There isn’t an organization better set up for success than the Atlanta Braves. They have the most talented young core in baseball, and it’s all locked up for the foreseeable future. They will be among the favorites to take home the World Series every year, and several other individual accolades will also likely be on their way to Atlanta. Here are three bold predictions I have for the Braves over the next three years.
Michael Harris II wins the NL MVP
The Braves have several players that could end up taking home an NL MVP award over the next three years. Ronald Acuña Jr. is an obvious candidate, and MLB.com even predicted he would win the award in 2023. When he’s right, there might not be a more talented player in the National League. However, I don’t think Michael Harris gets enough credit for what he did as a rookie.
In just 114 games, Harris accrued 5.3 WAR, playing elite defense in centerfield, recording an .853, mashing 19 homers and swiping 20 bags. Had he began last year in the majors, he would have been in the conversation for the MVP as a rookie, and there’s nothing to suggest he’s going to slow down.
I kept waiting for him to hit some sort of a “rookie wall” in 2022, but he actually finished the year better than he started. This is no disrespect to Acuña, but I think Harris is the best player on this team, and he’s only 22-years-old. Just imagine the numbers he’s going to put up with more experience. Over the next three years, I see Harris winning at least one NL MVP.
Spencer Strider wins two NL Cy Young awards
I’m sticking with the same narrative, and at the very least, nobody can say I’m not being bold with these predictions. The Braves rookies last year weren’t just good, they were historically unbelievable. Harris took home the NL Rookie of the Year award, but I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a rookie pitcher as dominant as Spencer Strider. He reminds me of Jacob deGrom, and if he can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t establish himself as the best pitcher in the National League.
Strider struck out over a third of the batters he faced last year. He broke Randy Johnson‘s record, becoming the fastest pitcher ever to record 200 strikeouts. Strider set the franchise single-game record for strikeouts with 16 in a robotic performance against the Rockies, and he became the first pitcher ever to have 200+ strikeouts without allowing 100 hits. But as impressive as all of those records are, perhaps the things that sticks out the most to me about Strider is his preparation. The way he approaches the game is out of this world, and it shows up every time he toes the rubber. I have him winning not one but two NL Cy Young awards over the next three years.
Mike Soroka re-establishes himself as an All-Star caliber pitcher
I’m going into 2023 with no expectations for Mike Soroka. The focus should be on him staying healthy, and that alone. Anybody expecting him to come out and turn in an All-Star campaign this year is a wishful thinker. With that being said, I do believe that’s in his future, and so does Alex Anthopoulos.
In an interview with David O’Brien of The Athletic (53-minute mark), Anthopoulos was asked if he was cautiously optimistic about Soroka’s future. AA mentioned the injury wasn’t arm related, which is important to remember but continued on about his work ethic, aptitude, and talent as reasons for believing Soroka will come out on top of these injuries. A GM will give his guys a vote of confidence, but Anthopoulos seems adamant Soroka will regain his form.
Despite not pitching for nearly three full seasons, Soroka is still just 25-years-old. He has a tireless work ethic and is ultra-talented. Health is the most significant concern. If he can stay on the field, he will eventually get back to being an All-Star caliber pitcher again, and it could happen sooner than we all expect.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire