Atlanta Braves: Which Braves player could disappoint next season?
While it would be great if everyone on the Atlanta Braves roster went wild and exceeded our wildest expectations, the reality is that that is very unlikely to happen. Someone is going to have a down year or slump at the worst time or deal with a nagging injury. It is just the nature of the game and the teams that can limit those sorts of issues over a long season are the ones that usually find the most success.
However, it is worth wondering about where the potential weak spots and underachievers on the roster could be, so I asked the staff who they thought could underperform in 2023. Unlike some of our other roundtable articles, I left this one open-ended and open to interpretation. No one thinks that the players they name are terrible, incapable of a good season, or couldn't be great down the line. This is merely a thought exercise about where we could see some disappointment for next season. Enjoy!
Eric: I hate betting against any Braves, but I will go with Kyle Wright. That isn’t to say that I think Wright will have a bad season, but I think his 20 win campaign has created some unfair expectations for him. I think he will be a perfectly serviceable rotation arm, but with his track record, I remain unconvinced that he is going to light the world on fire.
Sam: Underperform is an interesting concept. Does it mean perform worse than last year, or worse than his projections based on XSTATS? If it is how they performed last year, it has to be Kyle Wright. His Statcast numbers see him having a drop off if he were to pitch the same way again. On top of that, he relies heavily on the ground ball. With a limited shift, it is virtually guaranteed we will see a drop-off.
Fred: Grissom: As much as the Braves say Grissom can handle the position, I think he lacks the range and hasn’t displayed the baseball IQ to handle the position full time. Good shortstops read the game and adjust their position - and the infield - to the game they see. Grissom’s going to depend on a piece of paper in his back pocket. Swanson hid some of Riley’s defensive shortcomings, but I don’t believe Grissom can do that. The result is a team weaker on the left side and up the middle. I really hope I’m wrong. I had a problem with this question because underperformance can mean so many things.
Chase: I hope we can look back on this piece and see how wrong I was in my prediction. However, baseball is such a tough sport, there will always be someone underperforming no matter how deep a team is. For this one I’m going with Travis d’Arnaud. I love everything about Travis, but he is aging and I think the bat starts to regress a little, possibly enough to the point we see someone else getting the majority of ABs at DH by season's end.
Mitchell: If we’re looking simply at projections for next year, I think it’s got to be Vaughn Grissom. Steamer projects him to have a 2.2 fWAR season in just 110 games. Just looking at his defense at 2B (-5 OAA in just 347 innings) and his offensive drop off at the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him have a wRC+ in the low 90s with negative defensive value at SS.
Trent: There are a few guys, that in the event they do disappoint, we could have some issues for the Braves. Can Grissom perform at SS? Can Kyle Wright replicate 2022 or was it an outlier? Does Matt Olson take a step forward in year 2 in Atlanta? A guy that I am seeing a lot of high expectations for, and rightfully so, is Spencer Strider. Which is why I could argue he is a candidate to underperform in 2023. I am seeing people talk about him for Cy Young in 2023 and he has the talent for it. However, this is a guy with 134 career innings in the majors. We have seen even the most talented players get hit with a sophomore slump. To be clear, I still think Strider will be very good in 2023 and for his career, but it would not shock me if he did not reach the lofty expectations I am seeing made by some.
Davis: Talking about potential underperformers for your favorite team is never an easy topic. However, if I were to make a judgment call based on last season’s numbers, projections, and even just a general hunch, I’d say the 2023 underperformer will be Travis d’Arnaud. The Braves, up until now, have done a fantastic job awakening something in both d’Arnaud’s bat and glove that hadn’t seemed to be quite there for most of his major league career. However, with the addition of Sean Murphy likely to significantly cut into d’Arnaud’s time behind the plate, the logjam at left field needing some at-bats at DH, and d’Arnaud’s 34 years of age, I would reasonably expect a dip in production along with playing time. A 3.9 fWAR in 2022 was never going to be sustainable.
Colin: While I don’t want to see any Braves players underperform, I would have to go with Vaughn Grissom on this one. While the front office has shown nothing but praise for him, I don’t believe he is quiet yet ready to take on a larger role on the Braves’ active roster. I think he needs a little more time to learn the system and improve his play, and with that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t named to a starting position on Opening Day. I would love to be proven wrong though.
Matt: Vaughn Grissom. I still think Grissom has a good season for the Braves in 2023, but there are a lot of expectations surrounding the former top prospect as he takes over for long-time starter Dansby Swanson at shortstop.