3 bold predictions for Braves in new season

March 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

My three preseason predictions last year were: 1) the Braves would win 100 games, 2) Max Fried would win the Cy Young Award and 3) Austin Riley would hit 40 homers. Very close but no cigar.

But this is the baseball world, where hitters are immortalized if they consistently go 1-for-3. So, I’m going to take another swing for Cooperstown with my 2023 preseason predictions.

1. 40-40-40
Three of the 27 players who have hit at least 38 homers in a season going back to 2019 will fill the top three spots in the Braves’ lineup. I’m predicting that each of these three players -- Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson and Riley -- will hit 40 homers this year. Ridiculous prediction? Maybe. But it has been done a grand total of three times in MLB history. So yeah, I’m saying there’s a chance.

The first was Hank Aaron, Davey Johnson and Darrell Evans of the 1973 Braves. The Rockies had a trio do this in both 1996 (Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, Andrés Galarraga) and 1997 (Galarraga, Castilla and Larry Walker).

2. 40-40
Considering we have seen a player tally 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season just four times, I shouldn’t feel as confident as I do as in predicting Acuña will become the fifth member of the 40-40 club this year. Now that he is another season removed from a torn right ACL, it’s harder to confidently say he has any limitations.

Acuña finished three stolen bases shy of the 40-40 club in 2019, his most recent 162-game season not affected by the major knee injury. The Braves right fielder hit 41 homers in 2019, he had a 40-plus homer pace during the shortened 2020 COVID-19 season, and again in 2021 before he got hurt two days before the All-Star break. With the game’s rule changes enticing more stolen base attempts, I do feel confident with this prediction.

3. 100 again
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the most recent time they tallied back-to-back 100-win seasons, the Braves are going to do it again. Last year’s 101-win team was great. This year’s club might be even better. Eddie Rosario looks like his 2021 postseason self, and the pitching staff is stacked, especially once closer Raisel Iglesias and 20-game winner Kyle Wright join the mix. The NL East is loaded again, but this Braves’ team has a chance to be one of the best in franchise history.