2023 Atlanta Braves MLB season predictions, odds and preview

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

March 15, 2023 07:20 PM

Atlanta Braves 2023 Season Preview

The Atlanta Braves had a pretty quiet offseason, but being able to fill needs from within is a luxury that GM Alex Anthopoulos has carefully cultivated during his time with the organization. The Braves could’ve been in a state of flux after former GM John Coppolella resigned and was given a lifetime ban from baseball following the 2017 season for several illicit dealings, including international signing violations, tampering and cutting pre-draft agreements. But, they aren’t.

That may very well have been the best thing to happen to the Braves, as Anthopoulos’s tenure has been among the most successful in baseball. The Braves have five straight playoff appearances, five straight division titles and also won their first World Series since 1995. They have also built from a long window of contention by signing several players to very team-friendly contracts at a young age.

Ronald Acuna Jr. is signed through 2028. Austin Riley is signed through 2033. Ozzie Albies is signed through 2027. NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II is signed through 2032. NL Cy Young Award candidate Spencer Strider is signed through 2029. The team also signed recently-acquired catcher Sean Murphy to a big extension through 2029. Vaughn Grissom is probably next. This team is stacked and has a controlled core for a long period of time, so the Braves will only have to plug holes with free agency instead of relying on it.

They’re poised for another big year in what is one of baseball’s most competitive divisions.

Explanations of the stats used in this preview can be found in my “MLB Stats to Know” article.

2023 Atlanta Braves Odds

(odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 15)

World Series: +900

NL Pennant: +425

NL East: +140

Win Total: 94.5 (-110/-110)

Make Playoffs: Yes -475 / No +370

Atlanta Braves Offense

I cannot sing the praises of this offense enough. The Braves posted a 111 wRC+ last season, which only ranked seventh, but that’s largely because they’re willing to trade strikeouts and walks for power. The Braves hit 243 home runs last season, trailing only the Yankees, who play in a glorified Little League field and had the record-setting Aaron Judge. Five players for the Braves hit at least 20 homers, with Harris just one shy and Travis d’Arnaud just two shy.

There is some turnover, with Dansby Swanson and William Contreras gone, but Grissom will slot in just fine at shortstop and Murphy takes over the full-time catching duties. Atlanta should also expect a lot more from Acuna, who only hit 15 homers in his 533 plate appearances after hitting 24 in half a season back in 2021. A return to normalcy for Acuna is very likely to come. Acuna had been at least 25% above league average in each of his other four seasons, but posted a 114 wRC+ last season coming back from a torn ACL.

There aren’t many weaknesses in this lineup. The lone below average bat is Marcell Ozuna and his non-homer contributions will be overshadowed by the likely return to normal for Albies, who had a 30/20 season back in 2021, and a full season of Grissom, who hit 19 homers across three levels last season. Grissom had a 121 wRC+ in 156 plate appearances at the MLB level and raked at every minor league level before skipping Triple-A en route to the big leagues.

Even Eddie Rosario owns a career 102 wRC+, but he had vision surgery last year and is said to be looking a lot different during Spring Training. He’ll also slot into a platoon role with Jordan Luplow, since he’s a bad hitter against lefties. If Rosario returns to form, the Braves should have at least 11 hitters above league average by wRC+. Depth is one of the most important components when looking at season-long bets in baseball and this is one of the deepest lineups in baseball.

An underrated element of the Atlanta lineup that could improve is the team’s success when pulling the baseball. The Braves had a Pull% of 42.9% last season. They were also second in Hard Hit% and there is certainly a correlation between hitting the ball hard and hitting it to the pull side. The Braves do strike out a fair amount, but I’m thinking the combination of exit velocity and pull-side contact makes them one of the bigger benefactors of the end of the shift.

They’ve been a team hitting a lot of fly balls and line drives in recent years, but Harris and Grissom are guys that hit the ball on the ground more often than not. Grissom had an especially high Pull%. Given that he’ll be batting towards the bottom of the order, the Braves may be turning the lineup over with more guys on base.

Some of the hard-hit grounders will go away when Acuna gets his swing plane and launch angle back after posting the highest GB% of his career by a wide margin, but I do think Atlanta’s offensive philosophy is going to thrive even more with the shift gone because of their contact quality. 

I’m also less worried about the loss of Swanson than some might be. Swanson also had a major outlier season against fastballs and struggled against other pitches. I feel like he’ll see adjustments coming off of a career year offensively. His defensive performance was also well above his career baseline. I’m not sure that the Cubs are getting the player they think they’re getting, but it’s also a situation where I think Grissom and a healthier Albies will be just fine.

Hell, I didn’t even mention Austin Riley and following up his breakout 2021 season with an even better one in 2022. While he didn’t have the type of second half he wanted, he struck out less and walked more and I think that showed some maturation as a hitter. If 22% or so is his new strikeout baseline, that means even more homers and even more production. I don’t think 40 homers is out of the question.

Matt Olson’s production also tailed off in the second half, as he lost 62 points of OPS with decreasing power, but he still had exit velocity in September, just without the results. It’s just hard to find any fault with this offense.

Atlanta Braves Pitching

This area of the team is deep and talented, but has some star power as well. Spencer Strider wasn’t fully unleashed last season with 20 starts across 107.1 innings of work and another 24.1 innings as a reliever, but the stuff was downright unhittable most days and he’s among the shorter prices to win the NL Cy Young Award at +950. He missed some time late in the year with an injury, but he’s now a fixture in this rotation with over 200 strikeouts last season against 45 walks with only seven home runs allowed.

