When the toll of constantly looking over their shoulder finally cracked the New York Mets, they saw the 2021 World Series champions assume the division lead on the final day of September and watched them clinch the pennant.
Despite avoiding a Wild Card game, the Braves were comprehensively beaten in the best-of-five division series by the Phillies (a team that Atlanta defeated 11 times during the regular season).
Once the disappointment subsided, the Braves celebrated first and second place in NL Rookie of the Year with speedy outfielder Michael Harris edging out right-handed, starting pitcher Spencer Strider. And, with Max Fried second in Cy Young voting and Kyle Wright tenth, the Braves arguably had the best front three of any rotation in the game.
The offseason saw the departures of Kenley Jansen, Adam Duvall, and Robbie Grossman, although it is the loss of Dansby Swanson (to the Cubs) that will be the hardest to replace. It looks a tough ask for Vaughn Grissom if the 22-year-old is given the shortstop gig on Opening Day.
In a spectacular three-team trade, Atlanta secured their catcher for the foreseeable future by dealing starter Kyle Muller and two pitching prospects for Oakland’s Sean Murphy. The 28-year-old catcher immediately agreed to a six-year club-friendly deal. Love them or hate them, the Braves front office knows how to negotiate a great deal.
Murphy is joined by two additions to the pitching staff. Kolby Allard was the Braves’ first-round pick in 2015 and returns to Atlanta in a deal which sent Jake Odorizzi to Texas. And the bullpen is strengthened by the arrival of Joe Jiménez from Detroit for a couple of prospects.
In 2021, Spencer Strider posted a 4.71 ERA in Double-A. He also threw one inning in Triple-A and two and a bit innings in the majors. No one was predicting his incredible 2022 of 20 starts with a 2.77 ERA.
The 24-year-old offers outstanding control and an elite strikeout rate and (as his Statcast data suggests) he is probably even better than his 2022 figures.
BOLD PREDICTION: Why not Baseball Brit’s doppelganger, Spencer Strider, vying for the NL Cy Young Award in 2023?
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds. We want to know YOUR Atlanta Braves’ bold predictions.
Featured image of Spencer Strider by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images