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N.L. East Preview: Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves

This season will be a shortened one for sure, but I still think baseball will begin around June/July. The stadiums might be empty or half empty, but I do not think they will cancel the season. So, let’s talk baseball! The N.L. East was the best division last year. You could argue for the A.L. East or even the N.L Central. However, the Nationals won the World Series and they did not even come in first in the division. The N.L. East only had one team under .500 and almost had 3 teams make the playoffs (as the Mets were only 3 GB of the Brewers for the second wildcard spot). So how will the best division in the league shape out this upcoming season? I will take this one team at a time and start from the top… the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves

Hitting

The Atlanta Braves finished 1st in the division last season and their hitting was the main reason. They finished 7th in the league in Runs Scored and 9th in Batting Average. Atlanta not only has very good young talent, but they also are a very deep team. Their biggest loss was Josh Donaldson, who came in 11th in the MVP voting last year. While this is a huge loss, they did look to replace him with their bane of the NLDS last year, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna will most likely take over Donaldson’s spot in the lineup while we could see Johan Camargo or Austin Riley take his spot at third base. The 23-year-old Riley showed a lot of talent in his rookie season with 49 RBIs and 18 dingers in just 80 games played. While Donaldson’s MVP type season will be a hard loss, I think between Acuna Jr., Freeman, Albies, Ozuna, Riley etc., the Braves’ lineup is still in very good shape.

Starting Rotation

Pitching-wise, the Braves’ starting rotation was just below average last year, with a team ERA of 4.20 (19th in the league). Mike Soroka was their biggest bright spot. Soroka had an ERA of 2.68 and 13 wins. He was second in the Rookie of the Year voting and 6th in the Cy Young voting. The 22-year-old from Calgary picked up where he left off and was having a very good Spring before everything got shut down. To boost their rotation, the Atlanta picked up former World Series MVP veteran, Cole Hamels. Hamels will replace Dallas Keuchel, who went 8-8 last year with a 3.75 ERA. I think Hamels will do slightly better, after all, he is going to one of the best fielding teams in the league from one of the worst fielding teams in the league (Cubs). Hamels was dealing with a shoulder injury but was deemed pain-free on April 7th by Braves GM, Alex Anthopoulos. This delayed start should suit the 36-year-old Hamels well.

Bullpen

As for the bullpen, the Braves will be sticking with their midseason additions Mark Melancon and Shane Greene and bringing in Will Smith from the Giants. Smith was great last year for the struggling Giants, with an ERA of 2.76 and 34 Saves. There will be some friendly competition for the closer position between Smith and Melancon, who are former Giants teammates. I think the edge will go to Smith because of Melancon’s post-season woes, but time will tell. The Braves bullpen was 11th in ERA last year and I think with the addition of Smith they will improve slightly.

Prediction

Overall, I expect a slight improvement and a 3rd straight division title.

2019 Win Percentage: .599

2020 Win Percentage Prediction: .617


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