The Braves have several players who can challenge for the 2023 NL MVP.
Austin Riley finished sixth in the voting, and Michael Harris finished 13th last year; both are primed to put together MVP-caliber campaigns again in 2023. The recently extended Riley posted an .878 OPS thanks to his 38 home runs and has turned into one of the most feared hitters in baseball.
The Stockbridge native was the driving factor in the club’s turnaround last year, nearly hitting .300 with 19 homers and 20 steals, all while playing elite defense in center field. Harris will accumulate WAR at a staggering pace, given his ability to contribute in every facet of the game.
Ronald Acuna had a down year by his standards, but all signs point to the Venezuelan superstar returning to MVP form in 2023. He says he’s feeling like his MVP self again, members of the Braves organization expect great things, and MLB.com has predicted he’ll take home the MVP award.
However, a dark horse MVP candidate is Matt Olson, and if his Spring Training performance is any indication, he shouldn’t even be considered a dark horse. His manager certainly thinks he’s capable.
“Yeah, I think he’s definitely capable of that, absolutely,” Braves skipper Brian Snitker said, via Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Absolutely. I mean, he can turn the game around in different ways.”
Olson has mashed six home runs in 32 at-bats this Spring, leading to a ridiculous 1.549 OPS. The minuscule sample size has to be considered, but the Braves first baseman is off to a scorching start.
When Atlanta traded for him, Olson was coming off a season in which he posted 39 home runs and 5.1 fWAR, resulting in an 8th-place finish in the AL MVP race. However, the Braves received a fraction of that production in his first season with his hometown club, accumulating only 3.1 fWAR.
Amazingly, the guy still posted 44 doubles, 34 home runs, a team-leading 103 RBIs, and an .802 OPS. Those aren’t MVP numbers, but there’s reason to believe he’s in line for some serious positive regression in 2023.
Olson will be one season removed from the first of replacing a franchise legend in Freddie Freeman, and nobody on the Braves should benefit more from the shift ban.
We shouldn’t be surprised if Matt Olson reaches a .900 OPS, with 40 home runs, and accumulates 5.0+ fWAR in the 2023 season. That is an easy top 10 finish in the MVP race, and depending on how the field performs, he could really challenge for the award.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire
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