We continue our roundtable series with a look at where the Atlanta Braves stand currently in the NL East. The division as a whole was very busy this offseason and could be one of the strongest in the majors. The Nationals possess one of the best rotation’s in baseball but lost an MVP candidate in Anthony Rendon. Joe Girardi replaces Gabe Kapler in Philly and inherits a talented roster. The Mets have the starting pitching to compete with anyone and the Marlins’ rebuild is looking to take a step forward. There will be no shortage of storylines for teams in the NL East in 2020.
After all of the offseason moves, where do you think the Braves stand in the NL East?
Ivan - For the first time in many years, the Braves could enter 2020 with a legitimate argument to be the frontrunners in the division. Talent-wise, you could make a case for three teams to be the best in the NL East, but the Mets are (and have already) Mets-ed, so it seems like a toss-up between the Braves and Nationals at this point. Which, let me tell you, is way better than any preseason expectation I can remember going back a long way, which ties into my answer about a “successful” offseason above.
Scott Coleman - This is arguably the best division in baseball and it’s going to be a real grind. I actually think the Mets are the bigger threat than the Nationals at this point with the possibility of a hangover following their title run. I’ll take the Braves by a nose, but I think all four clubs (ATL, WAS, NYM, PHI) eclipse 81 wins next year, not to mention Miami will be tougher than in recent years.
Eric Cole - For the last three seasons, I have been the resident optimist about the Braves’ chances in these predictions, but the climate is definitely a bit different this go around. I am honestly not sure if this Braves squad is better than last year’s team given the nature of the team’s acquisitions and the loss of Josh Donaldson was a big one. However, I still think the Braves are the best team in the division. The Mets roster has some talent, but there is also a lot of discord around that club, there are holes on that roster that didn’t get filled, and they also lost Zack Wheeler to the Phillies. The Nationals will perennially contend and may be the favorites for the wild card, but they lost Anthony Rendon and Max Scherzer’s injury issues last year are concerning. The Phillies are the wild card, but I still don’t like that club defensively and while the rotation has improved, I don’t think their improvements were quite enough to catch the Braves.
Kris Willis - I picked the Braves as a wild card team in this space last season and they proved me wrong totaling 97 wins despite a leaky bullpen. The entire division has been busy this offseason but I think Atlanta will enter the 2020 season as the favorite given the Nationals’ loss of Anthony Rendon. You can make the case that the NL East will be the toughest division in baseball but as things stand currently, I believe the Braves should be the favorite.
AB - I like our chances, but I am too superstitious to pick us. The Nationals will be good again, and depending on what the physical baseball is like this year, they might be better. I don’t think we will have the Marlins to kick around much longer, and they might confine Philly to last place.
Daniel H-K - I think the Braves should be the favorites to win the NL East this year. The Nationals, Phillies, and Mets all have very talented rosters, but I think the Braves have by far the most complete team and best depth of them all. The Phillies will be a good team, especially getting Andrew McCutchen back and adding Zach Wheeler. I think they will be the Braves toughest competition this season, and while their lineup will be scary, I lack the faith in their pitching staff to project them to win the division, even with Wheeler. The Nationals are obviously coming off a championship season, but they lost their best bat, and have a roster that lends itself more to postseason success than regular season success, given their top 3 pitchers and lack of bullpen talent. I think the Nationals will struggle to make the playoffs this season with question marks all over their roster. The Mets on paper should compete for the playoffs this year, but they are also the Mets, so until they can stop spontaneously combusting every year, I won’t trust them to do anything special. The Marlins might be better this season as well, rounding out what should be the most competitive division in baseball. This division should be a fun one and I expect it to stay competitive into September, but I trust the Braves to make it three straight titles.
Shawn Coleman - While I feel the Phillies and Mets have made moves to make them better in 2020, it still feels as if the NL East will come down to the Braves and Nationals. And I simply feel the Braves have done more to address their areas of need. While the Nationals have made moves to strengthen their bullpen, they have not made as quality additions as the Braves had. Furthermore, just like the Braves with Donaldson, the Nationals lost a lineup anchor at third in Anthony Rendon. However, they have not made an offensive addition to the level of Ozuna.
