With just a little over two weeks into the 2024 MLB season, the Atlanta Braves are once again the leaders of their NL East division, currently sitting at 9-5. While it's not surprising to see the Braves back atop their division, which they've owned for the last six seasons, there are some things about this year's team that have stood out and been surprising.

Spencer Strider goes down for the season

Let's get the most obvious one out of the way first, starting with the injury to Spencer Strider. Strider was set for another huge year, coming off his impressive 2022 season where he struck out 281 batters. He even added to his arsenal this season with a curveball to go with his heater and slider.

However, Braves fans only got two games and nine total innings of work from Strider this season. Those two bad outings led to complaints in the elbow of his throwing arm, which quickly drew fears that turned into the traumatic reality when it was determined he needed the dreaded Tommy John surgery.

With the pace at which talented pitchers like Strider are starting to go down with arm injuries, perhaps this isn't really that surprising. However, to only get two games out of the Braves' top pitcher is overly disappointing, not to mention it's a huge blow to the Braves' World Series chances, to which they were made heavy favorites heading into the season. No matter how you put it, losing your best starting pitcher will always be a huge surprise to any team.

The Braves get blown out by the Mets

While you can never truly know how each series will play out, especially between division rivals like the Braves and the Mets, no one may have expected just how lopsided Atlanta's first season series loss would be to New York.

The Mets came on the anniversary of Hank Aaron's 1974 home run record-setting 715th homer and beat the Braves 8-7. The Braves then barely edged out the Mets the following night 6-5, but the game was postponed the next night due to inclement weather. The Braves then got trounced 16-4 during a business-man's special.

The 16-4 beating came at the expense of Allan Winans, who was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett in place of Strider. After giving up eight hits, seven runs, two walks, and one homer in five innings of work in the loss, he was then sent back down the following day.

The Mets, even with their still massive payroll this season, are not expected to be competitors, but they gave the Braves all they could handle in their first meeting of the young 2024 season.

Where's the NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr.?

Mar 31, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna, Jr (13) runs to first base after drawing a walk during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the year last season, Ronald Acuna Jr. was already on his impressive tear, proving he was the National League's best player. On the way to his 40/70 season, in his first 12 games, Acuna had two homers, five stolen bases, and was slashing .340/.431/.500 with nine strikeouts in 58 plate appearances, per FanGraphs. At just 12 games into this season, the Braves' left fielder has six stolen bases, zero home runs, and is slashing .255/.375/.298 with 14 strikeouts in 56 plate appearances.

It's important to remember that it's still very early in the season. Still, as much as we've heard about Acuna being on another mission to get the Braves back to the World Series, his slow start has to come off as a bit surprising. In fact, this has turned into a bit of a carryover from Spring Training, where he had no homers, six strikeouts, and eight hits in 32 plate appearances.

Marcell Ozuna is on fire so far this season

Apr 12, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna (20) reacts after hitting a home run against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning at loanDepot Park.
© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Marcell Ozuna is trying to make everyone forget about the tough time he had at the beginning of last season. In his first 12 games last season, Ozuna had just three hits, all of which were homers, in 46 plate appearances, and was slashing a putrid .075/.196/.225. It's a wonder he wasn't designated for assignment.

Ozuna managed to figure something out after that first month of play last season where he managed to keep himself on the Braves' roster, obviously. Starting this season, however, he's doing the complete opposite, making it even to where Braves might be inclined to extend his contract. Off to a red-hot start, the Braves designated hitter is at or near the top in most offensive categories for the Braves this season. He's first in hits (18), homers (6), RBI (16), and slugging percentage (.760).

If you've watched Ozuna long enough, though, you know how streaky of a hitter he can be. For the Braves' sake, they will just have to hope he stays consistent throughout the season and does not have the opposite effect from last year and drop off after this hot start.