Today marks the first day of opening week for MLB, as this coming Thursday, Atlanta Braves baseball finally returns. Yep, that’s right. Just two more Spring Training games for the Bravos, a quick flight back home to Truist Park, and then it’s time to get ready for the Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day. A preview of the Braves-Reds matchup is on its way here at Braves Farm, but first a look at some power rankings.
This morning the folks at ESPN released its first power rankings of the 2022 season, setting the tone for the campaign to come later this week. I know ESPN has taken some heat over the last several years for being a bit out-of-touch when it comes to baseball, but I believe this is a good way to at least see where many of the experts have the Braves and how they stand among the rest of the sport.
Per ESPN’s power rankings on Monday, the Braves enter the 2022 regular season as the third-best team in the majors, behind the Blue Jays at second and the Dodgers at first. Atlanta’s projected record this year is 94-68, and the team’s current playoff odds sit at 84.2%, per the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
ESPN mentions the Braves bullpen as its biggest strength, which is an obvious choice of course, and on offense, the site names Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna as key contributors. ESPN also calls Kyle Wright a potential “breakout” if everything goes well.
In terms of weaknesses, ESPN notes how young and unproven several of the Braves starters are, after the first three (Fried, Morton, Anderson) of course. Consistency from Wright, Huascar Ynoa, Kyle Muller and others are listed as keys to ensuring the team’s bullpen doesn’t become gassed before the postseason.
ESPN picks Matt Olson as the most likely Brave to win an award in 2022, predicting a possible MVP for the recently-acquired first baseman. An Olson versus Freeman MVP race in the NL could be a developing storyline this season if both sluggers catch fire during the first few months of 2022.
In terms of bold predictions for the Braves in 2022, ESPN has Olson leading the Senior Circuit with 45 home runs and 124 RBI, finishing second in the MVP vote. I’ll definitely take that for Year 1 of Olson.
So that’s what ESPN thinks. I know projections and power rankings are simply just for fun, but it’s a good sign that one of the more mainstream sites expects the Braves to remain as one of the top-three teams in MLB this coming season. Obviously the games still must be played, and anything can happen, however, it’s always nice to know that national writers are also excited about the Braves. We’ll see what happens, though regardless, I can’t wait for what should be another contending campaign for this team.