COMMENTARY | As we prepare for the 2013 season, many projections will have the Washington Nationals finishing ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East -- and for good reason.
However, if the Braves catch a couple of breaks along the way, it would not be much of a stretch to say this team could win the division and possibly the World Series.
In order for the Braves to pull of this feat, they'll need players like Justin Upton and Kris Medlen to have superstar-type seasons. They'll also need players like Dan Uggla and Brian McCann to get back to their normal numbers.
With the amount of young talent the Braves have in Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, there is about a three- to four-year window for them to really have great success before they become free agents.
These guys are just on the edge of peaking, along with the Upton brothers, and if they all figure it out together there is no question this becomes one of the most deadly lineups in baseball.
On the pitching side of things, we know what to expect from veteran guys like Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm. It would almost be impossible for Medlen to repeat his 2012 success but even if his numbers go up slightly, he's still a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Then you have Mike Minor, who is just figuring it out at the big-league level, and Julio Teheran, who after a great spring looks like the top prospect everyone thought he was. If these guys continue to blossom, this rotation will be among the best in the National League.
A key part to this season will be how well Brandon Beachy returns from surgery, and how quickly he's able to become the top-of-the-rotation starter he was before going down. If he comes back healthy in this rotation, the Braves could be a very dangerous team going into the playoffs.
The Nationals are a great team that should easily make the playoffs and compete for the title. But if they slip up even in the slightest, the Braves will be right there waiting to take advantage.
Jake Mastroianni has written for several websites pertaining to the Braves and baseball in general. He also has experience working in media relations for minor league baseball, as well as at the collegiate level.
- Sports & Recreation
- Washington Nationals
- National League East
- Kris Medlen
- Justin Upton