The Obstructed NL East Preview

No division in baseball upgraded so much over the off-season than the NL East.

Last year, the Nationals, who were supposed to run through the division failed with flying colors. A slump by Bryce Harper and issues with Stephen Strasburg kept them from getting off to a good start. Instead, the Braves and Phillies spent most of the year fighting it out for the division. Atlanta saw some of the prospects in their farm make a big splash and with a few key moves down the stretch, ran away with the division while Philadelphia fell apart. Washington never recovered from their slow start and didn’t really figure into the NL East race. The Mets battled injuries badly (again) and inconsistencies and weren’t much of a factor either despite having one of the best years for a pitcher in Jacob deGrom. The Marlins went through year one under new ownership in Derek Jeter. They have an uphill battle to climb not just with the other four teams but a city with a very depleted fan base who feel screwed for the xth time.

The Mets, Nationals, and Phillies all made major moves to take aim at the youthful Braves squad, who really was very quiet compared to those teams and failed to address key needs. The Marlins made moves, but just more of stop-gap fillers as Miami is in full rebuild mode….again.

So let’s look who will reign supreme in a tough-as-nails NL East

deGrom gets a newly signed contract, and could repeat his performance in 2019

(1) NEW YORK METS

Last year: 77-85

KEY ADDITIONS: 2B-Robinson Cano (Trade-Seattle), C-Wilson Ramos (FA-Philadelphia), OF-JD Davis (Trade-Houston) OF-Keon Broxton (Trade-Milwaukee), P-Edwin Diaz (Trade-Seattle), P-Juerys Familia (FA-Oakland), P-Justin Wilson (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Luis Avilan (FA-Philadelphia)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Jay Bruce (Trade-Seattle), P-Anthony Swarzak (Trade-Seattle), C-Jose Lobaton (FA-Seattle), IF-Wilmer Flores (FA-Arizona), IF-Jose Reyes (FA), OF-Austin Jackson (FA), P-AJ Ramos (FA), P-Jerry Blevins (FA-Oakland)

“Do the Mets have enough offense to win the NL East?” Well, yes after the trade to get Robinson Cano, bringing up top prospect Peter Alonso, signing Wilson Ramos, and even Jed Lowrie can add some hitting pop as well. If Michael Conforto finally figured it out the Mets have a formidable lineup to go with that sick rotation with the deGrom/Syndergaard duo in front and then for added measure bring in Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. How fair is that???? The Mets bring in stud closer in Edwin Diaz and bring back former closer Jeurys Familia to set up for him (also unfair). The Mets added Justin Wilson, a reliable reliever that didn’t have the best of runs in Chicago after being lights out with Detroit. And the likes of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will just add to that pen. This team, just watch out for them to make noise in the season, and October. MY PREDICTION: 94-68

Harper brings a lot of hope to the Philly faithful.

(2) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Last year: 80-82

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Andrew McCutchen (FA-New York Yankees), SS-Jean Segura (Trade-Seattle), OF-Bryce Harper (FA-Washington), C-JT Realmuto (Trade-Miami), P-David Robertson (FA-New York Yankees), P-Jose Alvarez (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), P-Juan Nicasio (Trade-Seattle)

KEY LOSSES: C-Wilson Ramos (FA-New York Mets), 1B-Justin Bour (FA-Los Angeles Angels), IF-Asdrubal Cabrera (FA-Texas), P-Luis Avilan (P-New York Mets), P-Aaron Loup (FA-San Diego), C-Jorge Alfaro (Trade-Miami), SS-JP Crawford (Trade-Seattle) 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade)

Had early March never arrived, the Phillies off-season could be responded into one word: “wow!” They brought in Andrew McCutchen. They traded for underrated yet excellent hitting shortstop Jean Segura. They brought in the best catcher when Buster Posey isn’t injured in JT Realmuto. They added bullpen depth. They signed quality reliever David Robertson. And they added Bryce Harper just for good measure. With it, the lineup with Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, and Odubel Herrera, they are going to be stacked top to bottom. And they may have the best lineup in the east by far. Th question will be if the rotation can get it together behind Aaron Nola. That is Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, etc. But the bullpen will get better with Robertson, and the improvement of Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, and a under the radar move in Jose Alvarez. It should be enough to fend off Washington, but will it be enough to win the division? MY PREDICTION: 93-69

With Harper gone, the Nationals are Scherzer’s team

(3) WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Last year: 82-80

KEY ADDITIONS: 2B-Brian Dozier (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Cleveland), C-Kurt Suzuki (FA-Atlanta), 1B-Matt Adams (FA-St. Louis), P-Patrick Corbin (FA-Arizona), P-Anibal Sanchez (P-Atlanta), P-Trevor Rosenthal (FA-St. Louis), P-Kyle Barraclough (Trade-Miami), P-Tony Sipp (FA-Houston)

