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How Close Are The Atlanta Braves To Competing For The NL East?

As so many teams have done over the last few years, the Atlanta Braves were one of the first organizations to bow out of being fringe competitors in the hopes of becoming serious postseason contenders somewhere down the line. Intelligently, the youth movement that has now become especially prevalent throughout baseball was adopted and realized at just the right time by a Braves franchise that realistically understood the time and patience it would take to develop a team that would be competitive for years to come. Although the growing pains have incredibly painful for Braves fans to endure over the last few seasons, it is now starting to become apparent that Atlanta is on the verge of becoming one of the now many wunderkind rife organizations in baseball.

Of course, it's difficult to discuss the resurgence of the Braves without first acknowledging their exceptional center field prospect in Ronald Acuna. Although Spring Training statistics have to be typically taken with a grain of salt, Acuna's sheer dominance from start to finish of the preseason cannot be ignored. In 16 games, Acuna impressively displayed his discipline at the plate and his immense power as he posted a batting average of .432, an on base percentage of .519 and a slugging percentage of .727. This type of off the charts power in conjunction with a keen eye at the plate will allow Acuna to flourish immediately and will result in him becoming the beloved face of the next era of success for the Braves

As far as the rest of the outfield is concerned, the Braves possess two veteran stars in left fielder Lane Adams and right fielder Nick Markakis. With both corner outfielders having career batting averages above .280 and while being adept at defending their respective areas of the field, the Braves outfield defense has the potential to be one of the best in baseball once Acuna is promoted to the majors to become Atlanta's everyday centerfielder.

Until Acuna joins the Braves in the majors, all eyes will be on the youthful yet potentially deadly hitters of Atlanta's infield. Outside of shortstop Dansby Swanson, the infielders of the Braves all posted batting averages of .286 or better last year and were especially effective at getting on base as they also posted on base percentages of .331 or better last season.

The only aspect that could hold the Braves back from competing for a NL Wild Card spot this season are their wildly inconsistent starting pitchers. With all five of their starting pitchers posting ERA's above 4.00 and WHIP's of 1.32 or worse last season, the Braves will need to consistently scrutinize their starting rotation and make the necessary alterations if they hope to contend in their division sooner rather than later. Luckily, Atlanta is loaded with intriguing pitchers within their farm system, with left hander with Kolby Allard (3.18 ERA in AA last season) and Kyle Wright (combined ERA of 2.65 in the minors last season) being the front runners to earn a major league promotion at some point this season.

Although the Braves are not quite a top-tier contender in the National League currently, they clearly have all of the pieces on both their major league roster and within their farm system to be competitive very soon. If the Braves can groom their young starting pitchers and bring them up into the majors at some point this season, this is a team that will finally be able to display proudly what they have been working towards to give their loyal fan base an exciting look at what is to come for this up and coming team.