It almost doesn’t feel real, but we are only three days away from Opening Day, which means our countdown continues with three breakout candidates for the Braves in 2023. If you missed any of the previous editions to this series, follow the links below.
- 7 things I’m most looking forward to in 2023
- 6 NL East foes I’m least excited to face
- 5 biggest questions that must be answered
- 4 MVP candidates
Three Braves Breakout Candidates
Grissom may not have made the Opening Day roster, but I still think it’s only a matter of time before he’s in Atlanta and takes over the job as the everyday shortstop. His bat is simply too good to keep down on the farm, especially when Orlando Arcia is the other option. I know the Braves are worried about his defense, and I don’t hate them deciding to keep him in Gwinnett to start the season, allowing him to ease into the role they expect him to eventually assume. There’s no reason to shake his confidence so soon when what really matters is how Grissom is performing in the fall months, not now.
Grissom has the offensive abilities to be just as good, if not better, than Dansby Swanson. His defense will have to catch up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes an average defender that can hit around .300 with 15-20 homers. That’s a weapon to have at shortstop, especially when the Braves will be batting him at the bottom of the lineup. Grissom will eventually become a critical piece to this team in 2023.
I know it’s only Spring Training, but I’m giddy to see Jared Shuster this season. He was the Braves top pick in the 2020 draft — a class that also consisted of Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder. Shuster was a little behind those guys last season, but I think he could be a revelation this year. His fastball velocity is up closer to the mid-90s, and his secondary offerings should allow him to have a lot of success. Control was his biggest issue coming out of college, but it looks like he’s harnessed it. He only walked 2.5 batters per nine innings in the minors last year, and only walked four batters over 18.2 innings during Spring Training. If that’s the case, Shuster could be one of the best fifth starters in all of baseball. I have high expectations for him as a rookie.
Is it really possible to breakout again after what Spencer Strider just did as a rookie? I’m not sure, but I’m predicting it will happen. Strider did stuff in his first year that we’ve never seen before in the history of the league. He struck out over 35% of the batters he faced, becoming the fastest pitcher ever to 200 strikeouts, breaking Randy Johnson‘s record. Strider also became the first pitcher in MLB history to record over 200 punch outs without surrendering 100 hits.
However, outside of Braves country, I don’t see a lot of national analysts projecting Strider to win the NL Cy Young. He’s not put in the same conversation as a lot of the other aces in the league. That’s going to change in a big way after his second season. I think Strider wins the Cy Young this season and establishes himself as the clear-cut best pitcher in the National League. The only thing that can hold him back is injuries. When he’s on the mound and healthy, he’s nearly unhittable. There won’t be any questions about how good this guy is going into 2024. In a league where pitching has never been better, Strider is going to be mentioned as the best.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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