Miami Marlins Season Preview: Predicting the NL East

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#4 – Atlanta Braves – 2014: 79-83, tied for 2nd in the National League East

Projected Lineup: 2B Jace Peterson, RF Nick Markakis, LF Carlos Quentin, 1B Freddie Freeman, 3B Chris Johnson, SS Andrelton Simmons, CF Cameron Maybin

Projected Starters: Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller, Trevor Cahill, Eric Stults

Hello, I’d like to introduce you to the Atlanta Braves, because this isn’t quite the same team that you last saw at the end of last season. Gone are Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis, as the Braves have stripped down a team that had made the Wild Card back in 2012 to one prepped to rebuild. The Atlanta front office believed that Fredi Gonzalez (he who has the leadership ability of a cardboard box) took that group as far as they could have gone, so now it’s time to look forward as the Braves are set to move into a new ballpark in 2017, replacing the out of date Turner Field, which opened all the way back in 1997. 

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  • How it can go right: The staple of the Braves franchise over the last 25 years has been pitching, and this year’s edition is no exception. Teheran, Wood, and Miller lead a rotation that can carry Atlanta on a night when their bats aren’t clicking, while holding things down until Mike Minor is able to return sometime in May. If the pitching staff can have a super-human effort, they can be very annoying to the top teams in the division.

    How it can go wrong: If they trade closer Craig Kimbrel on the eve of Opening Day, but they would never do that.

    Wait, they did what???

    The Braves traded their All-Star closer and Melvin (BJ) Upton to the Padres for Maybin, Quentin, and prospects, thus completing the overall of the roster. While losing Upton is no big deal – the Braves might be better off with Kate Upton out there – giving up Kimbrel now makes thing interesting at the end of the bullpen. Kimbrel and his 186 career saves, striking out an absurd 476 batters in 289 innings, while sporting an ERA of 1.61 will be hard for the Braves to replace.

    To make matters worse, the Braves were 29th in runs scored last season and now they’ll be without 86 of their 123 home runs with the departures of Heyward, Gattis, and the Upton Brothers (although they did replace Melvin with a cheaper version of him), so runs are definitely going to be at a premium for them. This could get ugly.

    First month (or so) of games: @Miami (3), Mets (3), Miami (3), @Toronto (3), @Mets (3), @Philadelphia (3), Washington (3), Cincinnati (4)

    18 division games during April will give the Braves plenty of chances to get off on the right foot, as wins against their rivals might be a nice confidence boost for a team many will leave for dead after Sunday’s deal. Depending on how you feel about the Marlins and Mets, the Braves have a punchers chance to make it out of April on the right side of .500.

    Win/Loss Predication: 73-89. Looking at the bright side is all you can do with this year’s Braves, as without anything resembling a coherent offense, they are going to be a mess. Pitching can only take you so far, but with questions on offense and having to replace an all-world closer, this is going to be a long year.

    Next: New York Mets