Atlanta Braves Team Leaders: Acuna Jr. Off to MVP Start
Atlanta in First Place, Again... Why? Ronald Acuna Jr.
The five-time defending National League East champion Atlanta Braves are off to another blistering start. At 29-19, the Braves remain atop the division (4.5 games ahead of the New York Mets) and own the best record in the NL outside of the 31-19 Los Angeles Dodgers.
What’s carried the Braves to this point? Let’s take a deeper look as we break down the Atlanta Braves team leaders.
Acuna Jr. Off to MVP Start
Ronald Acuna Jr. has been arguably baseball’s best player through the first-quarter mark. The 25-year-old outfielder is the MLB leader with 46 runs scored. He also ranks second in stolen bases (20), third in batting average (.337), and fourth in OPS (1.015). On top of that, Acuna Jr. has hit 11 homers and driven in 27 runs, providing a lethal combination of speed and power atop the Braves lineup.
In doing so, Acuna Jr. has positioned himself to win his first Most Valuable Player award. In fact, he is now the heavy favorite, as his odds have skyrocketed from +1000 in spring training to +125. Padres outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso are next on the list, albeit both at +1200. Juan Soto, the +550 favorite coming into the season, is now sitting at +1600.
As Acuna Jr. continues to produce, Atlanta’s lineup is reaping the benefits. The Braves are seventh in the majors in runs scored (247) and third in both home runs (78) and OPS (.788). It’s a big reason why Atlanta remains in the driver’s seat in the NL East.
The key to the Braves offensive success in 2022 was no secret. They made up for a high number of strikeouts by bludgeoning opponents with the long ball. Atlanta hit 243 home runs, second only to the Yankees with 254.
No surprise, Atlanta is on that same track this season. The Braves have gone deep 78 times in 48 games, third-most in the majors behind the Rays (95) and Dodgers (81). Four Braves have already hit double-digit homers: Matt Olson (13), Acuna Jr. (11), Sean Murphy (10), and Ozzie Albies (10). A few others, including Marcel Ozuna and Austin Riley, should soon join the Atlanta Braves team leaders.
It’s arguably the biggest reason why Atlanta is a legitimate threat to record the most wins in MLB season.
Quadzilla Stepping Up
Atlanta remains without No. 1 starter Max Fried. After a strong start to the season, the ace left-hander was shut down earlier this month with a lingering forearm injury.
Without Fried, 24-year-old right-hander Spencer Strider has risen to the occasion as the Atlanta Braves team leader. Strider — nicknamed “Quadzilla” for his massive quads — is 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA through 10 starts. He leads baseball with 97 strikeouts in 57.2 innings, 16 more than Toronto‘s Kevin Gausman. Strider, who punched out 202 batters as a rookie, entered this season at +1000 to win the strikeout title.
Though Fried is reportedly expected to resume throwing in short order, he’s still ways away from rejoining Atlanta’s rotation. Assuming no setbacks, Fried isn’t likely to return until after the July All-Star break.
With Fried healthy, Atlanta’s long-term outlook brightens significantly. Before suffering his injury, Fried pitched to a 2-1 record with a 2.08 ERA. That was on the heels of his first All-Star appearance in 2022. Keep in mind, the Braves are also without starter Kyle Wright because of repeated shoulder issues.
Fortunately for the Braves, they have a suitable replacement atop their rotation in Strider.
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