The National League East is up next, with the division defending champs in the Washington Nationals (who have won 4 of the last 6 division titles), and not much else as of last season. The next closest team to the Nats being the Miami Marlins who were a whole 20 games back by the end of the season. This year we might see some changes, but the Nats will be back on top.
1st Place – Washington Nationals
The team to beat in the East. With a few quality aces and some of the hottest bats in baseball the Nationals will easily claim the division title again this year for their third year in a row. With a stellar rotation coming from the arms of 2017 NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg who had over a 6 WAR last year and a 2.52 ERA, Gio Gonzalez who also had a 6 plus WAR last year with a sub 3 ERA, Tanner Roark who struggled last year but has potential that was seen 2 years ago with 16 wins and a sub 3 ERA, and AJ Cole who hasn’t seen much of the majors but is the 5th starter so really just needs to be the guy to eat innings.
Switching to the offense side of the game, the Nationals have an all-star worthy lineup. Starting with big names like Bryce Harper who hit just under 30 home runs last year only playing in 111 games while bating .319. Moving to the lesser known but just as impressive Adam Eaton (another former Southsider) who was injured for almost the entirety of last season but hits an impressive amount of triples and can cover just about the entire outfield by himself. Okay maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but the man can play. This isn’t even scratching the surface with their incredible infield with Ryan Zimmerman (First Base), Daniel Murphy (Second Base), Trea Turner (Short Stop), and Anthony Rendon (Third Base). They hit a combined 95 home runs with Turner playing close to half a season and had over a .300 average. That has got to be the best offensive infield in baseball.
2nd Place – New York Mets
Health. The biggest factor on almost any major league team, but especially so for the Mets. David Wright has struggled with health in most of his later career, and their rotation, although formidable, also struggles heavily with health issues. If they can manage to stay together the Mets will make a strong case for a wild card spot in the NL. Speaking of that rotation they have the almighty Noah “Thor” Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt “The Dark Knight” Harvey, Steven Matz, and Robert Gsellman. None of these guys had great season, and only deGrom put up decent numbers.
However, like I pointed out, health was a big factor. As Thor and The Dark Knight were possibly too busy shooting movies to be bothered with pitching, this year could be a rebound year for them assuming they stay healthy for a full season. They are both capable of being 1 or 2 starters on just about any ballclub but we did not see that over the last few years. Their offense on the other hand should be a bit more reliable with Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce blasting 17 (in half a season) and 36 home runs respectively. The vets run the infield with Adrian Gonzalez at first, Asdrubal Cabrera at second, Jose Reyes at short, and Todd Frazier at third, there is something to be said about the weathered but worthy careers. Hopefully their younger blood in Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki, Wilmer Flores and Amed Rosario can spark something in their old timer teammates.
3rd Place – Philadelphia Phillies
Another big question mark. I don’t know really what to expect out of this team this year and I’m not sure that anyone else does. With the addition of Jake Arrieta the Phillies bolstered their very young rotation with at least one veteran. That is the lay of the land for the Phillies this year, youth. Just like the unpredictability of health with the Mets, the Phillies need to brace themselves for what may come with having such a young team and may fll very short of their not so high expectations. They did bolster their line up with Carlos Santana and his impressive power, along with Maikel Franco who hit a home run at the spring training game that I saw. Another test will be to see if Pedro Florimon is ready for a full season of baseball which he hasn’t seen since 2013. One of their best players is Hector Neris who is a very solid closer who I believe will had a great year. I cannot emphasize enough however how uncertain this team is or my faith in them.
4th Place – Atlanta Braves
When your most solidified and best position is your catcher you should probably worry about your season. Tyler Flowers (yet another Southsider) and Kurt Suzuki had pretty solid years behind the plate leading the league in fWAR (WAR calculated by Fangraph) and wRC+ (weighted Runs Created while controlling for park effects) . Freddie Freeman is a top 5 National League first baseman, but health is an issue with him wrist issues. The freshman Ozzie Albies will be one to watch as he has the potential to be a force to reckon with doing pretty well in the late end of the season last year with a healthy average at .286 and some power with 6 home runs, 5 triples, and 9 doubles in about a third of the season. The rest of the infield follows suit with the young Dansby Swanson and Johan Camargo. Ender Inciarte had a solid .304 average last year and Nick Markakis had a decent .275 average and .354 OBP, which is not something to get excited about. Outside of that, the Braves are lacking in bullpen and rotation.
5th Place – Miami Marlins
Whether or not Jeter had something to do with Giancarlo Stanton going to the dark side or not, the Marlins have essentially dismantled their own rebuild. Christian Yelich moving to Miluakee is another major hit to last years NL East 2nd best team, although they still were under a .500 record. I don’t have much to say for the Marlins. Starlin Castro will have another good year with probably close to last year’s .300 average and 16 home runs. Justin Bour has some impressive power as was seen in last year’s home run derby and his 25 home runs in about 100 games last year is nothing to balk at either. Martin Prado and JT Riddle were riddled with injuries last year, so a healthy full year could prove to be a helpful in establishing the rest of the Marlins infield. Their outfield is seeming up for grabs with their many prospects although there is much uncertainty in what to expect if anything from their farm system which has been hurt by trades. Like the Braves, the Marlins don’t have much going in the pen or the rotation, with either young arms that haven’t seen many great starts, to a miss-matched bullpen on uncertain footings. Don’t expect much of anything from the Marlins this year.
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