Connect with us

3 Players To Watch Series

LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves came off their 2021 World Series Championship season to come from behind and capture the NL East title from the New York Mets.  Both the Braves and Mets would get eliminated in the first round of the postseason.  And, their division rival Phillies would go on to capture the NL Pennant.  While the off-season looked strong for the Mets and Phillies, the Braves made a number of key moves to secure their future.

Lock ‘Em Up

The Braves front office has a clear strategy — lock up the future.  The current Braves roster is as solid as it gets.  Braves fans will get to soak them in for the next 5-10 seasons.  That means Austin Riley at 3B, Matt Olson at 1B, Ozzie Albies at 2B and Ronald Acuna Jr. in RF.  They acquired catcher, Sean Murphy, in an off-season trade with Oakland. The Braves arguably have the best lineup in MLB, which is why so many analysts place them at the very top of the power rankings.  In 2022, we just got a glimpse of what the Braves top young talent had to offer.  In 2023, these three Braves phenoms should produce a full season of work.

Michael Harris, CF

The Atlanta area native (Stockbridge High School) bursted on to the scene in late May 2022.  As the third round pick of the 2019 draft, Harris was fast tracked directly from Mississippi (Double-A) to Atlanta.  Harris racked up 19 HRs / 64 RBIs / .297 BA / .853 OPS and stole 20 bases in just 114 games.  This incredible work didn’t go unnoticed, as he was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 2022.  The Braves rewarded his productivity with an 8 year / $72 million contract.  Harris is ranked 5th by MLB Network among center-fielders and has the potential to be a 30/30 guy for years to come.  Check out this recent short film documenting Harris’ rise to the big leagues.

Spencer Strider, SP

In 2022, Strider was runner-up only to Michael Harris in NL Rookie of the Year voting.  The flame throwing right-hander posted a 11-5 record / 2.67 ERA / 0.995 WHIP / 202 strikeouts.  He had a record setting season, first breaking a Braves franchise record with 16 strikeouts on September 1, 2022.  And then, become the fastest ever (130 innings) to reach 200 strikeouts, a record previously set by Randy Johnson.  The fourth round pick of the 2020 draft, out of Clemson, was rewarded with a 6 year / $75 million deal.  If you weren’t already a fan of Strider’s work on the mound and his throwback mustache, you might appreciate that he’s changing his number to 99 this season, in honor of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the Charlie Sheen character from the 1989 movie, Major League.

Vaughn Grissom, SS

In the off-season, the Braves allowed shortstop Dansby Swanson to walk in free agency, leaving a big gap to fill.  Enter the 11th round pick of the 2019 draft, Vaughn Grissom (Hagerty High School – Oviedo, FL).  Fans got a preview of Grissom’s abilities late in the 2022 season, as he was called up in August due to an Ozzie Albies injury.  In just 141 at-bats, Grissom produced 5 HRs / 18 RBIs / .291 BA / .792 OPS and 5 stolen bases.  He also got a taste of postseason play.  Over the off-season, Grissom’s earned the high praise of infielders coach, Ron Washington, who claims Grissom is ready to fill the void at shortstop.  There’s a huge opportunity ahead for the young infielder, as he aims to step into the spotlight on one of MLB’s top teams.

The Future of Braves Country

The Atlanta Braves were known as the “Team of the 90s.”  They capturing NL Pennants in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999.  Those 90s teams produced six Hall of Famers (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Bobby Cox and Fred McGriff).  However, they won just one World Championship (1995).  Going into the 2023 season, the Braves are emerging as the “Team of the 2020s.”  Do the Braves have what it takes to recapture the NL East and make it back to the Fall Classic?  A strong, productive season from their young core, should keep the Braves right back near the top of the National League in 2023.

Brian is the Co-Owner/Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and son George. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

More in 3 Players To Watch Series