Braves own best NL East hitter trio. How do the rest stack up?

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The NL East is going to see a lot of offense in 2021.

Last season, the five teams in the division combined to score 1,496 runs, second-most of any division behind only the NL West (1,517). Three NL East teams finished among the top 10 in scoring: Atlanta Braves (2), Philadelphia Phillies (5) and Nationals (10). Of the 34 position players to receive at least one MVP vote, seven played in the NL East — one fewer than the NL West for the most in the majors.

Then came this offseason. The Braves and Phillies spent most of the winter playing the free agent dance with Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, respectively, before retaining them. The Nationals wanted protection for Juan Soto and they believe they’ve found it in Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. New York made a huge splash by acquiring Francisco Lindor while the Marlins inked Adam Duvall to a one-year deal to be one of the bigger power bats in their lineup.

All five teams will enter 2021 with at least an outside shot of making the playoffs. But which ones will have the best offensive stars leading the way? Here’s how each team’s top trio of hitters stacks up.

1. Atlanta Braves

Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna

It’s hard to play devil’s advocate against putting the Braves first here after the season each of these three stars just had. Freeman won NL MVP, Ozuna led the Senior Circuit in both home runs (18) and RBIs (56) while Acuña won his second-straight Silver Slugger behind a career-high .987 OPS.

As much as the shortened season makes it tough to predict player performance moving forward, there’s no disputing which team has the biggest stars on offense.

2. New York Mets

Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso

Let’s see, the Mets will begin the season with a four-time All-Star in Lindor, a left-handed outfielder with a career OPS that’s 10 points higher than Lindor’s in Conforto and Alonso, the man who set the all-time rookie home run record with 53 in 2019, anchoring their lineup.

Yeah, that’ll play.

3. Washington Nationals

Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Josh Bell

Turner showed what he can do with all 10 fingers in 2020, leading the majors in hits (78) and flashing power (.588 slugging) that the Nationals hadn’t seen since his rookie year. Bell will look to prove that the first half of his 2019 season (27 homers, 1.024 OPS in 88 games) is more indicative of his potential than what he’s done since (18 homers, .724 OPS in 112 games).

As for Soto, he just might be the second coming of Ted Williams.

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4. Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto

It was tempting to put Alec Bohm over Realmuto here, but even a second-place effort for Rookie of the Year is hard to put over Realmuto’s full body of work when the sample size is only 44 games. While the Phillies’ offense scored more than the Nationals and Mets last season, they will be returning nearly the same cast they had last year while the other two teams added new pieces.

Though Harper could be in for a monster year, Hoskins and Realmuto haven’t broken through enough offensively to the point of being true MVP candidates.

5. Miami Marlins

Brian Anderson, Jesús Aguilar, Adam Duvall

There’s a big gap between the other four teams’ offenses and the Marlins. Anderson was on a 30-homer pace last season while Aguilar and Duvall can swing the bat, but no one in Miami’s lineup would be considered a star on any other NL East team.

Luckily for them, the pitching staff has serious potential.

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