5 Rival Players Who Could Derail the Atlanta Braves Playoff Run

The Braves have been the best team in baseball over the 2023 season, becoming the first team to clinch a spot this postseason. While they have been dominant, there are a few players that could match up well, hindering the Braves' chances of a World Series.
Rich Schultz/GettyImages

With playoffs right around the corner, and the Braves already locked in, it should be smooth sailing until October. However, the toughest is yet to come. Currently, all teams have some talent to hinder Atlanta's potent lineup, especially in a short series. The Braves saw this last year, taking on a streaking Philadelphia Phillies team. While Atlanta has been the most dominant team in baseball, here are five players that could slow down their success.

1) Mookie Betts- L.A. Dodgers

Mookie Betts
Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Dodgers have been the closest team to taking to matching Braves throughout 2023. The two teams won the World Series in the last three years going through each other, and this season may be similar. Their consistent offense, led by Mookie Betts, has kept the Dodgers at the top of their division.

Betts seems to be the only real threat to Ronald Acuna Jr. for MVP, hitting and defending at an alarming rate. While Acuna is the frontrunner, Mookie has two more homers, six additional RBIs, and a .607 Slugging %. The right fielder also played 53 games in the middle infield, showcasing his defensive dynamics.

Mookie's success is more recent, after dominating over August. According to Baseball Reference, his current WAR is at 8.1, leading the majors. He has won two World Series with the Red Sox and Dodgers, giving him plenty of October experience. Watch him to be a force to reckon with come the postseason.

2) Brandon Woodruff- Milwaukee Brewers

Brandon Woodruff
Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The Brewers have a strong rotation that will make them hard to beat in any series. While the Brewers have two other capable pitchers of winning any game, recently, they got Brandon Woodruff back from the IL, and he hasn't missed a step.

The righty currently owns a 1.93 ERA with a 5-1 record. Over September, he has not allowed a run and will be fresh coming into the postseason. His last start was a complete game shutout of the Miami Marlins, where he needed only 106 pitches. If the Braves were to play the Brewers, he would be able to match up with Strider or Fried, potentially giving the Brewers a series lead.

The historical way to win in the playoffs is through deep pitching, and the Braves may have trouble in a short series with Milwaukee's rotation. Woodruff is getting hot at the right time and would be a dangerous pitcher to face if the Brewers and Braves were to match up.

3) Bryce Harper- Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper
Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

We have seen how dangerous Bryce Harper can be in the current series vs. the Phillies. On the first game of the doubleheader, with the Phillies last out, Harper hit a two-run shot to put the game into extra innings. Game three saw two hits with an RBI and a run to inch the Phillies closer.

The converted first basemen has been trending in the right direction, even as the Phillies have struggled recently. While they have lost a few games, they have played mostly within one run. Harper is the captain of the team, and if the whole lineup starts to contribute as he has, they will be difficult to knock out.

Harper's Phillies made the World Series as a wild-card team last year. They are a hard team to finish off, as shown in the previous year. Look for Bryce to raise his average over .300 and grab 20 home runs before the end of the season while bringing his talent to the postseason.

4) Freddie Freeman- L.A. Dodgers

Freddie Freeman
San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

The Dodgers, as stated, have one of the most complete lineups in baseball. Another reason is the overall consistency of Freddie Freeman, who has had a career year. Outside of 2023, he has won a World Series and MVP, showcasing plenty of playoff experience.

The former Brave is batting .339 with 121 runs on the season. He is in the top five in most statistical categories, owning a 6.3 bWAR. What separates him is his ability to use the whole field and work up the count. If the Dodgers need a hit, he may be the most reliable player in the league to get on base.

The Braves and Dodgers have a solid rivalry, with both getting the best of each other over the last few years. Los Angeles' addition of Freeman will surely add some fire in his belly should Atlanta matchup (again) with the Dodgers.

5) Cody Bellinger- Chicago Cubs

Cody Bellinger
Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs took a chance on one of baseball's most hot & cold players. Since Cody Bellinger joined the Cubs, Chicago has become a pesky young team that can do damage when hot. While it looked like the Cubs would trade Cody for assets, he was critical in keeping them in the playoff race.

The Center Fielder is currently batting .317 with 25 home runs in the leadoff spot. He is making good use of his contract, supplying a career-low strikeout rate. In September, he has knocked in 13 RBIs while consistently getting on base. Furthermore, he matches up well against righties and lefties, hitting over .300 against both.

The Braves probably would not mind playing the Cubs relative to other teams. However, Cody is leading the team to a much better season than anticipated. He is contributing both on offensive and defensive while significantly raising his value after the one-year deal. Look for him to stay motivated heading into the playoffs, increasing his value going into the off-season.