The Braves won 101 games last year, and there are several reasons to believe they could be even better in 2023, even after losing All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson. They are getting full seasons from their two superstar rookies, and they have a bevy of players that could be in for considerable bounce back campaigns.
The Athletic recently picked a bounce back candidate from every team, and David O’Brien selected Eddie Rosario for the Braves.
Rosario had his worst season in 2022, but it was understandable: After starting 3-for-44, the lefty hitter had laser surgery for blurred vision and swelling in his right eye, sidelining him for more than two months. Rosario had 13 multi-hit games in 55 starts after returning July 4, but never surged as he did after being traded to Atlanta at the 2021 deadline when he was the National League Championship Series MVP and helped the Braves win the World Series. This spring, the left fielder has looked more like himself and had a homer, double and three RBIs in Puerto Rico’s first three WBC games. — David O’Brien
Rosario is an obvious choice. After being a tremendously consistent presence at the plate over his career, he turned into one of the worst offensive players in baseball, and he wasn’t much better defensively. It’s fair to attribute most of his struggles to the eye surgery he underwent at the beginning of the season, and if his two home runs in the World Baseball Classic are any indication, Rosario will once again provide the Braves offense with a tremendous boost.
With that being said, there are a couple of other candidates I think good be in for much bigger turnarounds. Ronald Acuña was not bad by any means last year, but he wasn’t the perennial MVP candidate Braves fans have come to expect. Now that he’s over a year removed from the torn ACL he suffered, I expect the best version Acuña to return in 2023, which should put him right in the thick of the NL MVP race.
The other is Acuña’s good buddy Ozzie Albies, who suffered multiple injuries last year, including a broken pinky that ended his season. He was limited to just 64 games, and I get the feeling a lot of people forget just how valuable Albies is in all aspects of the game. He’s a Gold Glove caliber defender that’s good for 25-30 homers a season and can swipe 20-30 bags, especially with the new rules. In 2019, Albies led the league in hits, and in 2021, he finished 13th in the NL MVP race. If that’s the guy the Braves are getting this season, it will be another considerable boost to their ball club compared to last year.
Two other dark horse candidates that I’m a believer in going into Opening Day are Marcell Ozuna and Charlie Morton. Ozuna has been deadweight for the last couple of seasons, but he still has the potential to blast 30+ homers and provide a lot of value from the designated hitter spot. Morton is coming off a down year, but the stuff is still there for him to be one of the best pitchers in the majors. I think he puts 2022 behind him and has a much better season in 2023.
Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire
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