The NL East has been one of the busier divisions this offseason. Of course, everyone knows about the Scherzer deal, and the Stanton contract, and all the moves the Marlins have been making. But, is it really going to make a difference in the playoff picture? Well, that remains to be seen. I’ll be revealing my playoff picks after reviewing each division. If Shields signs with Miami (one of the rumored suitors), then that would likely change things. But, for now, here is how I see this division playing out:
- Washington Nationals (96-66)
- Miami Marlins (84-78)
- New York Mets (79-83)
- Atlanta Braves (76-86)
- Philadelphia Phillies (67-95)
I’m not very surprised by these standings. Even before I did my own statistical analysis, this is about what I would have predicted. You might could make the argument that the Braves and Mets could be switched. But, that’s about it. Here’s where I came down on each team…
They will finish with the best record in baseball for a number of reasons. They have the best starting rotation – not just in their division, but also in all of baseball. They have the best bullpen, offense and defense in the division as well. And, as if that wasn’t going to make life easy enough, they have possibly the worst team in baseball in their division, and two of the worst offenses in the entire game in their division. The Nationals will get some competition out of Miami, but the rest of the division pales in comparison.
The Marlins’ front office has done a nice job this off-season, in putting together their major-league team. Granted, I do believe that it was at the expense of their farm system, which may come back to bite them in a couple years. But, they have put together a very competitive team at the major league level. While the Nationals are running away with the best . . . well, everything . . . the Marlins are right behind them in this division with a very nice starting rotation (Fernandez, Alvarez, Cosart & Latos). That alone would lead to a lot of wins. But, even though they have probably the second best offense in the division, once you get past Stanton, it isn’t exactly going to make pitchers nervous. Morse was a nice addition, but he’s getting older, and you’re counting on his out of the ordinary production from last year (his highest OPS since 2011, and one of only two seasons he has remained healthy his entire career). Beyond that, the lineup has some above-average hitters (Ozuna & Yellich), but it’s certainly not a dominant offense. And, what concerns me even more is the fact that the bullpen in Miami is not stellar. It isn’t ugly. But, it is going to allow a decent number of hits and walks (average WHIP among the best relievers is 1.21). In a different division, I’m not sure how well Miami would do.
Mets fans should be excited about the future – just, not 2015. They have some very nice young pitching (Harvey, DeGrom, Wheeler) that’s likely to get even better when prospects like Noah Syndergaard make their way to the majors. But, that’s about the extent of what there is to be excited about in New York. The bullpen might be the second best in the division (Parnell, Familia & Edgin are very good), but it’s still not exactly elite. And, the offense, which was middle-of-the-pack in the NL last year, isn’t getting any better. The addition of Michael Cuddyer sounds nice. But, closer inspection reveals that he’s going into his age 36 season, only played 49 games last year, and has had inflated stats from playing in Colorado. Until they can bring in (or up) some quality offensive production outside of Duda, this team won’t get very far.
2017. I believe that’s the target. That’s when the Braves will move into their new stadium north of Atlanta, and that’s likely the next time they will field a competitive team. I think the Braves have made some good moves that have provided some quality prospects (3 of their top 6 prospects have come as a part of the Gattis & Upton trades). But, it has left an already weak offense with just one batter to be excited about – Freddie Freeman. So, here’s my question: how close do you think Freeman gets to a .400 OBP this season? He’s going to be pitched around so often that, if he can be patient, he’ll draw well over 100 walks. But, don’t be surprised if his power numbers drop even more from last year. Because he is the Atlanta offense, and even an aging Nick Markakis can’t help. Kimbrel is phenomenal, and Teheran, Wood & Hale look to make a decent rotation. But, those guys are likely going to lose a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games with this offense.
If it wasn’t for Atlanta’s putrid offense, the Phillies would be the worst in the division in every single category. Once you get past Hamels, you may not have even an average pitcher left in the entire rotation. Other than Papelbon, the bullpen is littered with guys whose WHIPs are 1.34, 1.40, 1.42. And, the only reason I rank their offense a notch above Atlanta’s is because they have some young guys that played decently last year, and who look like they may improve to be above average batters (Ben Revere & Cody Asche). The Phillies’ farm system isn’t terrible, but it could use a boost. Why a team headed toward almost 100 losses is trying to hang on to Papelbon and Hamels, I do not know. Those two could net the quality and volume of prospects that could have this team competing again in just 2-3 years. If this team loses less than 90 games – Sandberg should be manager of the year.