I will admit that my Atlanta bias played a role in putting the Braves ahead of the Marlins. But if I had written this article a few weeks ago, even I wouldn't have put the Braves here. However, there are some reasons to have hope for the Braves this year.
If Casey Kotchman can play decently (which he did not do after coming to the Braves last season) then the Braves can have a very dangerous infield with Chipper Jones, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, and Brian McCann.
The outfield is full of what-if's for the Braves.
If Jeff Francoeur can return to form and develop into the elite player the Braves hope he can be than this outfield looks at least decent.
The big "if" though, has to do with who will get most of the playing in left field and center field. Top prospects Schaefer and Heyward could play a role. Heyward is a seriously talented prospect, but may not quite be ready for the majors since he was drafted just two years ago.
Not having Tim Hudson for most of the year is a big blow to the rotation. But the signings of Lowe, Vazquez, and Japanese pitcher Kawakami mean that the rotation could be solid. Last year's rookie success Jair Jurjens also returns.
The Brave's bullpen actually looks pretty good overall. If things go the way the Braves hope, this team could be surprising, but it could also end up third or fourth in the division again.