Atlanta started off their World Series defense against the Reds, splitting a four game series. Between Matt Olson’s first Braves homer, Kyle Wright’s brilliant start, and Austin Riley’s continued momentum, there’s a lot to like. At the same time, Max Fried and Ian Anderson‘s rough outings along with the bullpen’s struggles are a cause for concern. Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from Atlanta’s opening series.
Matt Olson Will Win NL MVP
After going 0-2 (albeit with two walks) in the first game of the series, the new Braves first baseman caught fire. Olson had eight hits including two doubles and a homer on Sunday, barreling balls left and right and smashing line drives all over the field. Once the weather warms up, he should also get luckier on some fly balls that haven’t quite left the park. For this reason, my first overreaction is that Matt Olson will win the NL MVP. If he continues some semblance of the power he’s shown this season and rakes in RBIs once the batters ahead of him are on base more, he could put up historic numbers. At the very least, he’ll make Braves fans quickly forget about Freddie Freeman.
.@mattolson21's first home run as a Brave has left the building!#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/OiXuY9oggg
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 10, 2022
The Bullpen Isn’t as Dominant as Expected
This group of relievers is special. There’s no denying that the potential for the back end is insane, but can they put it together? The opening series casts doubts on that. Both Kenley Jansen and Will Smith surrendered ninth-inning runs while closing out the Braves wins, and the supporting cast wasn’t much more inspiring either. I’m still very bullish on this group, and it’s not totally shocking that they are experiencing some growing pains to begin the season. They’ll be just fine.
Austin Riley will be an All-Star
Austin Riley showcased his power and growing maturity. He hit a home run and narrowly missed another in four games, but we already know he can smash a baseball. The real takeaway is his patience at the plate. The third baseman walked three times and only struck out once. It’ll be hard to keep Riley off the All-Star squad if he’s hitting .280/.330/.500 with 15-20 dingers at the break.
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