Owner: Liberty Media, 12.39 billion.
World Series Titles: 1914, 1957, 1995, 2021.
Greatest Player: RF Hank Aaron
Division: NL East
Payroll: 8th, $191,417,500.
2022 Result: 101-61, 1st place; lost to Phillies in NLDS, 3-1.
General Manager: Alex Anthopoulos.
Manager: Brian Snitker, 67; Record: 542-451, 1 World Series Titles, 2021.
Home Field: Citizens Bank Park, capacity, 42,792.
Key Additions: This is what the Braves do really well: They are not afraid to give up talent to get talent, especially young talent. Such was the case in the trade that brought Sean Murphy over from Milwaukee. Atlanta gave up 25-year-old starting catcher William Contreras and top pitching prospect Kyle Muller for the 29-year-old backstop, who’s one of the best at this crucial position. Contreras was ranked outside the Top 10 best catchers. Murphy is considered one of the five best defensive catchers. Atlanta promptly wrapped him up with six-tear, $77 million deal. Murphy should help the Braves young rotation improve.
Key Losses: When your name is Dansby Swanson and your born and raised in Kennesaw, Ga., it seems like destiny to play your entire career with the Atlanta Braves. But six-plus season as Atlanta’s starting shortstop, Dansby signed a seven-year, $177 million free agent deal with the Cubs. The Braves offered Dansby a six-year, $100 million deal. The Braves have led the approach to lock up young talent early so losing 29-year-old with Peach Tree roots stung, especially one season after losing Freddie Freeman in a free agency screwup.
Key Injury: In July of 2020, Mike Soroka became the youngers start in Braves history to start Opening Day (pandemic-shortened season). The previous season he had posted a 13-4 season with 142 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA. He was runner up for NL Rookie of the Year and the Braves seemingly had an ace in the hole. But later that summer Soroka tore his Achilles tendon and tore it again in June of 2021. The Braves are cautiously optimistic he can win the 5th starter spot, but two Achilles tears are not good odds. Then again, Soroka is still 25.
Prospect alert: The Braves first-round pick in 2020, Jared Shuster remains an enigma. His changeup can cripple a batter, but he hasn’t improved his velocity to the point where he can keep hitters off balance. If he doesn’t show some significant improvement this season, the Braves will have to seriously question his long-term future with the club.
Scouting Report:Over/Under Wins: 95.5, 1st place in NL East, lose to Astros in World Series.
Fresh off their 2021 World Series title that ended a championship drought dating back to 1995, the Braves were quickly reminded how tough it is to win it all when the upstart Phillies knocked them out in four games in the National League Divisional Series. Which only made the Braves more determined to get back to the fall Classic.
It could happen.
The Braves didn’t lose much of anything from last season’s 101-win team that roared back to overtake the Mets for the NL East title. They upgraded at catcher, created room to allow their seemingly endless supply of farm system talent to play regularly and have the best starting rotation when considering age and talent (yes, we know Charlie Morton is older than dirt, but you try hitting his assortment of filthy breaking stuff).
There are a few decisions that must go right for Atlanta to repeat as NL East champs. By letting Swanson walk in free agency, the Braves have handed the shortstop job to 22-year-old Vaughn Grissom. He was terrific last season at second base, taking over for the injured Ozzie Albies. Albies, 25, should be recovered from broken foot and pinky injuries that ravaged last season.
Grissom would be the young rising star on most franchises, but this is Atlanta, which recently has had a history of brining up great, young talent. So the best young position player on the Braves lat season was centerfielder Michael Harris II, the 21-year-old who batted .297 with 19 home runs in 114 games.
And Grissom also was overshadowed by Spencer Strider, the 24-year-old pitcher who went 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and had 202 strikeouts (45 walks) in 131.2 innings Harris and Strider became the two most recent Braves (along with Murphy) who the Braves locked up for years with proactive contracts.
No team is positioned better for long term success than Atlanta. Frankly, we love the combination of the young talent and management’s decision to lock up the core. First baseman Matt Olson (28), rightfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (25), third baseman Austin Riley (25), Albies and Murphy are all inked in Atlanta till at least 2027.
BetBasics Best Bet: Fried (14-7) and Strider (11-5) were terrific, but it was “veteran” Kyle Wright (27) who won the most games for the Braves, going 21-5. We like that young trio to each win 15 games. It’s a dicey proposition. Wright had some shoulder issues that required cortisone injections. But if the young bats continue to hit and Acuna plays 150 games as he did in 2019 when he blasted 41 home runs and drove in 101, the run support should be better.