The 2023 Atlanta Braves are certainly not lacking in star power. Thus, you can imagine my difficulties when trying to make a post about potential breakout candidates for the Braves in the upcoming baseball season. However, I will gladly face this difficult challenge every year if it means the Braves keep rolling out these star-studded rosters each season. We had these same thoughts entering the 2022 season, yet the Braves still had the top-two finishers in the NL rookie of the year ballot.
When we use the words “break out” that certainly limits our options for the Braves, as much of their roster has already broken out. Also, when I use the term break out candidate I’m choosing to narrow that down a bit. Meaning candidates are only those who haven’t made a huge impact at the big league level yet. So that means I’m not making guys like Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II eligible because they have already seen a full season of success at the major league level.
Also, if someone like Sean Murphy has a season were his offensive numbers climb on top of gold glove defense and finishes 2023 in the top ten in MVP voting I’m not going to label that as a break out. Obviously, that would be the best year for Murphy in his career so far, but what I’m saying is these guys are players we already know are good ball players. They all have seen extended success in the majors. That group of guys align more with the article Eric put together for us, as potential first time All-Stars for the Braves. With all that being said my list of candidates will consist of guys that can be in the 2023 rookie of the year voting.
Regardless in if you believe in Vaughn as a major league player or not, it’s clear the Braves plan on giving him the opportunity to break out next season and take hold of the starting shortstop role. Grissom knows this and has had a very solid spring so far. Time will tell if the offseason work with Braves infield defensive guru, Ron Washington, can provide enough help to erase the defensive corncerns that comes with Grissom anchoring an infield defense. Grissom comes with a bounty of question marks, but out of all of our candidates he is certainly the one who will be presented the most opportunity to break out. I think if he produces at even just a fraction of what Dansby Swanson gave the Braves last year and cements himself into that starting shortstop role, most Braves fans would classify that as a break out campaign.
If there is one guy that is impressing more than anyone in the beginning of the Braves’ spring training, young Dylan Dodd definitely has earned that statement. The fifth rotation spot for the Braves is one of the bigger position battles this spring for Atlanta and Dodd is certainly making an early impression on fans. Many are already clamoring for him to be included in this battle, although he does face an uphill battle as there are a few guys who have already made starts in the majors. However, Dodd does posses an intriguing arsenal of pitches and I don’t think the Braves will let the fifth spot in the rotation be as shaky as it was last season, before finally inserting Strider into that role.
As I mentioned with Dodd, the fifth spot in the roation is very much up for grabs, If Soroka isn’t able to work back from injury, Ian Anderson doesn’t find a successful recipe to getting big league hitters out again, and other things go sideways, Atlanta will be looking for a contributor in the final spot of the rotation. So don’t rule out the Braves top-ranked prospect Jared Shuster. The bullpen is always one of the more interchangeable position groups in baseball as well as relievers who can repeat year-in year-out success are hard to come by. And the Braves are certainly not shy about putting the arms that give them the best chance to win down there, as evidence with Spencer Strider at the beginning of last year. Shuster posses one of the best pitches in the system in his changeup, but he’ll need to make some strides with his fastball if he wants to showcase to the Braves he is ready to break out next season.
It can be quite hard to pick guys who can break out when there’s a roster of established stars like the Braves have. And quite honestly if none of these guys make any impact at the major league level, the Braves can very much still be one the best teams in baseball. But given their recent track record in getting young talent to produce, I believe it’s safe to expect some production from a young Braves player that may be off the radar of most baseball pundits.