I feel that the Braves have the best bullpen and lineup in the Division. While the Mets and Nationals obviously have stronger starting rotations, the Braves have shown the ability to find ways to win against the best arms of both teams. As a result, at this moment, I have a good amount of confidence the Braves are in a good position to win the division for the third year in a row.
Anthony Traurig - Although the standings might not have indicated it as much as expected, the NL East was very strong last season. I expect it to be even more so this season. The Phillies should be awfully good this season. They endured a lot of injuries last season and added Zack Wheeler to their rotation. Getting Andrew McCutchen back after missing the second half of the season feels like an offseason addition, as well, and that lineup is significantly better with him leading off. The Nationals will still be very strong after winning the World Series and bringing back the three aces in their rotation. However, the loss of Anthony Rendon is massive, and the Nationals have not done much to fill that void in the lineup. The Mets will be tough this season, too, even if I don’t think that they stack up as well against Philadelphia, Washington, and Atlanta. Also, the Marlins won’t be quite the same whipping post that they were last season. The good news is that I think that the Braves have the most well-rounded roster, and I think they have the best chance of winning the division this season.
Cory McCartney: It has been a busy winter for the division, and it has solidified itself as the best division in the game. The Braves have the best offense, with an NL-best four players in the top 30 of Steamer’s 2020 projections, the Nationals still have the best rotation, boasting three of the NL’s top four starters in that Steamer forecast. The Phillies could challenge the Braves at the plate if Didi Gregorius rebounds and the Mets’ rotation can be special with a full season of Marcus Stroman. But Atlanta may have the most complete team, especially with that bolstered bullpen, and should enter the season as the favorite for a third straight crown.
Brent Blackwell: There’s potential for a lot of top-end parity in this division, with four clubs all realistically eyeing the prize. While my gut says some other team will ride some outlier seasons to the NL East crown – winning three in a row is a rarity for a reason – my head still says the Braves look like the best team on paper. It’s not by a lot; New York has as strong a pitching staff and some good offensive talent, Washington is your defending World Champion, and Philly is going to keep throwing money at their problems until it works, which it eventually will. For now, I’ll take Atlanta, but as long as the NL East flag winds up north of Dade County, nothing will surprise me.
Demetrius Bell: The NL East was already a tough division and it’s only going to get tougher. Even though the Braves have won the division twice in a row, the quality in this division is to the point where it’s feasible that this division alone could end up sending three teams to the tournament. I think the Braves have done enough to stay in the conversation of winning it for a third season in a row, but you absolutely can’t ignore the defending World Series champions in Washington and you can’t brush off Philadelphia because like Brent said, they will eventually hit on something if they keep spending money like they do. The Mets may have bungled their way into the Astros scandal because that’s just their luck, but their rotation is something serious to deal with and their lineup is starting to form something of a core around Pete Alonso. The Marlins are still going to be bad but they won’t be a complete joke, either. This division is going to be tough as nails but I think that the Braves should be right in the thick of it at the top of the division. I’d split the top two teams into a “Divisional Title” tier and the next two as a “Wild Card” tier and I’d put the Braves in the title tier before the other one.
Dillon Cloud - In my opinion, this offseason has done little to change the pecking order in the NL East. Atlanta, Washington, New York, and Philadelphia could each conceivably win the division in 2020, while Miami will almost assuredly dwell in the basement yet again. With such a competitive division, the Wild Card is a very real possibly for the Braves this season in spite of their impressive roster.
Wayne Cavadi - The problem for the Braves is the NL East may be the toughest in baseball, so when you’re asking where the Braves stand in the NL East, you’re really asking what are their chances to win the NL. And I think that remains a mystery. I stick to my belief that the roster wasn’t the problem in last year’s playoffs. This team was better than the Cardinals and some questionable moves, Freddie’s injury, and forgetting how to hit ended the run. I think the NL East is in large part the same: Braves, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, and Marlins making the Braves a team to beat in the NL.