The 24-year-old throws casual triple digits and pitches in an organization that has done a great job of developing secondary pitches for their rotation pieces. He has a very high ceiling and a strong lower half that should allow him to be a workhorse, even at just 6-feet tall and 190 pounds. Usually that type of frame is hit or miss for throwing 180+ innings, but I don’t think that’s a worry with him.

Max Fried is still the ace until proven otherwise here, but I will say that I do have a few questions in a post-shift world. Fried had a 2.48 ERA with a 2.70 FIP over 185.1 innings of work. He’s more of a pitch-to-contact guy than Strider, but he keeps the ball down and his home run prevention skills are elite. I do think BABIP regression is in his future after posting a .280 or lower mark the last three seasons, but his low walk rate and minimal home run damage will keep him effective.

Beyond Strider and Fried, I could poke some holes in Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson and this is the one concern I have about the Braves. Wright was terrific last season with a 3.19 ERA and a 3.58 FIP, but he was slowed by soreness in his shoulder in camp and was an even more extreme ground ball guy than Fried. He doesn’t quite have the same command profile in terms of limiting home runs either. The projection systems put his ERA closer to 4.00 and his FIP in a similar range. I do think a decrease in production is in order with a high Hard Hit% of 41% and less success on ground balls with the shift ban.

Even if we assume Wright to be above average, what does Morton provide in his age-39 season? He still had the high strikeout rate last season, but the highest HR/FB% of his career since 2010 and his BB% climbed as well. He also allowed a 42.1% Hard Hit%, the highest of his career in the Statcast era, which dates back to 2015. His swinging strike rate stayed consistent to recent seasons, but he threw fewer pitches in the zone. He’ll cross 1,800 innings with his first start and I think the skills are in decline a bit.

Ian Anderson was nearly pulled from the rotation multiple times, as he was the weak link with 111.2 innings with a 5.00 ERA and a 4.25 FIP. He didn’t get the same good fortune defensively as others, but also made his own issues with a high walk rate and a low strikeout rate. Depth is an issue beyond him. The Braves have had a cornucopia of young arms, but some have flamed out and some have been traded, including Kyle Muller, Tucker Davidson and Touki Toussaint. Michael Soroka is waiting in the wings, but he has 13.2 MLB innings since 2019. Bryce Elder has flashed some promise, but Huascar Ynoa had to have Tommy John surgery in September.

Depth is a worry here. The Braves are intelligently run and have developed extremely well, so I’m less concerned than I would be about another team, but this is a top-heavy rotation that is a little light on depth for one of the top NL contenders.

Fortunately, the bullpen should be quite good again. Tyler Matzek is unfortunately out following Tommy John, but this bullpen was second in fWAR, fourth in ERA and third in FIP last season. That said, there are some changes. Kenley Jansen is out, but Raisel Iglesias, who had a 0.34 ERA in 28 appearances after being acquired from the Angels, is in full-time. Matzek has been replaced by former Yankee Lucas Luetge and Joe Jimenez takes over for Jesse Chavez (who is back on a minor league deal).

All in all, this is an excellent, well-balanced group and Brian Snitker is a terrific manager. He deploys his relievers well and don’t be surprised if former Rays high-leverage arm Nick Anderson gets back to form.

Miscellaneous Notes

After a 23-27 start in their first 50 games, the Braves went 78-34 the rest of the way, which is a .696 win percentage. Had they done that over the full season, they’d have won 113 games. They had a winning record against every NL East team and never lost more than three games in a row. They had a 14-game winning streak to start June.

Atlanta was 89-53-20 in the first five innings and went on to win 80 of those 89 games with a lead. They were 11-9 in the games that were tied. This is a bad team to play catch-up against.

Player to Watch

SP Kyle Wright: The full body of work was good for Wright with a 3.19 ERA, 3.58 FIP and a 3.30 xFIP, but he went from nine homers in the first half over 110 innings to 10 HR in his final 70.1 innings of work. His Hard Hit% increased in July, August and September on his curveball, which was his primary pitch. His four-seam fastball was punished. His average exit velo against ranked in the 35th percentile and his Hard Hit% was in the 23rd percentile. He was third among qualified starters in GB%, trailing only Framber Valdez and Logan Webb. He also had a big innings increase at the MLB level after not really being able to crack it regularly until last season. I’m very skeptical of Wright going into this season.

Atlanta Braves Season Win Total Pick

Let’s start with this. I’ll be looking for a buy point on the Braves to win the NL East. I don’t think I need to jump in at +140 before the season because there is a good chance we get a better number if another team starts hot or something else happens, but I do think this is still the best team in the division. I know some books out there will have the Braves head-to-head in wins with the Mets and I’d like Atlanta there, but that’s what the division bet is for at a better price.

There is some risk in buying in with young players like Grissom and Harris, but the Braves are a model organization. I just don’t like to bet win totals in the 90s because injuries can derail a team. I will say that the Braves are arguably in the best position of the league’s elites to handle them because of their outstanding depth. Of the teams lined in the 90s, this is the one I’d come the closest to betting.

So, this is just a pick for the article and not a bet, but I probably have the most confidence in the Braves of living up to or exceeding the hype of their lofty expectations.

Stronger Lean: Over 94.5

back to news

Live On Air

Streaming Now: Sunday Bet Prep

play Watch Live radio Listen Live


Matt Youmans: Heat (+8.5) at Nuggets. View more picks.


The Lombardi Line: Both the Nuggets and Heat shot poorly in Game 1 of the NBA Finals - and the total is down five points in Game 2 (219.5 to 214.5). Consider betting the OVER if you expect any positive regression. View more tips.