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The Braves have plenty of weapons and plenty of questions, but to me the positives outweigh the potential issues. Throw in the fact that the Braves get to play the Mets and Marlins over 40 times, and things are looking good for them.
In the NL East the top contender is the Nationals. The Nats have the best team in the game right now, as they have a strong rotation, bullpen and lineup. They also have youngsters ready to take the next step in their development, just like the Braves. A rotation starting with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman and a lineup featuring power and speed means they will be tough competition until the end.
The Phillies are a dark horse candidate to compete this year, and that is on the strength of a pitching staff led by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Sure the lineup is old and on the decline, but there is still talent there with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. If they can stay healthy and hit enough, they could be a contender right up until the end.
The Mets surprised many last year by exceeding expectations for most of the year before fading towards the end. Their ability to do the same this year may be limited by dealing R.A. Dickey and having to deal with potential injury issues with Johan Santana. The Mets have the worst outfield in all of baseball with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and Lucas Duda, but there is plenty of hope for the future with a bunch of young talent near the big leagues.
The Marlins are in the running for the worst team in the game after breaking up their team to rebuild, yet again. Right now the team has Giancarlo Stanton, Ricky Nolasco and little else. The Marlins will need some luck just to stay out of the basement this year.
Prediction: 96-66, 2nd in the NL East to the Nationals
The Braves have plenty of talent, but the Nationals have just as much if not more. The thing that puts the Nationals over the Braves to me is the fact that the Nationals have a pair of true aces in Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, along with a borderline third in Jordan Zimmerman. However, the gap between these teams is very slim, and this race should go to the end as a very tight one.