Atlanta Braves 2024 preview

Like so many others, I felt like a matchup between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers was inevitable in the NLCS. As it turned out, neither team made the NLCS, both losing to division rivals, as the Dodgers got swept by the Diamondbacks and the Braves felt deja vu with a 3-1 series loss to the Phillies for the second straight year.

The MLB playoffs are known for a high degree of variance, but the Braves won the division by 14 games over the Phillies in 2023 and 14 games in 2022. It was actually the Mets who tied for the NL East in 2022, but they fell off a cliff last season, leaving Atlanta with very little regular season resistance. But, as we know, teams like this are graded by what they do in October. After winning the 2021 World Series, the Braves have won 205 regular season games and two postseason games.


This season’s team is absolutely built for a run at the World Series and probably better-equipped for it. Spencer Strider seems to have somehow gotten better and recently-acquired southpaw Chris Sale has looked good in Spring Training. Of course, the question is whether or not he’ll stay healthy, but the Braves have more proven pitching depth after everything they went through last season and reunited with Adam Duvall for more of a bench presence.

The NL East has some decent teams, but it looks like the regular season is just a long warm-up for the playoffs once again.

2024 Atlanta Braves Odds

(odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 18)

World Series: +450

NL Pennant: +240

NL East: -240

Win Total: 101.5 (+100/-120)

Make Playoffs: Yes -1400 / No +900

Atlanta Braves Preview: Offense

Only the Dodgers are a bigger division favorite and have bigger “Yes” odds to make the MLB playoffs. It makes sense because the Braves are essentially running it back with the same offense that led the league by a large margin in HR, BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, and wRC+. The Braves hit 307 homers. Nobody else hit more than 249. The Braves batted .276. Nobody else was higher than .263. The Dodgers did come close in OBP, just four points behind Atlanta’s .344, but the Braves SLG was nearly 50 points higher.

Their 125 wRC+ tied the 1927 Yankees for the best offense ever by that metric. wRC+ is park and league-adjusted, which allows you to compare over multiple years and eras. The 2019 Astros had a 124 wRC+. It’s a fancy way of saying that the Braves were 25% better than league average as a collective unit.

So I will say this – coming off of an historic offensive season means that regression is likely coming in some respects. The Braves stayed insanely healthy on the position player side last season, so that was a tremendous help. They are running it back this season with every regular who had a 115 wRC+ or higher and all of those guys should be in the Opening Day lineup. There were seven of them who all had at least 438 plate appearances.

There were 86 players with a wRC+ of at least 115 and 400+ plate appearances and the Braves had seven of them. That’s genuinely insane. Duvall was not one of them…but that’s because his 116 wRC+ came in 353 plate appearances for the Red Sox. The Duvall/Jarred Kelenic platoon has the chance to be pretty nice as well, if Kelenic can be somewhat close to last season’s 108 wRC+ on the thick side of the platoon.

There just aren’t any weaknesses in this lineup. There’s an insane amount of depth. Even though the Braves did win the World Series in 2021 without Acuna, you’d certainly like to have the reigning NL MVP for the full season after he hit 41 homers and stole 73 bases. Acuna had a career-high 735 plate appearances and led the league in runs, hits, steals, and OBP.

Acuna shrunk his K% down to 11.4% from 23.6%, which does not get talked about nearly enough. He didn’t sacrifice any contact quality and actually walked more than he did in 2022. What a special player.

I think the craziest part to me is that, outside of some natural regression, probably from a guy like Marcell Ozuna (41 HR) or Matt Olson, who hit 54 HR last season, there aren’t really any outlandishly lucky stats. Nobody carried an obscene batting average on balls in play. To me, I think it’s just health and a little less power that will pull the Braves somewhat closer to reality.

Atlanta Braves Preview: Pitching

The Braves scored 5.8 runs per game last season and needed more of them than they probably thought that they would. The pitching staff finished 15th in ERA at 4.14 and eighth in FIP at 4.10. You rarely see a team get 30+ starts from three guys and still use 16 different starting pitchers, but Max Fried only made 14 starts and Kyle Wright battled injuries, so the depth guys were in a state of flux all season long.

