Building a dream Atlanta Braves lineup for the 2024 season…

Building a dream Atlanta Braves lineup for the 2024 season.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals

How does one of the most prolific offenses in MLB history improve? We make an attempt to form the most powerhouse Braves lineup ever to exist.

How do you ascend when you already sit atop the throne? The 2023 Atlanta Braves offense set so many records we began to lose track. They tied the MLB single-season home run record (307), and set the record for team slugging percentage in a single season (.501) en route to their 104-win year. How could they possibly improve that?

Well, to start, Atlanta’s lineup is filled with young position players who may not have even reached their full potential yet. Next, there is a vacant spot in left field that could host a more productive everyday player in 2024. Lastly, there is a sneaky infield position that could be upgraded if the Braves have the opportunity presented to them.

And while this article is about a “dream” Braves lineup, we are going to keep this within the realm of possibility. Meaning, as badly as I want Shohei Ohtani in Atlanta, the realistic part of me is going to keep him out of this potential lineup. If all things break the way Atlanta hopes, then this lineup below could be the result.

Ronald Acuña Jr. – Right Field

Although there will be a couple of differences between this projected lineup and the 2023 lineup, there will be no difference at the top. In fact, if you were to ask the other 29 MLB teams who their dream leadoff hitter is, I am certain reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. would be a popular answer.

Coming off unanimous MVP honors, RAJ is one of the most feared hitters in the league, full stop. No plausible scenario for the Braves could result in anything other than Acuña Jr. leading off once again in 2023. How do you possibly improve from the only 40/70 season in MLB history? How about 50/75, anyone? I don’t put anything out of the realm of possibility for Ronald.

Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies

Ozzie Albies – Second Base

The spark plug second baseman for the Braves may not be your prototypical, high OBP two-hole hitter, but sometimes it’s a matter of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The idea of Ozzie protecting Matt Olson with his elite right-handed bat is a sound form of logic.

However, Albies and Acuña Jr. have an amazing power-speed combo to immediately strike fear into any starting pitcher. Meanwhile, Riley and Olson had the second-most instances of back-to-back home runs in a single season since 1961, per Sarah Langs.

Austin Riley – Third Base

Sometimes lost in the shuffle of the offensive dominance from 2023 is the steady bat of Austin Riley. Since his breakout 2021 campaign, Riley has posted three straight 30+ homer, 90+ RBI, and 127 wRC+ or better seasons. Hence why he has earned top-seven MVP honors each year since 2021.

In a turn of events, Riley’s defense improved so much that he graded as positive defender for the first time in his career. His 5.2 fWAR in 2023 makes him a staple in the half of the Atlanta order for years to come.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson – First Baseman

While a small contingent of Braves fans may have been a little underwhelmed by Matt Olson’s inaugural season with Atlanta (I wasn’t one of them for the record), Olson left no doubt about his capability in 2023. His fourth-place finish in NL MVP voting came from his season-long display of power.

Olson played in all 162 games, slashed .283/.389/.604, and led all of baseball in home runs with 54 of them. Those 54 homers along with 139 RBI also set a franchise record. In the early portion of the year, Olson hit in the two-hole but his season really took off when he was moved to cleanup, so I expect no lineup adjustment for the top half in 2024.

Marcell Ozuna – Designated Hitter

The ultimate turnaround took place in 2023 with the Braves designated hitter. Marcell Ozuna was probably one bad week of baseball away from being DFA’d. But as many know by now a hot streak down in Miami sprung the Ozuna comeback season.

His numbers by season’s end were some of the best in his 11-year career. Ozuna reached the 40 HR and 100 RBI threshold on the last day of the season, something no fan expected when he had a .095 batting average in late April.

Jorge Soler – Left Field

After the Braves declined to pick up Eddie Rosario’s $9 million option for 2023, they left themselves in need of a replacement left fielder. As I pondered who could fill the void in left field, a couple of names that have been rumored popped into my mind immediately. If the Braves prefer the defense and contact they could go the route of free agent Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

However, knowing how Alex Anthopoulos has prioritized building this team around the ability to hit a baseball very hard, a reunion seems possible. Thus the Braves could insert Jorge Soler back into the fold. Soler declined his option with Miami so this move won’t come without cost. Fortunately, AA said payroll is going up so this reunion isn’t an impossible task.

Michael Harris II

Michael Harris II – Center Field

The former NL Rookie of the Year has had an amazing start to his career. Last year MH2 was pretty much entrenched in the ninth spot in the order for the majority of the season. However, Harris is too talented to remain there for much longer. That thinking warrants moving Harris II up to the seventh spot. Still not a ton of pressure on MH2’s shoulders but now it would present him more opportunities to drive in runs which he has the ability to do.

Ultimately, the bottom half of the lineup will fluctuate based on who’s hot and cold though. Given MH2’s steady improvement and abundance of talent m, I expect him to move up in this Braves lineup.

Sean Murphy – Catcher

New backstop Sean Murphy had a tale of two halves in his first year as a Brave. In the first half, he looked like an MVP candidate, in the second half he wore down a little. Some of that may have been due to a slight hamstring strain and regularly catching games in the Atlanta heat for the first time in his big league career.

In 2024 Murphy will come into the year expected to continue his plus defensive ways, and the offensive production will pretty much be gravy on top. That said, we saw how capable Sean is at the plate in the first half when he looked like an MVP candidate. If we get more of that, Murphy can slot as high as fifth in the lineup.

Orlando Arcia – Shortstop

It was hard not to flirt with the idea of upgrading the shortstop position considering the second half we saw the true Orlando Arcia. Imagining someone like Willy Adames who is a plus defender and has that 82nd percentile Barrel% to pair is enticing.

However, Arcia is a great defender and not a total zero at the plate; That along with the very low AAV $2.4 million through 2025 at least is enough to keep Arcia in Atlanta hitting in the most low-pressure spot in the Braves’ dream lineup.

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