The Braves have a top 10 player at nearly every position, according to MLB Network. Austin Riley was the third-ranked third baseman, Matt Olson just missed out on top 5 honors, Michael Harris went from prospect to a top 5 center fielder in one year, and Ronald Acuna Jr. slipped but remained in the top 5. Max Fried made his debut on the list of starting pitchers, and the Braves backstop duo of Sean Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud are recognized as well.
Alex Anthopoulos swung a blockbuster trade and subsequent extension with Sean Murphy to pair with Travis d’Arnaud, forming the best backstop tandem in baseball. Even before the deal, the Braves had an incredible group of catchers that included William Contreras and Manny Pina. But the club undoubtedly got better by acquiring Murphy.
Murphy had a breakout campaign for Oakland in 2022 but also earned Gold Glove honors in 2021. Defensively, he is arguably the best in the business, but everyone should be excited to see what he can do in a more hitter-friendly Truist park with a loaded Braves lineup around him. He was already an above-average offensive player, and I expect those numbers to rise.
d’Arnaud had a career year last year, playing great defense behind the plate for the Braves and hitting .268 with 18 homers, earning NL All-Star honors. Still, he’s aging and has notoriously dealt with injuries throughout his career. He obliterated southpaws last year to the tune of a .346 average and .946 OPS, so expect him to DH in those situations.
I expect Braves catchers to easily eclipse 5.0 WAR; here are Chase’s respective projections for their 2023 stats:
- Sean Murphy’s 2023 Stat Predictions: .245/.327/.440, .767 OPS, 20 home runs, 81 RBIs, 4.0 fWAR
- Travis d’Arnaud’s 2023 Stats: .270/.325/.470, .795 OPS, 19 homers, 57 RBIs, 2.5 fWAR
I expect Murphy to take about 70% of the starts behind the plate for the Braves. The Gold Glove winner is younger, more durable, a more productive hitter, and a better defender. Murphy’s production drops off significantly as a designated hitter as well. It will keep Travis d’Arnaud fresh to start about 30% of games, and the Braves will always have an elite bat starting at catcher with both healthy.
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