KEY LOSSES: C-Matt Wieters (FA-St. Louis), 1B-Mark Reynolds (FA-Colorado), OF-Bryce Harper (FA-Philadelphia), P-Tim Collins (FA-Minnesota), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Greg Holland (FA-Arizona), P-Tanner Roark (Trade-Cincinnati)

You lose your best player through free agency and you may end up being BETTER than last year? It’s possible in Washington. Bryce Harper is one of the most gifted baseball players in this era, but it seems like whether or not he wanted it, there was a circus under Harper in Washington. It *could* have worn thin on his teammates. With Harper out of the way, there may be a stress reliever for his former teammates in DC. The Nationals lineup is pretty legit with young gun Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and a healthy Ryan Zimmerman. If Adam Eaton can stay healthy and Victor Robles is up to the hype, the Nationals could have one of the best lineups in all of baseball. The Nationals pitching is legit with Mad Max Scherzer, prized free agent signing Patrick Corbin, and the reborn Anibal Sanchez, and if his head is on straight, Stephen Strasburg. However, it will come back to the bullpen which wasn’t as bad as advertised in years’ past but with a better lineup but a better division, they need to make sure there are no letdowns. It really is going to be down to which team’s bullpen has the most consistent group. Washington is getting better, but compared to the Mets and even the Phillies, they will have to be more consistent. MY PREDICTION: 92-70

Adding Donaldson to Atlanta’s offense helped, but the Braves inability to get relievers set them back this off-season.

(4) ATLANTA BRAVES

Last year: 90-72 (Lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Cleveland), C-Brian McCann (FA-Houston), OF-Matt Joyce (Trade), P-Josh Tomlin (FA)

KEY LOSSES: C-Rene Rivera (FA-San Francisco), C-Kurt Suzuki (FA-Washington), 1B-Lucas Duda (FA), IF-Ryan Flaherty (FA), P-Brandon McCarthy (Retired), P-Anibal Sanchez (FA-Washington), P-Brad Brach (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Peter Moylan (Retired)

Perhaps outside of maybe the Marlins, not team is at odds with their own fan base than the Atlanta Braves and their fans. After saying they had a massive amount of money to spend in the off-season to get an impact player and make the needed upgrades to get over that hump and get far in October with the youthful players such as Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, the Braves pretty much stood pat. Yes, they brought in Josh Donaldson when healthy is an offensive juggernaut. However, while Donaldson adds pop to a strong lineup with Acuna, Albies, and Freeman, the need for relievers went unanswered. Braves front office is relying and hoping that the young arms will solidify the bullpen, which was plagued. Fans had also hoped Atlanta made a push to get a starter to eat innings. The rotation did well, but was “guarded” and didn’t go far like many hoped. And in the division where pitching consists of Scherzer, deGrom, Syndergaard, Nola, etc. you need that guy. And the Braves are now lagging behind those teams. That is why I am giving Atlanta a 4th place finish. Their rivals made massive jumps in the off-season and the Braves didn’t and that is a problem. The hope is these pitchers get off to excellent starts and these other young arms that are starting in Gwinnett comes through. Right now, they need that one closer and go-to guy. They will lag this year because of it. MY PREDICTION: 84-78

Granderson’s role in Miami is more of mentor right now.

(5) MIAMI MARLINS

Last year: 63-98

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Milwaukee), 1B-Neil Walker (FA-New York Yankees), C-Jorge Alfaro (Trade-Philadelphia), OF-Rosell Herrera (Waivers-Kansas City), P-Sergio Romo (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Nick Anderson (Trade-Minnesota), P-Austin Brice (Waivers-Baltimore)

KEY LOSSES: C-JT Realmuto (Trade-Philadelphia), IF-Derek Dietrich (FA-Cincinnati)

The Marlins enter the second full year of the Derek Jeter era. And well, it hasn’t gone too well. Now the Marlins made a splash in the international pool signing Victor Victor Mesa. But it may take another year or two. And yikes until then as the NL East looks to be a tough competition among the other four hated rivals. They brought in veterans Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker while bringing in relief help in Sergio Romo. It wouldn’t be surprising if any of those three are moved by July as the Marlins aren’t expected to compete in the 2019 NL East race as they said good-bye to JT Realmuto. Right now given how Yelich, Stanton, and Ozuna did with their new teams, it’s good for Realmuto to go because he could create some massive damage with the Phillies. But Jeter better hope these players he is getting back are going to be equal or better. If not, it will be a very long time before Miami competes. Right now, the Marlins lineup resembles that of those late 90’s teams in the fire sale. And that’s not good. The pitching staff after Jose Urena looks very problematic as well. Sandy Alcantara is a top prospect for the Marlins (as he was a part of the Ozuna deal) but aside from that, there will be issues when they have to face, deGrom, Syndergaard, Scherzer, Corbin, Foltynewicz, and Nola. It may be another long year in Miami before we see anything legitimately look positive. MY PREDICTION: 64-98

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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