Strider had a 3.86 ERA with a 3.09 xERA and a 2.85 FIP, as some unfortunate sequencing got the best of him. He only had a 70.3% LOB%, which is extremely low for a guy with his strikeout prowess. Now that he’s added a curveball to his repertoire, I think there’s an excellent chance that he breaks through and wins the NL Cy Young.

Wily vet Charlie Morton made 30 starts and covered 163.1 innings with a solid 3.64 ERA and a 3.87 FIP. After thinking about retirement a few years ago with the Rays, Morton keeps on chugging and this will be his age-40 season. This is the end of his two-year, $40 million deal, so it could be a retirement tour of sorts. He had a 14.1% BB% in the second half last season, so I’m a little bit concerned about Father Time taking a toll. He’s the potential weak link in the rotation for me.

Regression found Bryce Elder over the course of the season, as he finished with a 3.81 ERA, 4.61 xERA, and a 4.42 FIP. He was sent down from big league camp on Mar. 18, so obviously the Braves saw some concerns as well. They opted to go with newcomer Reynaldo Lopez as the fifth starter, even though he hasn’t started full-time since 2020. 

A couple of southpaws could be the key to the rotation. Fried was outstanding in those 14 aforementioned starts, but the Braves will hope for better health this season He made 30 starts and had a 2.48 ERA with a 2.70 FIP in 2022. If he does that, this team would be a favorite to win 105+ games if we’re being honest. He’s also in a contract year, so he’s extra motivated.

I think the Sale move is super intriguing, especially because the Braves have been ahead of the curve in so many ways at the MLB level. They were one of the first to really go all-in with launch angle changes to generate more power and they’ve been the most aggressive when it comes to locking up young, budding superstars. I think they’ve also done a nice job of adding some velo with their pitchers and also optimizing pitch usage.

Sale only really throws two pitches, but he gets away from Fenway Park and has the chance to do something really special here. I don’t know if Sale will stay healthy. His 102.2 innings were more than double his output over 2020-22 and he’s going to turn 35 three days into the start of the season. I guess he’s been throwing his changeup a little more in the Spring than usual, so maybe he’ll be a 2.5-pitch pitcher and potentially a real weapon for the Braves.

The bullpen is full of last year’s faces, plus Aaron Bummer from the White Sox. It’s a solid group that was just outside the top in ERA last season, but finished seventh in FIP. I expect they’ll be good again and they like to get relief arms at the Trade Deadline if need be.

Atlanta Braves Player to Watch

SP AJ Smith-Shawver

Smith-Shawver started last season at High-A, but wound up making his MLB debut by the end of the year. He made 20 starts across four different levels and allowed 12 earned runs on 17 hits with 20 strikeouts against 11 walks in 25.1 innings at the MLB level. He is the top prospect in the Braves org and a top-100 prospect per FanGraphs, so he’ll likely be back up very soon.

It looks like the Braves may have added a little bit of velo, as he sat 97 and touched 99 in his Spring Training start against the Phillies. His PITCHf/x and Baseball Savant data showed that his mechanics and release point seem to have been cleaned up and he actually generated more Extension per Michael Baumann of FanGraphs. There’s a good chance that he’s ready by crunch time for Atlanta and he’s a really exciting young arm.

Atlanta Braves Season Win Total Odds & Prediction

The floor is absurdly high for this team and the ceiling may very well be also. The NL East is a decent division, but not a spectacular one and the Braves are very likely to win it by margin once again. The Phillies are the main threat and their offense is good, but it isn’t on the same level as Atlanta’s.

The problem is that I don’t see any line equity on betting the Over on 101.5 wins. If anything, the only thing that makes sense to do would be to bet the Under, in the event that injuries happen. There is not a whole lot of margin for error on a team to win 102 wins. On average, you’ll get a couple of teams per season at most that do that because it takes a lot of good health and good performance.

The Braves pitching staff looks stronger this season, especially if Fried can stay healthy. But, they had arguably the best offense of all-time last season and won 104 games. The MLB season is 187 days. They spent 185 in first place. It takes a lot to have expectations as high as these are for the Braves. They may very well meet them, but I won’t have any bets on them doing so.

Slight Lean: Under 101.5

Get all of our preseason coverage in the 2024 MLB Betting Guide.