With a mere eleven games remaining in the regualr season, the Braves find themselves in a dream-scenario type of position, becoming the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff berth and gaining home-field advantage following the Cardinals win against the Brewers.
As we approach the most electric time of the year for baseball fans, the Braves find themselves with a core that, to many, are considered the most potent Braves lineup over the last several years, remaining without any hyperbolic undertones; statistically, we're witnessing the greatest Braves seasons to happen since the turn of the century.
As it stands, the Braves are seeing franchise records in RBI (838), slugging percentage (.500), OPS (.842), and stolen bases (117), with a thankful nod to phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. They've seeing the highest amount of runs scored (866) since 2003 (907), while lowering team strikeouts (1186) by just over 300 compared to the year before (1498 in 2022), With 96 wins on the season and eleven more to go, they are poised to potentially break their single-season win record (106 in 1998).
While the longball alone doesn't win ballgames, it has all but certainly played a large role for the Braves this season.
The Braves broke their single-season home run record by a team mere weeks ago and currently sit 11 home runs away from 300 on the year. Ronald Acuna Jr is making history with every home run and stolen base towards the elite goal, Matt Olson broke the single-season home run record with his 52nd in Miami and, as it stands, there are five Braves who will finish with 30+ home runs on the year (Olson, 52; Acuna, 39; Riley, 36; Ozuna, 35; Albies, 31).
Every test placed in front of the Braves this season has been passed with flying colors, seeing themselves on the front door to October, waiting impatiently for the door to swing wide open. With all of the success, both as a team and individually for the Braves this season, they are going to need as many of their assets as possible, and they'll need them all to be in tip-top shape, should they want another chance to tango with the Commissioner's Trophy.
Once the postseason begins, the Braves are going to need everybody; as it stands, however, it seems many assets are dealing with injuries and find their status more questionable than anything. Should the Braves want another real shot at re-claiming the crown, they're going to need as many productive bodies as possible.
With less than two weeks until the action begins, many key assets may start October on the IL, giving the Braves a tougher hand to play with than anticipated. While we see positive notes, like the news that Fried may be back as soon as Thursday, we also see several every-day players who may not get to join in the fun and fanfare.
Who are they, you ask? Well, let's take a look.
1. Michael Soroka, forearm
I don't think I've ever felt as bad for a player as I do for Soroka.
In one of the most heartbreaking baseball stories to watch, and I'm all but sure to play for, Michael Soroka tells the tale of one of the most potential-packed pitchers in the game who can't stop dancing with the injury bug.
Following a series of injuries that kept him sidelined since 2020, Soroka emerged midseason against the Athletics, only to find himself back where it all started. Through several more instances of him going up and down between AAA Gwinett and Cobb County, an eventual forearm problem that appeared on Sep. 6 wrote the exclamation point on the sentence many thought got written shortly after his brief outing with Oakland: Soroka's season is done, and it's likely he won't be coming back.
2. Collin McHugh, shoulder
Holding down leads and mowing down batters, all while eating important innings and doing so with aplomb, McHugh has been a staple of the Braves bullpen since his acquisition in March of 2022.
McHugh, an import from the 2017 World Champion Astros along with rotation pillar Charie Morton, has been nothing short of exemplary for the Braves in his short tenure, posting a combined 3.45 ERA with 122 K's and a 132 ERA+ through two seasons with Atlanta. 2023 saw him face his fair share of struggles, heightening the ERA from 2.60 to 4.30, thanks to a few unlucky innings this season. While the 2023 numbers are what they are, McHugh has been more than productive and proven for the Braves, and will be a vital asset for the bullpen should they want to make any sort of serious run at October.
McHugh began his rehab assignment Tuesday evening with AAA Gwinett and may return to the bullpen by the end of this week.
3. Ehire Adrianza, elbow/shoulder
The veteran utilityman, whose first year with the Braves earned him a ring, has proven time and time again that he belongs on the roster, whether it be his surprising, intermittent showings of defense to his clutch bat that has come through time and time again.
Adrianza proved his worth as a super-utility platoon for the Braves in their golden year, filling in where he was needed and producing more often than he didnt. In 2021 he played in 109 games, Adrianza slashed .247/.327/.401 with 5 HR, 9 2B, and a career-second-best 28 RBI. While the action he saw wasn't consistent, he produced well and often when utilized, giving the Braves a secret weapon off the bench in any scenario.
Sidelined with elbow/shoulder issues this seaso , Adrianza shifted his rehab assignment from High-A Rome to AAA Gwinett last Tuesday in hopes of a late comeback.
4. Kyle Wright, shoulder
I know what you may be asking: "wait...isn't Kyle Wright back in the rotation?"
I'm glad you asked.
Wright returned to the rotation last week following a shoulder injury that had him sidelined since, seeing himself knocked to the tune of six earned runs in three innings as the Phillies got his number early. The very next start saw him get roughed up for four earned runs in five innings. Following a year which saw him win a league and career-best 21 games with a 3.19 ERA through 180.1 innings of work, Wright's shortened season is nothing short of the antithesis of the year former. Through 25 innings of work, Wright's limited exposure coupled with unlucky innings caused his ERA to rise to 7.71 with an 0-3 record and more hits given up (34) than strikeouts recorded (28).
While his injury problems are seemingly a thing of the past, his current struggles and small bout with inconsistency may result in Wright finding himself left off the playoff roster, which would be a shame, especially considering the role he played for the Braves during their World Series run.
It appears Wright has two more turns in the rotation before the book is closed on the season, which means he has two more chances to rewrite his recent wrongs and get back to the Wright of season's past.