The Nats are young and will be even better this season—I just see the Braves being better.
The back end of Atlanta’s bullpen is unrivaled in the Majors, with Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel mowing down batters at the end of games.
Kimbrel could be the first closer to win the Cy Young since Eric Gagne did so in 2003, and his presence at the end of games gives the starters and the offense the confidence to play loose and relaxed throughout a game.
Atlanta’s rotation is one of the best in the NL as well. Kris Medlen had a ridiculous second half of the season last year, at one point winning 13 games in a row. At 27 years old, he stands to improve this coming season.
Tim Hudson is the reliable veteran presence in the rotation and the undoubted leader of that bullpen. He’s not a bad pitcher either, winning 16 games last year with a 3.62 ERA.
Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and a gang of Braves prospects who seem to constantly make an impact at the Major League level will help compose yet another top National League pitching staff for the Braves.
The Braves will obviously miss Michael Bourn, arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game, but they think they have found an adequate replacement in center field in B.J. Upton.
Upton’s consistency at the top of the lineup will be the key for Atlanta this season, as he was prone to lapses in concentration during his time in St. Pete. But if he can play up to his potential and never take a game off mentally, he should free up opportunities for Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman, who will follow him up.
Atlanta will face an intense division race with the Nationals and possibly the bounce-back Phillies, but their outstanding pitching will carry their average offense into the playoffs.
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Washington Nationals (Wild Card)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Miami Marlins
5. New York Mets
Daily MLB Predictions
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