to the way he performed with the Athletics before his arrival in Atlanta. I think we see a version of Matt Olson in 2023 that is much more like the guy who was playing in Oakland.
The adjustment to a new ball club, the pressure of playing for the hometown team and filling the shoes of an icon like Freddie Freeman cannot be understated. He should feel much more confident moving forward, and the shift ban will also impact Olson significantly in a positive way, as he’s been one of the most affected players by the shift over the last three seasons.
Moving on to offense, Matt Olson’s 47 hits lost to the shift since 2020 ranks 3rd in the league, which would have improved his average to .288 from .250 — a dramatic difference. As a team, the Braves’ 188 hits lost to the shift since 2020 ranks fifth in the league. If those hits were given back, the team’s batting average would’ve been .267.
One of the storylines of next season will be the shift ban and the effects that come from it. I’m intrigued to see how much the game changes, and lefty sluggers like Olson will benefit tremendously from it. Combine that with the amount of pressure that should be relieved after his first season in Atlanta, and I see a potential career year in his future.
Matt Olson’s 2023 Stat Predictions: .263/.366/.501, .867 OPS, 41 homers, 115 RBIs, 5.0 fWAR
Photographer: Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire