Last night MLB announced three finalists for four awards in both the American and National leagues. The Atlanta Braves had a dominant 2023 regular season, and because of that they have been rewarded with two award nominations.
One of these we saw as a lock, and while we suspected the other was a possibility it's nice to see it garner the national respect Braves country shared. Without further delay, let's break down each of the nominations.
Ronald Acuña Jr. NL MVP finalist
Ronald will battle a couple of Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL MVP in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Unfortunately, this means Braves first baseman Matt Olson just missed being named a finalist. Olson led MLB in home runs and RBI as well as producing a 160 wRC+ in 2023. The trio of finalists were the top three finishers in total fWAR, with Acuña Jr. and Betts tying for first with 8.3 fWAR (Freeman finished third with 7.9 fWAR) via Fangraphs. Although each player has a compelling argument, many see Ronald as the favorite to take home his first MVP. Betts previously won the award with the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and Freeman with the Braves in 2020.
Coming into the 2023 season, Atlanta Braves fans were hopeful Ronald Acuña Jr. could return to the MVP form he was in 2021 prior to his season ending knee injury. It was clear Acuña Jr. wasn't fully healthy in 2022, but he gutted through the season regardless.
This year was the best version of Ronald we have seen to date. He was the best player in baseball from game one, and his three separate NL player of the month awards showcase just how consistent he was all year. He cut his strikeout rate in half without sacrificing any of the speed or power he plays the game with, which just speaks to how absurdly talented he is.
Not only did Ronald reach new heights in his own career, he reached heights that had never been seen in baseball history. He was the first ever member of the 30 homer and 60 stolen base club, and that was just the beginning. By season's end Acuña Jr. became the only 40/70 player in history. It may not be by unanimous decision, but let's hope the betting market holds true and Ronald captures his first NL MVP award on November 16th.
Brian Snitker NL Manager of the Year finalist
Being selected for Manager of the Year is tougher than you would expect for leaders of the team with the best record. Especially when you consider the Braves were a popular pick by many pundits in the preseason to make it all the way to the World Series.
Often times this award instead goes to the manager who leads an unexpected team to a winning record or playoff spot. That is why many see Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker as the favorite. Even though Snitker was the man who penciled in the best home run hitting lineup of all-time for 162 games, that likely won't be enough to get him the award.
If you need further proof just look at the one time Snitker DID win the NL Manager of the Year award. That came in 2018, the first of the Braves six straight NL East titles, and the one that was the most unexpected. Still we will be rooting for Snit to capture this award for a second time, as he goes up against Schumaker and Craig Counsell (who just left the Brewers to become the Cubs manager). The winner will be announced on November 14th, 6:00 PM EST on MLB Network.