Atlanta Braves' best-case, worst-case and most realistic scenarios for 2024

Atlanta Braves players, from left, Marcell Ozuna, Orlando Arcia and Ronald Acuna, Jr. joke around
Atlanta Braves players, from left, Marcell Ozuna, Orlando Arcia and Ronald Acuna, Jr. joke around / Mike Lang / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Atlanta Braves, the presumptive best or second-best team in the National League (and likely all of baseball?), are set up well for success in 2024 and beyond. Here's how things might go very, very right -- or slightly off kilter -- this season.

2024 Atlanta Braves' best-case scenario

Coming off a major league-leading 104-win season in 2023, the Braves’ best-case scenario is self-evident: win the World Series. There’s no reason why Braves executives, players and fans shouldn’t feel that way.

The Braves begin 2024 with all but one regular back from that NL East championship team. The list includes the reigning NL Most Valuable Player in Ronald Acuña Jr., a 50-home run guy in first baseman Matt Olson, four 100-RBI guys in Acuña, Olson, Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna, plus third baseman Austin Riley and catcher Sean Murphy.

Four of the five rotation starters return, including 2023 strikeout leader Spencer Strider. The fifth slot is designated for Chris Sale, acquired in a trade with Boston. Sale hasn’t been worth much since 2018, but reports out of Florida say he’s healthy and back to his old self. If true – feel free to be skeptical – Atlanta is very much a team with no apparent holes.

That means a division title is certainly within reach. The postseason? Atlanta fans know better than any that postseason ball is a crapshoot; they won it all as a wild card in 2021, but went out early as favorites in 2022 and 2023.

2024 Atlanta Braves' Worst-Case Scenario

In the face of all that talent, what could possibly go wrong? Injuries for one. Acuña’s spring work has already been set back by what is described as a ‘minor knee injury,’ as if there is such a thing. His wheels are a large part of his game, so a recurring issue could put a serious hurt on Atlanta’s star.

Next let’s talk about age. Charlie Morton is 40, and although he made 30 starts last season, 40 is still an intimidating number for a pitching arm.

Marcell Ozuna enjoyed a major rebound at DH in 2023, completing easily his best full season since 2018. But he’ll be 33, he’s rapidly losing one of his best assets (speed), and his strikeout numbers rose to levels not seen since 2017. The assumption is that the .905 OPS with 40 home runs and 100 RBI that Ozuna produced last season will be replicated in 2024, but what if he reverts to recent form?

The same is true of Olson. Obviously 54 home runs and 139 RBI – league-leading totals both – are impressive. But what if that was Olson’s career season? Prior to 2023, he’d averaged 32 home runs and 87 RBI in his five full seasons. How good will the Braves be if that’s Olson’s 2024 line?

Finally, there’s the great unknown: how well will the rotation hold up. Strider and Bryce Elder are both flame-throwing 25 year olds, which means they are prime candidates for elbow or shoulder issues. To make 2024 the type of banner season the team envisions, a sort of four-way pitching parlay is required: Strider and Elder have to stay healthy, Morton has to stay forever young, and Sale has to find the Chris Sale of a decade ago.  

It's a plausible bet, but how often do four-way parlays break down? If any one of those four elements goes kaput, the question will be what’s A.J. Smith-Shawver doing?

Most realistic scenario for 2024 Atlanta Braves

Assuming Acuña is Acuña, Olson and Ozuna don’t recede too badly, Sale and Morton are at least decent, and the fates don’t deliver crushing blows to Strider, Elder or both, there’s no reason to project anything short of massive success from the Braves again in 2024.

Can they match their 104-win total of last season? Probably, but they don’t have to. Atlanta won the division by 14 games last season. The win total they’re worried about is 11: that’s three victories in the division series, four in the NLCS and four in the World Series. 

Braves fans don’t need to be told how hard it is to count to 11 in October.

The Cubs' Cody Bellinger deal makes sense for both sides (