ATLANTA -- When you look back on the 2021 season, it’s easy to see why Freddie Freeman and others have repeatedly credited the many players who pushed the Braves toward their first World Series title since 1995.
Here is a look at some of the key figures from this past season and how they might contribute in 2022.
Travis d'Arnaud: As the Braves progressed through the postseason, they repeatedly said d’Arnaud’s return in August after a three-month-plus injured list stint significantly strengthened the pitching staff. The veteran catcher is a great communicator and his offensive production should return once he distances himself from the torn left thumb ligament suffered in May.
William Contreras: Contreras gained valuable experience when he was prematurely rushed to the Majors to serve as Atlanta’s starter after d’Arnaud began his lengthy IL stint. The young prospect wasn’t ready to be an everyday catcher, but he has improved defensively and his bat can play at the big league level.
Freddie Freeman: Freeman started this season slowly, but he provided MVP-caliber production over the season’s final four months. He hit five postseason home runs, including an eighth-inning game-winner off Milwaukee's Josh Hader to decide the National League Division Series. The Braves are hoping to re-sign their iconic first baseman this winter.
Ozzie Albies: Albies earned his second All-Star selection this past season and ranked among the game’s leaders in extra-base hits (77). The 24-year-old switch-hitter recorded his first 30-homer season, and he holds the franchise record for most career homers hit by a second baseman (90).
Dansby Swanson: Swanson produced one of his finest offensive seasons, slashing .248/.311/.449 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs (both career highs), and he consistently made great defensive plays. This was Swanson’s most complete season since the D-backs took him with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Austin Riley: Riley enjoyed a 33-homer, 107-RBI season that earned him MVP consideration for the first time. The young slugger established himself as Atlanta’s everyday third baseman in April, and he was the club’s most consistent offensive player throughout the season.
Ehire Adrianza: Adrianza provided value as a switch-hitter with defensive versatility. The free agent benefited from a move to the National League, but his value off the bench will diminish if the universal DH is put in place.
Orlando Arcia: Acquired on April 6 from the Brewers, Arcia slashed .214/.282/.343 in 32 games with the Braves.
Johan Camargo: One of the stars of the 2018 season, Camargo has never adapted to a backup role. He fared well at Triple-A this year, but he went hitless in 22 big league plate appearances (including the postseason).
Eddie Rosario: Rosario was named NLCS MVP. The free agent has hit .383 with a 1.073 OPS during the postseason. Two years removed from a 32-homer campaign with the Twins, Rosario spent much of this season struggling through injuries with Cleveland. After being dealt to Atlanta at the Trade Deadline, though, he emerged from the IL in late August and established himself as the Braves’ left fielder with a strong final few weeks, slashing .273/.337/.580 down the stretch (Sept. 1-Oct. 3).
Adam Duvall: Duvall combined to hit 38 homers with an NL-best 113 RBIs while playing for the Marlins and Braves this year. The Deadline deal that brought him back to Atlanta stands as one of the key factors in the Braves’ ability to win a fourth straight NL East title.
Joc Pederson: The veteran outfielder hit two homers in the NLDS, including a three-run pinch-hit blast in Game 3. His postseason success led many Braves fans to wear a pearl necklace like his, and to celebrate what has become known as “Joctober.” Time will tell whether there will be a spot for him in Atlanta in 2022.
Guillermo Heredia: Heredia can provide value as a late-inning defensive replacement, or as the guy who swings his plastic swords whenever he celebrates in the dugout. The backup outfielder’s tremendous energy fueled the Braves throughout 2021.
Jorge Soler: Soler missed significant time during the NLCS while on the COVID-19-related IL. The veteran outfielder has always had tremendous power, but his value increased when both his strikeout and walk rates improved after he was acquired from the Royals at the Deadline. He was named World Series MVP after hitting three homers during the Fall Classic. His postseason success will help him as he navigates through the free-agent market.
Cristian Pache: The top prospect’s offensive potential continued to be a concern after he was given a chance to begin 2021 as Atlanta’s starting center fielder. He produced a mediocre .787 OPS over his final 44 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. At this point, it’s unknown whether his great glove will be enough to compensate for his troubling bat.
Charlie Morton: Morton’s 2021 season rudely came to an end when he fractured his leg while stating Game 1 of the World Series. But the right-hander enjoyed a terrific return to Atlanta, posting a 2.71 ERA over his final 20 regular-season starts. His success earned him a one-year, $20 million contract for 2022.
