FanGraphs recently released their ZiPS projections for the Braves, which is a valuable tool for evaluating rosters. However, like most analytics, it has its flaws, and there are a few players on the Braves they are way too down on.
FanGraphs ZiPS projection: 3.3 WAR
It’s not all that surprising that FanGraphs projects Riley to regress a little bit in 2022. After all, nobody expected him to finish last season with a batting average over .300 and inside the top 10 for the NL MVP. Riley ended 2021 with 4.2 fWAR, so they still expect him to have a high-quality campaign in 2022. However, I believe with the improvements we saw from him defensively at the end of last season, he should be able to sniff 4.2 WAR again, if not surpass it. Riley’s offense in 2021 was no fluke; it’s here to stay. Expect to see his name in the MVP conversation for a long time.
Ronald Acuña Jr./Cristian Pache
FanGraphs ZiPS projection: 3.5 WAR
This is all about Ronald Acuña. They have him and Pache grouped together because Acuña may not be available to begin the season. Nobody knows exactly when he’ll be back, but based on the progression we’ve seen from him this offseason, I’m expecting him to return by May at the latest. In fact, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Acuña ended up in the lineup on Opening Day. Regardless, I would put my mortgage on him accumulating over 3.5 WAR in 2022 as long as he doesn’t suffer another injury. Acuña will be back sooner than expected, and I don’t imagine him having any problems picking up exactly where he left off before the injury.
Travis d’Arnaud/Manny Piña
FanGraphs ZiPS projection: 2.0 WAR
There’s a chance d’Arnaud accumulates 2.0 WAR by himself if he stays healthy, which has been a big if for him throughout his career. If you look at his time in Atlanta, he’s been worth 2.2 WAR in just 104 games. I like him to replicate that success in this lineup as long as he’s healthy. Piña is also a very high-quality backup. He accrued 1.5 WAR for the Brewers last season in only 75 games and has been worth at least 1 WAR in four out of the last five seasons. There’s no reason this duo shouldn’t cruise by these projections.