With the season finished and the Braves set to begin their Wild Card Series against the Reds tomorrow, it’s time to look at the bold predictions I made for this shortened 60-game campaign. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I felt like I went out on a ledge with most of these, and a lot of them were spot on.
Dansby Swanson earns a contract extension
We won’t know if this one was right until the offseason, but Swanson put together the best season of his young career — both offensively and defensively. At the plate, he showcased that same power-to-all-fields approach that he had in the first half of last season before injuring his heel. Swanson finished the year with an OPS over .800 — an outstanding mark for a shortstop — while also finishing in the top-five in Defensive Runs Saved. The Braves don’t have to be in a rush to sign Swanson to an extension, but after this season, I think he deserves it, and it might be wise for them to do it sooner rather than later.
Travis d’Arnaud proves to be a significant upgrade
This one was probably my least bold prediction on the list, but it definitely came to fruition. I must admit, I didn’t even expect d’Arnaud to be this good in his first year in Atlanta. The former Mets and Rays catcher had a career year in Atlanta, smacking nine homers and driving in 34 runs to go along with his .321 batting average in just 44 games. There’s no doubt he proved to be a significant upgrade over Brian McCann, and the best part about it is the Braves have him under contract next year too.
Freddie Freeman hits .330 on his way to NL MVP
There is no doubt: this was my boldest prediction on the list, and it should come true. Freeman managed to hit .341 — second in the National League — and unless voting completely screws him, he will be the NL MVP. Pretty amazing considering he was hitting just .200 one-quarter of the way through the season. The 45-game tear he went on to end the season should make this a no-brainer for NL MVP voters.
Austin Riley starts at third base and leads the team in home runs
I was correct about half of this. Riley did finally pull away and earn the everyday job at third base. He also did show some significant strides at the plate in his second season. However, Riley didn’t come anywhere close to leading the team in homers, finishing with eight. Marcell Ozuna finished with the team-lead and the National League-lead in home runs, smacking 18 of them.
Max Fried leads the team in ERA
I certainly didn’t expect Mike Soroka to go down with a freak injury at the beginning of August, but I don’t think it would have mattered. Max Fried made the leap I expected this season and was in the heat of the NL Cy Young race until the very end. Fried ended the season with a 7-0 record and a 2.25 ERA.
Tucker Davidson, Patrick Weigel, and Cristian Pache make their MLB debuts
Even though I was right about this, I’m not going to take much credit for it. All three of these guys did make their debut; however, they didn’t make any impact. Pache was around for one series while players were injured. Patrick Weigel made one appearance in which he performed horribly, and Tucker Davidson finally made his debut, starting the last game of the season. I thought at least two of these guys would have made some sort of an impact on the way to the Braves’ third consecutive NL East title.
Kyle Wright starts a playoff game
Hopefully, the Braves play at least three games in these playoffs. If they do, this prediction will likely come to fruition. However, I’m not going to take much credit for this one either. Wright’s been better over his last three starts, but he will be the team’s third starter in the postseason by default. Injuries to Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels are the only reason he will even make the playoff roster.