In February 2023, I wrote an article on some overlooked roster concerns as the Atlanta Braves headed into Spring Training and in April I took a tongue-in-cheek approach to some analog projections for the rest of the 2023 season.
Now the time has come to see how many of those were hits and how many were swings-and-misses.
Starting with the overlook roster concerns, let’s take a look and if I was on-base or not.
Corner Infield Depth
The concern was warranted as the Braves added former All-Star Jesus Aguilar to Gwinnett’s roster in June after he was waved by Oakland after starting the season with the Athletics. Luckily for Atlanta, Austin Riley played in 159 games and Matt Olson started all 162, making the need for a gap-filler moot.
With no organization depth at either position heading into 2024, the Braves will likely bring in either a bench player who could step into a starting role in needed or look to add at least one plausible depth option to Triple-A, even if it is a true “break in case of emergency” signing.
Starting Rotation Depth
Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.
Thirteen pitchers started two or more games for Atlanta in 2023 and 11 made five or more starts. To make matters worse, only three pitchers made 30 or more starts, and one of those was Charlie Morton who missed time at the end of the year due to injury. Another was Bryce Elder, who made 31 starts, but didn’t make the Braves Opening Day roster.
Of the 16 pitchers who did start a game for Atlanta, a whopping eight were no longer part of the organization by mid -November 2023 as Jesse Chavez, Collin McHugh, Kolby Allard, Yonny Chirinos, Michael Soroka, Kyle Wright and Jared Shuster were either traded, designated for assignment or allowed to become free agents.
As it stands, after Atlanta picked up the 2024 option on Morton’s contract, the Braves are set to head into Spring Training with Spencer Strider, Elder, Morton and pending 2024 free agent Max Fried in the rotation. That’s solid.
Expectations are that Atlanta will add at least one experience starting pitcher this off-season as the depth behind those four is limited with top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver and lesser prospect options of Dylan Dodd and Darious Vines and journeyman Allan Winans all seeing some time with Atlanta last season. Joining them is 2023 first round pick Hurston Waldrep who pitched his way to Triple-A (and almost Atlanta) after being drafted last year.
Second Base Depth
Much like the corner infield concerns, this one was valid but really didn’t come into play outside of a two-week IL absence for Ozzie Albies, who still managed to play in 148 games. Likewise, Orlando Arcia only missed a few weeks early in the season and ended up playing in 139 games - although at the time the original article was written, no one knew who was going to be the starting at shortstop nor the primary back-up middle infielder.
The Braves addressed the hole created by Albies injury by getting defensive whiz Nicky Lopez from Kansas City in a trade. Lopez was a perfect fit for the roster down the stretch but was traded to the White Sox early in the 2023 offseason, meaning depth here will have to be addressed again.
To sum these three items up - valid concerns, but only one was truly impactful on the Braves.
Battery Power Almanac
A play on the Farmer’s Almanac, I took a look at how the Braves might end their season based on historical performances in seasons ended in “3” in the past four decades both for the team and individual players.
Here are those predictions:
97+ Win Season
The team was already pacing to win 100 games, so winning 104 wasn’t some shocking turn of events. They did tie the 1993 team with those 104 wins. That’s going to be a high bar for the 2033 Braves team to reach.
Playoff Appearance but no World Series
Again, not shocking, but in late April, there was still a lot of the season to be played. The Braves did win the division as they did the past three decades; but they also followed the path of the ‘93 team by losing to the Phillies and the ‘03 and ‘13 teams by being eliminated from the postseason in the NLDS.
It was a disappointing end for Atlanta, but one that was predicted, unfortunately.
The prior four decades saw an average of 4.75 All-Stars per season, so the outlook was good for Atlanta to be well represented in Seattle in 2023. That meant projecting these Braves as likely All-Stars:
- Ronald Acuna, Jr. - YUP
- Sean Murphy - YUP
- Spencer Strider - YUP
- Ozzie Albies - YUP
- Orlando Arcia - YUP
- Max Fried - NOPE
If Fried had been healthy, he likely would have made it. Bryce Elder ended up getting the nod. There was an outright miss on Matt Olson but Austin Riley’s miss was projected to be wrong at that time.
Overall? Pretty dang accurate.
Again, factoring in outcomes from the four prior decades, the predictions here were ... well, see for yourself.
NL Cy Young
The BPA was definitive in that Braves having a top-4 vote getter, and sure enough, Spencer Strider finished fourth in the voting. That is as spot-on as you can get.
NL Rookie of the Year
History showed that the Braves would have a top ROY vote getting - but even back then, I thought BPA was confused that Bryce Elder wasn’t a rookie. There really wasn’t going to be an option here - but if Elder HAD been a rookie, he probably would have finished in the top four.
NL Most Valuable Player
BPA thought there was a good chance we might see an NL MVP Award winner this year, and sure enough, Ronald Acuna, Jr. won the award - unanimously, I might add.
He joined Dale Murphy who won in 1983.
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
Top Position Player/Top Pitcher for Atlanta
The BPA though Acuna or Albies would be the top position player and Acuna was. As for the pitcher, it was a toss-up between Fried and Strider with Fried’s injury issues making this one and easy get for Strider.
Best Team of the Decade
There’s a way to go to get to the 2030s, but BPA thought this might be, coulda, shoulda, woulda be the best team of this decade. The 1993 Braves offense was great and the 2003 was one of the best ever, so the 2023 becoming actual the best ever wasn’t that far of a stretch.
And low-and-behold, it happened.
What do we learn from this little experiment?
Concerns can be concerns but not be a concern.
Predicting the future based on past performance can indeed be an indicator of future results.
I am the soothsayer of all soothsayers.
Sometimes it pays to get hot at the right time.
Also, it is better to be lucky than good.
Just like in the playoffs.