With Spring Training only a few days away, I thought it would be fun to start thinking about who will win the NL East. The Braves and Nationals are obvious frontrunners in the division. There are two basement dwellers in the Mets and Marlins, and the Phillies have to at least be in the mix for playoff contention. Let’s go over each team’s chances and make some predictions.
The Braves got a lot younger this year. All of their new additions, with the exception of backup catcher Gerald Laird, are under the age of 30. These new bats will undoubtedly help the Braves offense. Their pitching is just as good as any other team in the league, if not better. They lost Tommy Hanson this offseason, who has been one of the best young pitchers in th game over the past couple of years. This still does not come as a huge loss as the Braves have a very solid 5 man rotation, and that should scare other teams. If the Braves have a lead going into the last 2-3 innings of a game they are nearly untouchable. Their bullpen is incredible, and is anchored by Craig Kimbrel, who was arguably the best closer in baseball last year. Look for the Braves to have another 90+ win season this year.
I can’t decide if I feel bad for the Marlins or not. It’s really only any fans they still have that are upset, so I’ll take pity on them. They built this brand new, beautiful stadium and brought in a bunch of superstars to play in it. Then when it blew up in their face before a year had even went by (which I saw coming from a mile away), all those players were gone. There is really no reason to see the Marlins play, and no reason to hope that they could make the playoffs this year, or any year in the forseeable future. Sorry, Marlins fans, you’re in for a bad rough patch. I’d consider it a win if they finish outside of the bottom 5 teams in the entire MLB this year.
The Mets are in a similar situation as the Marlins, just not quite as disastrous. They are nowhere near ready to compete in the NL East. Like the Marlins, they have a beautiful new stadium with no fans to fill it. Unlike the Marlins, they at least have a few players worth watching. David Wright and Ike Davis should continue to shine, and Johan Santana should still lead a weak rotation. I think the Mets were foolish in letting Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey go. They should have done anything in their power to keep him. What looked like a turn-around year for the Mets last year turned out to be nothing, and that will lead them into at least one more season of mediocrity.
The Phillies’ reign of terror is over about as quickly as it began. That being said, they still have talent on that team and can’t be taken lightly. However, their talent is aging and injury-prone. On the other hand, they still have what might be the best starting rotation in baseball. I think it’s safe to call the Phillies the wild card of the NL East. I don’t see them doing well enough, and the Braves AND Nationals doing poorly enough for the Phillies to take the division. But with their starting pitching and if they can manage to stay healthy I don’t see any reason to take them out of contention for the second wild card spot (I have the loser of the Braves – Nats race taking the first spot).
With some of the best young talent in the MLB, the Nationals are the only team that will compete with the Braves to win the division this season. Bryce Harper leads a solid offensive lineup, and their starting pitching is something to fear. Now that they’ve tasted the greatest success that team has had, they’re hungry for more. Their season came to an end quicker than some expected, but if Stephen Strasburg is present and dominant for the whole year, they could end up having the best overall record once again.
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Washington Nationals
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
Overall the NL East will not be terribly competitive, but the battle between the Braves and Nationals should be among the best in baseball this year. The Mets and Marlins will be non- factors, but at least the Phillies could make it interesting. Sports Illustrated named the Nationals and Braves numbers 1 and 2, respectively, in their pre – Spring Training power rankings. With the way the Braves season ended (seriously I don’t think I’ll ever get over that) and all the new faces they have, I think it’s their year to make a statement. I’m very excited to see how the year plays out and can’t wait for Opening Day. What do you all think? Do you agree with my predictions? Can we take our first pennant since 2005?