2023 Preview: Atlanta Braves

Mar 18, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Venezuela center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (42) hits a double during the eighth inning against the USA at LoanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

2022 record: 101-61, first in National League East

Offseason headlines: While the rival New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies added payroll, the Braves had a relatively quiet offseason. In a swap of catchers, Atlanta traded Willson Contreras and acquired Sean Murphy (six years, $73 million extension) to back up Travis d’Arnaud. Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge joined one of the best bullpens, but the Braves didn’t address left field and will go with Eddie Rosario.

Spring storylines: In a surprising development, Braden Shewmake and Vaughn Grissom were sent to the minors this week. That means Orlando Arcia will be Atlanta’s starting shortstop, a role he held from 2017-20 before Dansby Swanson took over the position. It’s possible Arcia is just a stopgap while Shewmake and Grissom continue to develop, but for now, it’s his job.

Righty Michael Soroka hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2020, but he looked good in his spring debut this week, throwing several pitches over 95 mph. He tore his right Achilles tendon Aug. 3, 2020, and tore the same tendon the following June 24 and was slowed this spring by a right hamstring strain. The Braves are hopeful he can regain the All-Star form he showed in 2019, when he posted a 13-4 record, 2.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

Young guns: Who will be the fifth starter? It’ll be either top Braves prospect Jared Shuster or Dylan Dodd, the club’s No. 10 prospect, per MLB.com. Both have impressed at camp, as Dodd boasts a 0.69 ERA, with Shuster right behind him at 0.71 — the two lowest ERAs among all MLB qualifiers this spring.

Fall feeling: How far the Braves go in 2023 may very well depend on which Ronald Acuna Jr. shows up. The club won it all in 2021, when his ACL injury cost him a chance to play in the Fall Classic. He looked good upon returning last season, but he wasn’t the same player. If he gets back, or even near to, his 2019 All-Star form (41 homers, 101 RBIs, 37 steals, 127 runs), the Braves could make another title run.

Odds, even: The Braves are favored to win the NL East (+100 at Fan Duel, +110 at DraftKings) and trail just the Houston Astros in World Series odds (+750 at DraftKings and FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

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