Max Fried: Fried produced an MLB-best 1.74 ERA after the All-Star break and delivered six scoreless innings as the Braves claimed a World Series title with a Game 6 win over the Astros. The lefty captured a second straight Gold Glove Award and showed his athleticism with a few key pinch hits.
Ian Anderson: Anderson has a 1.26 ERA through his first eight career postseason starts. He showed flashes of his great potential throughout a successful 2021 season. Right shoulder inflammation forced him to spend the first seven weeks after the All-Star break on the injured list.
Huascar Ynoa: Ynoa posted a 3.02 ERA in nine starts before breaking his right hand punching a dugout bench in Milwaukee. The right-hander missed three months and then posted a 5.05 ERA in nine starts after returning from the injured list. His woes continued when right shoulder inflammation forced him to be removed from the NLCS roster.
Kyle Muller: Muller showed flashes of promise as he posted a 1.88 ERA through his first six big league starts. But his command remained a concern and the Braves kept him at the Triple-A level for most of the season’s final two months.
Mike Soroka: One of this season’s saddest moments occurred on June 26, when the Braves announced Soroka had torn his right Achilles tendon for a second time. There’s hope the talented young hurler might eventually get back to where he was in 2019, when he was one of the game’s top young starters. But for now, his future is uncertain.
Touki Toussaint: Toussaint has continued to occasionally produce an impressive start and then fade over the weeks that follow. To keep himself in Atlanta’s long-term plans, he must be more consistent.
Drew Smyly: The veteran lefty lost his rotation spot after his velocity continued to drop throughout August. But he provided some value as the Braves won 12 of his 13 starts from June 8-Aug. 21.
Will Smith: Smith converted 37 of 43 save opportunities during his first season as the Braves’ closer, and he allowed just five hits and no runs over 11 postseason innings. He retired 21 of the final 24 batters faced during the playoffs.
Luke Jackson: Jackson is one of the funnier personalities in the Braves’ clubhouse. He bounced back from a rough 2020 to establish himself as one of Atlanta’s top late-inning options in '21. The veteran right-hander became a very reliable setup man for Smith.
Tyler Matzek: Matzek’s continued to get better as he proved to be one of the Braves’ most valuable players throughout the postseason. The lefty overcame some midseason struggles and was one of the game’s best relievers in the second half. He returned to the Majors last year for the first time since developing the “yips” while pitching for the Rockies in 2015.
A.J. Minter: Minter has been one of the Braves’ top relievers during the past two postseasons. The lefty had a stint in the Minors during the 2021 season, but returned to the bigs and proved to be a key asset over the final couple months. He has aspirations to be a starter, but it appears he’s best suited to be a reliever.
Jesse Chavez: A midseason addition to Atlanta’s bullpen, Chavez emerged as a very valuable and versatile asset. The 37-year-old right-hander was successful when used as an opener down the stretch and in Game 4 of the NLCS. He could certainly find a role in Atlanta next year.
Kyle Wright: Wright made just two regular-season appearances at the Major League level this year, but he was added to the World Series roster and provided 4 2/3 valuable innings of one-run ball in relief in a Game 4 victory. This playoff success, combined with the opportunity to stick to the same schedule with Gwinnett, could prove beneficial for the hurler, who was taken fifth overall in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Chris Martin: Martin might not be one of the game’s top relievers anymore, but some success during the regular season’s final week and the postseason may have indicated he has something left to offer in future seasons.
Dylan Lee: Lee retired just one of the four batters faced when he was used as an opener in Game 4 of the World Series. But what should have been expected from a guy who had made just four previous appearances, none of which were completed before the regular season’s final weekend? His success at Triple-A this year could set him up for a big league bullpen role in 2022.
Sean Newcomb: The Braves have tried Newcomb as both a starter and reliever over the past few seasons. He was successful in the latter role over the final five months of the 2019 season. But he has spent most of the past two years in the Minors.
Rich Rodríguez: Rodriguez faded down the stretch and wasn’t included on any of the Braves’ postseason rosters. But the right-handed reliever provided value as he efficiently ate innings while the bullpen finally took shape during the first few weeks after his July 30 acquisition from the Pirates.
Spencer Strider: Selected in the 2020 Draft, Strider wasn’t introduced to a traditional Minor League season until this year. But he shot through four Minors levels and was given his first two big league appearances during the regular season’s final weekend. The hard-throwing right-hander could become a strikeout weapon in Atlanta’s bullpen at some point next season.
Jacob Webb: Webb battled through an inconsistent season, but showed signs of moving in the right direction during the second half.