5 Braves players that could take a step back in 2024

Father time is undefeated and amongst other reasons, there are Braves players with potential to take a step back in 2024.

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages
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Being a pessimist is never something that anyone wants to do. But with this Braves team being as good as it is, not everyone will be perfect and some will likely fall short of expectations. Hopefully, the five players I list here will make me look very dumb on the internet, but I'm going to attempt to predict who I believe has the best chance to take a step back this season.

Orlando Arcia

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four
Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

In nearly every metric you can find, Orlando Arcia had a career season for the Braves in 2023, and a first-ever all-star game appearance in which he started, goes to show it.

But it's no secret that the end of his 2023 was unspectacular. After hitting .294 going into the all-star break, he hit just .235 after it, with his on-base percentage dropping from .345 to .297 as well. His power and run production numbers stayed relatively the same though.

As a whole, he finished the season with career-highs in batting average (.264), OPS (.741), doubles (25), home runs (17), RBIs (65), and for you advanced metric fans fWAR (2.3) and wOBA (.321).

I don't think we are going to see a massive drop off from those numbers, but I'd be surprised if Arcia can put up a first half like he did in 2023. Which means we'll probably see a slight drop-off in offensive production. That's okay, there are some guys ahead of him in the lineup that will have plenty of offense to pick him up. His glove at short (7.3 defensive WAR in 2023) is his best quality so as long as he keeps that up, Braves fans should be happy.

Charlie Morton

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

I know what you are thinking, thanks captain obvious. The man is 40 years old. And to that I say.... yes, that's why he's on the list.

Some things are obvious, and if I'm making a case for Braves players who could take a step back, I'd be remiss to include the oldest player on the roster because (I apologize in advance for writing one of the most cliche sports monikers of all-time) father time is undefeated.

Morton, for all intents and purposes, took a step forward in 2023, starting one less game but lowering his ERA from 4.33 to 3.64 and winning five more games, matching his 14 wins from his best season as a Brave in 2021.

His arsenal looked as fresh as ever in 2023, with his wipeout breaking stuff continuing to give opposing hitters fits. But injury problems plagued him late last season, and that could happen again, causing a step back in production in 2024. His numbers when he was on the mound don't suggest a step back, but again, his age does.

If he can keep that ERA below four, I think most Braves fans would be very happy with that, considering the edition of Chris Sale in the offsesaon means he'll probably open the season as the fourth starter.

Bryce Elder

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three
Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Speaking of back of the line starters, Bryce Elder had a very similar season on the mound to the one that Orlando Arcia had at the plate.

He was fantastic prior to the all-star break, putting up career numbers that led to his inclusion as a first-time all-star. The numbers at the end of the season, however, were not nearly as great.

His 2.93 ERA that got him an all-star nod soured to 5.11 in 13 starts after the break. His walks per nine went from 2.9 to 3.8 and when he kept it in the zone, he wasn't keeping anyone off the basepaths, with his hits per nine going from 7.9 to 8.8. His strikeouts per nine dropped from seven to 6.3.

He might not even get the fifth starting job because of the the regression he showed at the end of last season and with the acquisition of Reynaldo Lopez, who looks to get back in the starting rotation after several years in the bullpen.

If he does, however, I would expect numbers above a 4 ERA, which would mean regression from his season-ending 3.81 ERA.

Travis d'Arnaud

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two
Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

No matter what Travis d'Arnaud does in the rest of his career with the Bravos, he will be remembered fondly throughout Braves country. Hitting a home run in the World Series will do that for you.

But after an all-star 2022, the only selection of his career, he regressed massively in 2023, with his plate appearances being slashed almost in half amidst the arrival of Sean Murphy from Oakland.

Credit to the Braves front office for getting Murphy. I loved Murphy as a player, but I did question why they needed another catcher of that caliber with d'Arnaud back from an all-star season. They obviously saw something and in his age-34 season, he hit just .225 with a .685 OPS, an 83 WRC+ and a -7.2 offensive WAR.

I still think the Braves need him on this roster and he's still a solid platoon option that has proven he has the clutch gene. I just think that we could see Murphy get even more at-bats this year and d'Arnaud's at-bats continue to decline.

Ronald Acuña Jr.

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four
Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Okay I need to make a disclaimer before I get into this.

I do not think Ronald Acuña is going to have a bad season. Not in the slightest. I think he very well could win MVP again. And I hope he somehow finds a way to improve on last year.

But just looking at the numbers, I don't see how anyone can lean towards actually believing that. The man had a 1.012 OPS, a .337 batting average, led MLB with 149 runs while also getting 106 RBIs from the leadoff spot. Oh, and stole 73 bases, hit 41 home runs and walked the most of any year in his career (80). Light work.

I'd love for him to improve on those numbers. Because that almost guarantees him back-to-back MVPs. But I also think it's okay to think that he might not reach those high of numbers in 2024.

Barring injury though, you can book him for a +.300 average and +.900 OPS which would by definition be a regression. Yeah Braves fans, that's the guy you get to watch lead off every night. You could do a lot worse than that.

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