Matt Olson’s 2023 MVP campaign off to encouraging start in Braves Spring Training

Braves Olson

The Braves legitimately have four players who could challenge for the NL MVP in 2023. Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, and Michael Harris headline the club’s candidates, but don’t forget about Matt Olson.

When the Braves 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, Atlanta received a fraction of that production in his first season with his hometown club.

Olson accumulated only 3.1 fWAR and went through a horrendous September slump — 8-for-83 and 28 strikeouts. Amazingly, most were disappointed in his first season, but the guy still posted 44 doubles, 34 home runs, a team-leading 103 RBIs, and an .802 OPS.

Those aren’t MVP numbers, but I believe he can eclipse those figures easily for a few reasons. Olson will be one season removed from the first of replacing a franchise legend in Freddie Freeman. He was undoubtedly pressing at times. His strikeout rate jumped 8% from 2021, and his walk rate fell by 3%. He should feel more comfortable in 2023.

Moreover, nobody on the Braves should benefit more from the shift ban. Olson’s 47 hits lost to the shift since 2020 ranks 3rd in the league, which would have improved his average from .250 to .288 over that period. He also finished the 2022 campaign on a tear.

He went 13-for-37 with six homers over the final ten games and then continued against the Phillies in the postseason, going 4-for-12  with two home runs. And he’s carried over that momentum to Spring Training.

Take it with a grain of salt, but Olson is currently hitting .700 (7-for-10), slugging 1.700 with three home runs and seven RBIs. It’s just Spring Training, but nobody can deny how great he looks right now.

Nobody should be surprised if 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, Matt Olson could really challenge for the award.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


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