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Can Atlanta Braves Contend in NL East?

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With the 2015 MLB season fast approaching, Atlanta Braves fans all over the country are wondering if this new-look ball club can contend for a playoff spot.

The 2014 regular season was a complete disappointment for Braves fans, as they saw their playoff hopes slip away in September. During that month, the Braves managed to lose 16 of the 20 games they played.

The 2014-2015 offseason was just as lackluster as the finish to the regular season for fans. In an attempt to stockpile young talent for 2017, the year they will open up their new $622 million stadium, the Atlanta Braves shipped off key pieces of the team’s past success. Outfielders Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, along with catcher Evan Gattis and reliever Jordan Walden, were traded away for prospects that can hopefully produce in 2017.

It wasn’t a complete fire sale, however, as the Braves were able to pick up a few veterans this offseason that can help mentor their young talent. Players like outfielders Johnny Gomes and Nick Markakis, Catcher AJ Pierzynski, relievers Jim Johnson and Jason Grili, infielder Alberto Callaspo and starting Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez headline Atlanta’s offseason signees. They’ve all had their fair share of success at the Major League level, and they look to lead this 2015 Braves team in the right direction.

With all of the offseason acquisitions and departures, is it too far-fetched to think this 2015 Atlanta Braves team can compete for a playoff berth? Notice that I said berth and not National League East pennant, because the NL East is going to be loaded with talent this season.

The Washington Nationals, who took home the division title last season, are the favorite to win the division again. They managed to put together a record of 96-66 last year and look to do even more damage this time. The offseason acquisition of Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer has solidified their starting rotation as one of the best in the MLB. Add that to virtually the same lineup from last year, and you’ve got a team that is going to be tough to dethrone from atop the NL East.

There are other teams as well, such as the New York Mets and Miami Marlins, who could give the Braves fits this season. The Mets have a solid lineup and one of the better pitching rotations in the league, featuring young studs like NL Rookie of the year Jacob DeGrom, Zack Wheeler and one of the best pitchers in baseball in Matt Harvey.

The Miami Marlins also made a few big moves this offseason, as they acquired speedster second baseman Dee Gordon, power-hitting first baseman Michael Morse, utility man Martin Prado, future hall-of-fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and veteran right handed pitchers Matt Latos and Dan Haren. If the Marlins are still hanging around when ace right handed pitcher José Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery, look for this team to be a thorn in Atlanta’s side for the remainder of the season.

Photo Courtesy of Atlanta.brave.mlb.com

By Jacob Horton

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