ESPN’s initial power rankings to open the season didn’t have the defending World Series champions on the top. However, they did give the Braves some respect, ranking them third. Here’s what they had to say about the 2022 squad “if everything goes right.”
They cruise to their fifth straight NL East title behind the big bats of Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna, who rediscovers his 2020 offense. Kyle Wright has a breakout campaign in the rotation while Mike Soroka finally makes it back in the second half. The bullpen is the best in the league with the additions of Kenley Jansen and Collin McHugh and — just like 2021 — dominates in October as the Braves become the first repeat champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees.
The one weakness they name for the Braves is starting pitching, which I can’t entirely agree with. The Braves only have three proven members of their rotation, but it’s not what I’m most worried about. When it comes to starting pitching, their organizational depth is excellent, featuring plenty of young arms that are major-league ready. Things could be a little rocky to begin the season, but eventually, the Braves will figure out their rotation, and I actually think it could be a strength for them in 2022. As I discussed yesterday, the most significant concern on Atlanta’s roster is their bench, especially on the infield. If one of their starting infielders goes down for a lengthy period, the Braves could be in trouble.
The two teams ESPN has in front of the Braves are the Dodgers and Blue Jays. The Dodgers coming in at #1 is the least surprising thing ever, particularly from ESPN. If it’s not about Los Angeles, ESPN rarely even talks about baseball, but I do agree. As far as rosters go, the Dodgers have the best one on paper. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t win trophies. It’s rather dumb that they put the Blue Jays, a team that hasn’t made the ALDS since 2016, ahead of Atlanta, but I would be lying if I said I don’t love the makeup of Toronto’s team. They are my pick to win the tough AL East and come out of the American League.
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