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New York Mets biggest competition for a playoff spot this season

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PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 05: Ball and gloves of the New York Mets sit in the dugout before a game against the Washington Nationals at Digital Domain Park on March 5, 2012 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Nationals defeated the Mets 3-1. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 05: Ball and gloves of the New York Mets sit in the dugout before a game against the Washington Nationals at Digital Domain Park on March 5, 2012 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Nationals defeated the Mets 3-1. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images) /
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ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 07: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Three of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 7, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves

Lineup

  1. Ozzie Albies 2B
  2. Ronald Acuna   LF
  3. Freddie Freeman  1B
  4. Josh Donaldson 3B
  5. Nick Markakis RF
  6. Ender Inciarte CF
  7. Dansby Swanson SS
  8. Brian McCann C

Rotation

  1. Mike Foltynewicz
  2. Sean Newcomb
  3. Kevin Gausman
  4. Julio Teheran
  5. Touki Toussaint

The reigning National League East champions were eliminated in the division series last season against a Los Angeles Dodgers team that would proceed all the way to the World Series. This current roster remains largely the same, outside of the additions of Brian McCann and Josh Donaldson.

They offer a very well-rounded lineup with quite a bit of power, athleticism, and overall ability to make contact. An already productive lineup with young star power, in Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, and a steady presence, provided by Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, will meld well with the new additions.

Josh Donaldson had never registered a WAR below the mark of five since the 2012 season. However, a season riddled with injuries took a toll and held him to only 52 games and a 1.3 WAR. His contract with Atlanta is only for one season, thus giving him the incentive to return to his old form in order to receive his proper pay in a substantial contract next season.

At his worst, he has provided at least 25 home runs since his breakout in Oakland. Therefore, a return to form for Donaldson would seem to be exceedingly likely. The only obstacle that could stand in his way is the onset of another recurring injury. This would slow the force of Atlanta’s lineup indeed, yet might not prove fatal.

Reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Ronald Acuna, was the top MLB prospect at the onset of last season and upon his arrival, everyone that watched him knew exactly why. He posted 26 home runs, 64 RBI, 16 stolen bases, and a .917 OPS in a year where he was limited to 433 at bats at the age of 20. This is surely quite an impressive feat and he will certainly improve as he ages.

The Braves area of concern should not be their lineup, but rather their rotation that is under many injury questions currently. Atlanta is slated to begin the season without Mike Foltynewicz, who has a sore elbow. Kevin Gausman had a late spring debut, March 8, as he had to deal with an injury early in camp as well. Also, their principle insurance arm, Mike Soroka was shut down in late February with shoulder inflammation, limiting the Braves’ options further.

Signing any free agent starter such as Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez would not assist the Braves immediately, as it would take time for them to reach mid-season form. A lack of a Spring Training can truly hamper a pitcher’s season or at least the start to it.

The Atlanta bullpen is productive, however, it will not be able to fulfill the requirements of a long and draining playoff race. The options they have are simply too limited. An addition of a closer, such as Craig Kimbrel, may pay huge dividends, however, the same standard for starters applies to relievers and reports suggest that the Braves are not pursuing him.

The Braves are a good club that the Mets should not take lightly, however, there are other teams in their own division with fewer areas of need that will pose a greater threat.

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