The Braves are loaded in all phases of the game, outside of perhaps starting pitching, but even the rotation has the potential to produce a player worthy of an award at the end of the season. There are several MVP candidates, Comeback Player of the Year candidates, Cy Young contenders, and Reliever of the Year candidates, but here’s who I think will represent the Braves in each category.
Rookie of the Year
I thought about getting creative, but I went with the young man I believe is likely to produce the most as a rookie — Spencer Strider. He has made the Opening Day roster, but Brian Snitker has yet to confirm whether he will be used as a starter or a reliever. I think he could thrive in both roles, which is why I went with him over guys like Tucker Davidson and Kyle Muller. If Strider can develop a reliable third offering, he belongs in the rotation right now. However, even if he can’t, I expect the Braves to find his high-powered arm a place in the bullpen. In some fashion, Strider should have a profound effect on this ball club.
Comeback Player of the Year
Ronald Acuña Jr.
Could there be any other answer? Acuña will run away with this award once he comes back. He’s a top-five player in baseball, and I don’t think he will miss a beat when he returns. It will be tough for anybody to beat him out for this award.
Reliever of the Year
This might have been the most difficult award to choose, given just how dominant the Braves bullpen is on paper, but I went with Matzek. Even though he’s been very good over the last two seasons, posting a combined 2.64 ERA, I still don’t think those numbers do him justice for just how filthy he is. At his best, Matzek could record a sub-2 ERA with ease, and that’s what I’m expecting from him this season. Despite all the additions, he’ll separate himself from the rest as the guy Brian Snitker turns to when the Braves get in a pickle before the ninth inning.
Cy Young Award
There’s a case to be made for Max Fried as the most underrated starting pitcher in the league. Over his last two seasons, he’s 21-7 with a 2.84 ERA, and that includes a rocky start to 2021 that stemmed from an injury. With all the talented pitchers in the National League, it will be difficult for him to take home the Cy Young award, but I do believe he’ll be in the conversation, and he will be the man carrying the Braves rotation this season.
Most Valuable Player
Ronald Acuña Jr.
There are at least four players on the Braves that could end up deserving of this award by the end of the season. Austin Riley, Matt Olson, and Ozzie Albies are all legitimate MVP candidates, but the person who makes this club so dangerous is Ronald Acuña. I know he could miss a month of the season and possibly even more time, but I don’t care. He’s the best player on the team, and if he limits his time missed, I think he’ll take home his first NL MVP award.
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