The highly regarded National League East contending Atlanta Braves have to hope that injuries to starting right-handed pitcher Kyle Wright, and now left-hander Max Fried are only temporary setbacks.
Wright, 27, is currently on the Injured List with shoulder fatigue. Barring a setback, he is eligible to come off the Injured List April 11.
Fried, 29, strained his hamstring while covering first base during the team’s opening day victory over the Washington Nationals March 30. Braves manager Brian Snitker hopes Fried will only miss one start. However, hamstring issues can linger, and the Braves won’t be taking chances with their ace.
In addition to losing Wright and Fried, the Braves will be without right-handed closer Raisel Iglesias, 33, who has been dealing with a strained shoulder since early in spring training.
Lefty A.J. Minter, 29, has assumed the closer’s role in the absence of Iglesias.
The Braves are fortunate to have depth in their organizational pitching stable.
If the injuries to either Wright or Fried linger, Atlanta can turn to either right-handers Ian Anderson, 24, or 23-year-old Bryce Elder as possible replacements.
Both Anderson and Elder (briefly) have pitched at the big league level.
As they enter the first full week of the season, the Braves rotation will rely upon right-handed 2022 pitching sensation Spencer Strider, lefty rookie Jared Shuster, and veteran right-hander Charlie Morton to handle the starting pitching.
While the injuries to Wright, Fried, and Iglesias may not seem serious, or career threatening, they call upon on the very highly regarded Braves offense to put pressure on the opposition by maximizing their outstanding run scoring potential.
Few teams have a lineup as deep and as efficient as the Braves. Their batting order includes:
Ronald Acuna Jr.-RF-Bats Right
Matt Olson-1B-Bats Left
Austin Riley-3B-Bats Right
Marcell Ozuna-DH-Bats Right
Michael Harris II-CF-Bats Left
Ozzie Albies-2B-Bats Both
Sean Murphy-C-Bats Right
Eddie Rosario-LF-Bats Left
Orlando Arcia-SS-Bats Right
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud offers a very solid presence coming off the bench, or serving as the back-up catcher to newly acquired Sean Murphy.
The Braves offense is young, powerful, fast, and balanced with right-and left-handed hitters mixed strategically.
Acuna Jr., Olson, Riley, Albies, and Ozuna have All Star experience and are widely viewed among the best in the game in their particular roles.
Harris, who just turned 22, had a break out campaign last season. He hit .297/.339/.514/.853 with 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 75 runs scored, and 64 RBIs in 441 plate appearances. Harris stole 20 bases in 22 attempts. New Major League Baseball rules may lead to Harris greatly increasing his stolen base totals.
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National League East Competition:
Without question, the National League East is a division hosting a trio of high spending clubs, each with a vision of a World Championship this season.
In terms of payroll, according to Fangraphs, the Braves are sitting at $203 million. They increased their player compensation by $16 million from last season.
Recently, the Braves have made a tremendous commitment to providing stability to their roster. In 2022, they replaced pending free agent Freddie Freeman by trading for Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson. They signed Olson to an 8-year, $168 million contract.
This past offseason, the Braves signed third baseman Austin Riley to a 10-year, $212 million contract.
The Braves did not extend their free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, who signed with the Chicago Cubs for $177 million over 7 years. Now, Orlando Arcia takes over at shortstop.
New York Mets:
The Braves will have to contend with the New York Mets, who enter the season with a player payroll of $358 million. The payroll includes a 2-year deal for right-handed All Star Justin Verlander that is worth $88.667 million. However, Verlander is now on the Injured List with a low grade strain in his shoulder.
The Mets also signed outfielder Brandon Nimmo for 8-years at $162 million, Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga for 5-years at $75 million, and currently injured closer Edwin Diaz for 5-years at $102 million.
Those newly signed contracts are in addition to right-hander Max Scherzer’s 2-year, $130 million contract signed in 2022.
One can’t forget that shortstop Francisco Lindor was the first major acquisition under Mets owner Steven Cohen. Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million contract in 2022.
The same year Lindor signed, outfielder Starling Marte agreed to a 4-year, $78 million contract.
The Phillies enter the season with an estimated payroll of $243 million, or $1 million more than last year.
Along with Aaron Judge returning to the New York Yankees, the biggest MLB financial splash made in the MLB offseason, was the Phillies signing All Star free agent shortstop Trea Turner for 11-years at $300 million. In fact, Turner may have turned down an even larger contract from the San Diego Padres to move to Philadelphia.
Currently injured Bryce Harper, himself an All Star outfielder, is working on a 13-year, $330 million contract he signed in 2019.
Taking Turner away from the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent has strengthened the Phillies and put even more pressure on the Braves and Mets.
With a balanced schedule, all three NL East powerhouse clubs can’t count on feasting on the Washington Nationals or the improving Miami Marlins for wins. MLB has gone from each team playing 76 division games to 52 this coming season.
Each MLB team will now face each divisional rival only 13 times a season, as opposed to 19 in previous years.
Those fewer division games could make a huge difference.
The true wildcard for the Braves, Phillies and Mets may be how well each team competes in interleague play. Teams will be playing the other league in 46 games this year. In the past, there were only 20 interleague games scheduled per club.
The Atlanta Braves are facing the loss of starters Kyle Wright and Max Fried due to injuries.
If he recovers from shoulder fatigue, Wright is due to come off the Injured List April 11.
Fried tweaked a hamstring in the team’s opening game victory. He may miss one start, depending upon the severity of the strain.
Closer Raisel Iglesias is dealing with a shoulder strain. He may take some time to heal.
Few teams have the offensive firepower up and down their lineup as the Braves.
However, the three-way contest for supremacy in the highly competitive National League East requires consistent success in a new, balanced MLB schedule. The new schedule broadens each team’s competition to include fewer games against division rivals, and more games with the American League.
Update: On Saturday April 1, the Braves announced that Max Fried will be placed on the Injured List.