2. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves know what they are, and what they are is very good and very young. Ronald Acuna Jr. might be the most polarizing player in baseball right now with the exception of Fernando Tatis Jr.
Acuna can do everything in the field, and at the plate, he’s multi-dimensional as it gets, nearly joining the 40-40 club in 2019. He went reaching for power in 2020, but yet still remained among the most consistent hitters in baseball, hitting the ball hard in 57 percent of his at-bats. Behind him will be the core trio of Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna. Freeman remains one of the best pure hitters in the game, protected by Ozuna, who led the NL in homers last season.
There’s potential for all four guys mentioned above to be All-Stars this summer. Dansby Swanson flashed more pop last year, but he’s still a 15-20 homer guy that plays a good shortstop. Cristian Pache and Austin Riley round out the order, but there is really no drop-off in production. Pache is another uber-talented prospect for the Braves outfield, and Riley could see himself into 25-30 home season if he modifies his all-or-nothing approach.
The Braves can hit from top to bottom, and the keys for this team are Ozuna and Acuna, who both need to stay healthy and productive this coming year.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
While other major-market teams like the Mets and Dodgers continued to stockpile an arsenal of talent, the Phillies seemed content with standing still and watch free agency pass them by. The Phils added very little to their lineup, unless you count re-signing J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius.
Andrew McCutchen will lead off, and what he has left in the tank remains a mystery. Bryce Harper is in need of a rebound season, although his numbers are often misleading when you look at how often he hits the ball hard and gets on base.
Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins provide the protection in this order. Hoskins is going to be a key cog in the Phillies machine, because as good as his on-base stats look, he has struggled with the strikeouts and selling out for homers.
Alec Bohm is a welcome addition to the Phillies lineup, and while the sample size was small last season, this kid has the ability to hit and hit for power to all fields, a task with the pitching in this division. Gregorius and Jean Segura will again anchor the middle infield, while providing solid output from the bottom half of the order.
That center field spot is still up for grabs, but Adam Haseley has shown the most recent signs of success. Stability may the reason the Phillies remained silent this winter, and it could be a key factor in developing chemistry this season.