A single baseball season has hundreds of possible outcomes. That’s what makes each one so compelling, and the beginning of each one so exciting. Endless possibilities. Of course, it’s also that level of variance that makes any kind of predictions and projections of the season so tricky. It’s just hard to predict ahead of time what’s going to happen when so many outcomes are within the realm of possibility. But, despite those challenges, there’s one prediction of the season I feel comfortable enough declaring as fact: the 2022 Braves are going to hit homers, lots and lots of homers.
Just to start out with some numbers, here’s Steamer’s home run projections for Atlanta’s position player group:
- Matt Olson: 44
- Ronald Acuña Jr: 40
- Austin Riley: 35
- Ozzie Albies: 29
- Adam Duvall: 29
- Marcell Ozuna: 28
- Eddie Rosario: 23
- Dansby Swanson: 21
- Alex Dickerson: 14
- Travis d’Arnaud: 13
- Manny Piña: 9
- Orlando Arcia: 4
- Guillermo Heredia: 3
As Steamer sees it, the Braves’ 13 position players are currently projected to hit 283 home runs. Two Hundred and Eighty Three home runs. That is a bunch. It should be noted, FanGraphs’ The Bat projection model, typically one of the most accurate models, sees that same group of players hitting 280 home runs for the season. So this isn’t just one rogue model spitting out crazy numbers. Whichever model you want to use, the Braves have serious power in their lineup. Maybe a historical amount.
If you didn’t know, the Braves franchise record for home runs in a season is 249, set by the 2019 team. At least as it stands now, the 2022 team is projected, by multiple systems, to blow that number out of the water, with plenty of room to spare.
Of course, these are just a projections. As the New York Mets learn every year, games aren’t played on paper and result can often vary. So how likely is it that this will actually happen? Let’s run through the major players on this list.
Olson hit 40 bombs last year, playing his home games in a heavy pitcher-friendly park. He’s now moving to the lefty hitter-friendly Truist Park so 44 homers seems well within reason. Acuña hit 24 homers last year in half a season, he hit 14 homers in the 60-game 2020 season, and 41 homers in 2019. He’ll miss the first couple of weeks in 2022, but if he stays healthy the rest of the season, no guarantee, 40 should be within reach.
Riley hit 33 last season and looks every bit as locked-in with another season of experience under his belt. Think there’s a decent shot he ends up with 40 plus this year given his absurd raw power and the huge strides he’s made at the plate, so 35 seems more than reasonable. Albies’ projection could be a stretch, since he’s only surpassed that 29 number once in his career. But that year was last year and power typically only increase as guys move into their prime so while 25 or 26 might be more likely, Ozzie getting to 29 homers this season certainly isn’t outlandish.
If Ozzie’s projection is a little high, Duvall’s projection of 29 might be a little low. He hit 38 last year and 16 in the 60-game 2020 season. Duvall also has multiple 30+ home run seasons at the major league level and anytime he gets anything close to regular playing time, he’s usually good for at least 30 homers in a season. Ozuna is probably the biggest wild card of the bunch. He hasn’t seen major league pitching in almost a full calendar year, and even when he did play last year, he wasn’t exactly crushing the ball. He does have multiple seasons with more homers than his projected 28, as well as 18 homers in 60 games in 2020. Pretty much every projection model has him around 28 homers this season so maybe there isn’t as much variance as we think. I’ll take the under though.
Rosario at 23 is another one that’s probably a bit ambitious considering he might not be a full-time player this season. He does have a ton of pull-side power and right-field in Truist is a home run paradise. Still if I’m setting these projections, I’d feel more comfortable in the 14 to 15 range. Swanson at 21 seems more than reasonable considering he hit 27 last year, has developed legitimate opposite-field power, and basically plays everyday. He could have a down year and still get to 21. Rosario and Swanson together are projected at 44 homers and I could actually see them getting around that just with Swanson hitting a few more than projected and Rosario hitting a few less.
Dickerson’s total is going to come down to playing time and at-bats. He also has to officially make the team out of spring training, though that seems like a formality at this point. But once Ronald Acuña Jr, returns from injury, Dickerson’s playing time is the one most likely to suffer. He did hit 13 homers last year in San Francisco’s massive park but that was in 300+ at bats. The DH will certainly help him get in the lineup, but I’m still taking the under on his projection of 14. d’Arnaud just needs to stay healthy for a season. He’s shown tremendous pull and dead-center power but it doesn’t matter if you’re constantly on the injured list. If he can play 115-120 games, which is basically full-time for a catcher these days, getting to his projection of 13 home runs shouldn’t be that difficult.
The bench guys are all wild cards. You just never know. William Contreras could add as many as 10 homers to the team total or he could struggle in the first month, get sent down, and end up with zero. Arcia and Heredia should get a decent number of at-bats for bench guys but where their home run totals end up is a pure guess.
If I’m handicapping this race, I think the projected total of 283 home runs is too high for this group but the franchise record of 249 home runs is very much in play. Atlanta will need Olson, Acuña, Riley, Ozzie, and Duvall to do the heavy lifting to make it a race, and if they get decent seasons from Ozuna and Rosario, this could be the greatest home-run hitting team in franchise history.
I have legitimate concerns about the teams on-base percentage after Acuña and Olson and that’s a real question they’ll need to answer. But this team is going to slug homers. Lots and lots of homers.