With Spring Training underway and everybody in the baseball world excited for the upcoming season, over the next week or so N2K will look at, preview and predict the six divisions in the MLB. We started with the AL East and today we continue with the NL East.
The National League East is made up of the Atlanta Braves, the Miami Marlins, the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2015 NL East was not even close. After a while the East was the Mets to lose and they certainly did not. The Mets finished with 90 wins and a National League Pennant. Just because the Mets made it to the World Series last season doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the favorite for 2016. A few days back Baseball Prospectus released their full predictions for the 2016 regular season.
Now to N2K’s Preview
The Nationals flatout underperformed last season with 83 wins, Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series in ’15. The silver lining to the disappointing season in DC was the play and production from 23 year old phenom Bryce Harper. Harper added a National League MVP Award to his resume after batting 0.330 and hitting 42 home runs. Harper also boasted a WAR of 9.9 which means that statistically, the Nationals would’ve finished 73-89 last season without him in rightfield. Like Harper, the other first overall pick on the Nationals team, Stephen Strasburg (pictured) has shown points of brilliance in his short career. Strasburg has struggled with durability and control but finished the 2015 campaign extremely strong. Strasburg is now entering a contract year looking to solidify his value, I fully anticipate for Strasburg to put up Cy Young caliber numbers this season.
Aside from Harper and Strasburg, the Nationals are extremely well rounded. Washington has an above-average bullpen to complement Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and most likely N2K’s #1 MLB Prospect Lucas Giolito. DC let both Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann walk this offseason, hoping that top prospects Trea Turner and Giolito will replace them for a fraction of the contract. The Nationals added postseason hero Daniel Murphy via free agency and to be honest, they overpaid for him, especially in the form of draft pick compensation from the signing. Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman hold down the corners of the diamond and if the 2016 roster can stay healthy, they will take the NL East Crown.
The Braves are in rebuilding mode, plain and simple. Under no circumstances will the Braves make the playoffs. They dealt gold glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Angels in a deal that included top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb. Later Atlanta committed highway robbery on a deal with the Diamondbacks that sent Shelby Miller packing in return for a quality leadoff man Ender Inciarte, first overall pick top shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson, and promising pitching prospect Aaron Blair. Other than Nick Markakis, Freddie Freeman, and Julio Teheran there is not much talent on their starting nine. The Braves number two pitcher is Bud Norris, who is generously, a number five starter on any other team maybe outside of the Brewers.
I don’t mean to get on the Braves’ case here but their NL East Champion dreams are at least two years away. The front office has pretty much mastered the rebuilding process and a future Braves team led by Swanson, Freeman, Newcomb, Blair, and Teheran will be scary.
Similar to the Braves, the Phillies are not making the playoffs this season. Their top prospect hasn’t even shown up to Spring Training yet. 23 year old third-baseman Maikel Franco hasn’t reported to Clearwater, FL. The two brightsides to the 2016 Phillies season were supposed to be Franco and pitcher Ken Giles but Giles was dealt to Houston and Franco is M.I.A.
Giles was traded to the Astros for a deal centered around former number one overall pick, Mark Appel a right-handed pitcher from Stanford University. Appel was expected to make an impact earlier but has slowed down after some arm issues. If Appel can figure it out with Franco at third base and shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford in the majors at some future point in time they could be a big factor in the increasingly competitive NL East. But for as far as I can see, Philadelphia sports fans are in for a long few years (Sixers and Eagles included).
New York Mets
2015 World Series Finalists, the New York Mets. The only big loss that the Mets suffered this offseason was Daniel Murphy going to the Washington Nationals. But in reality, it wasn’t that big of a loss since the Mets got draft pick compensation from the Nationals all while signing a better second-baseman, Neil Walker. I feel like I don’t really need to go into the Mets pitching staff that much but it is worth mentioning that Matt Harvey is their number three starter….. Harvey would be the ace on ANY other team maybe outside of the Dodgers and the Mariners. Okay, I’ll go into the Mets rotation, it is made up of Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler with Bartolo Colon getting a spot start here and there… speechless. The Mets have so much pitching they don’t know what to do with it, and their bullpen isn’t bad either led by Jeurys Familia, Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.
The Mets starting nine is extremely talented led by Captain America David Wright and La Potencia Yoenis Cespedes. Other than Wright and Cespedes, top tier talent like Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto are scattered across Citi Field. New York has a generational pitching staff that will garner wins regardless of their offense, but the icing on the cake is that the Mets offense is extremely productive as well. The NYM offense coupled with their pitching will be a dangerous combo all season and hopefully for all Mets fans, leads them to their second straight playoff berth.
The 2016 Marlins will be unpredictable and also will be dependent on the health of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. The Marlins should’ve dealt Fernandez this offseason but were basically asking teams that inquired for everything they had except the stadium. Fernandez is great, but if the Marlins want to win, trading him would’ve been ideal instead of eventually having a huge amount of their salary cap invested in two players (other is Stanton). Outside of Stanton and Fernandez, the Marlins have 2015 NL Batting Champ second baseman Dee Gordon and extremely consistent, all-around leftfielder Christian Yelich. Yelich batted 0.300 last year while showing emerging signs of becoming a power bat. Gordon batted 0.333 with 58 stolen bases in his breakout season.
The Marlins bullpen and rotation are both pretty subpar outside a few exceptions but if the Marlins want to make a run at the postseason a few key players will need to step up. My X-Factors for the Miami Marlins are centerfielder Marcell Ozuna and third baseman Martin Prado. Both Prado and Ozuna have the potential get on base efficiently and if both players can flirt with a batting average around 0.300 alongside Stanton, Gordon, and Yelich at the top of the lineup, the Marlins could be in business. I’m going to be pretty optimistic with my prediction for the Marlins but they are such big wild cards entering the 2016 season, and I wouldn’t be surprised at any record they compile come the end of the season.
N2K’s NL East Prediction
Washington Nationals 89-73
New York Mets 87-75
Miami Marlins 86-76
Atlanta Braves 71-91
Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
Cover Photo via StatLiners
Image Predictions via Baseball Prospectus