It’s only been a week of baseball, but the Braves are off to a hot start, led by three MVP candidates — Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Austin Riley.
Atlanta sits at 5-1 heading into the club’s home opener against the blockbuster Padres lineup this weekend. San Diego will be an excellent litmus test of where the Braves currently sit in the National League.
It’s not hard to understand how the team is off to such a scorching start when the first three batters in their lineup are playing at an MVP level.
Ronald Acuna has the best odds of the bunch, and that’s how it should be. The 25-year-old phenom is finally back healthy and impacting every facet of the game — throwing guys out at home and scoring from first (multiple times) to go along with some impressive batting numbers.
The Venezuelan superstar is currently slashing .370/.433/.630 with two home runs, good for a 1.063 OPS. He’s also swiped two bags as Acuna chases the 40/40 mark. There might not be a more exciting player in baseball when he’s healthy, 2021 pre-injury Ronald Acuna seems to be back.
Matt Olson is slotted in behind Acuna in the order, and he’s coming back with a vengeance after a lackluster first season with his hometown Braves. Despite recording an OPS north of .800, mashing 34 home runs and 44 doubles, Olson’s 2022 campaign was a disappointment for his lofty standards.
2023 is going to be a much different story. The shift ban should result in as much as a 40-point uptick in his average, and the pressure of replacing a franchise great like Freddie Freeman will be less. The early results are encouraging. Olson is slashing .308/.357/.769 with three long balls, good for a 1.126 OPS. He’s also playing great defense at first base.
Batting third is Austin Riley — three MVP candidates in a row to start the Braves lineup. Riley has become one of the most feared batters in the game and has continued to refine his swing this offseason. He’s slashing .273/.385/.591 with two homers, good for an OPS just south of 1.000.
The Braves have power up and down the lineup, so the club isn’t solely dependent on these three, but they set the table for the offense. It’s far too early to make any declaring statements in the MVP race, but this trio is off to an encouraging start.
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