The Washington Nationals have had the East on lockdown in previous seasons, winning the division four times since 2012. With a squad that features as much talent as ever, they’ll look to keep the trend going. However, with Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Miami stockpiling elite, young talent, and the Mets’ stable of arms, it will be much more difficult keeping the crown in DC.
2017 Record: 77-85, 2nd Place NL East
Notable Additions: 2B Starlin Castro, OF Lewis Brinson, OF Cameron Maybin
Notable Subtractions: Any player with a Major League salary. 2B Dee Gordon, OF Marcell Ozuna, OF Christian Yelich, OF Giancarlo Stanton, OF Ichiro Suzuki, SP Edinson Vólquez
Derek Jeter and management absolutely destroyed the big league roster at the expense of cutting payroll and acquiring prospects. Less than half of the 2017 Opening Day lineup is still on the roster, with holdovers JT Realmuto, Martín Prado, Justin Bour, and Derek Dietrich still around for the time being.
One of the lone bright spots for Miami should be outfielder Lewis Brinson. He’s proven Triple-A pitching is no match for him, and his development will be key to the Marlins’ future success. He is a legit 20/20 guy, with 30/30 not out of the question.
The pitching was holding this team back pre-teardown. And it looks as if that will continue in 2018, with names like Odrisamer Despaigne and Justin Nicolino currently occupying a rotation spot.
Straily is a fine 5th starter. But if he’s taking the ball on Opening Day, you’ve got a problem. A healthy Wei-Yin Chen will provide a boost upon his eventual return from Tommy John.
Previous Marlins teams, led by Stanton and company, had trouble putting fans in the seats. This team will break attendance records. And not the good kind.
1. Dan Straily
2. Jose Urena
3. Dillon Peters
4. Justin Nicolino
5. Odrisamer Despaigne/Adam Conley
CL: Brad Zeigler
SU: Kyle Barraclaugh
RP: Junichi Tazawa
C: JT Realmuto
1B: Justin Bour
2B: Starlin Castro
3B: Martín Prado
SS: J.T. Riddle/Miguel Rojas
OF: Derek Dietrich
OF: Cameron Maybin
OF: Lewis Brinson
Prediction: 65-97, 5th Place NL East
2017 Record: 66-96, 5th Place NL East
Notable Additions: 1B Carlos Santana, RP Tommy Hunter, RP Pat Neshek
Notable Subtractions: SS Freddy Galvis, OF Daniel Nava, OF Michael Saunders
The lean years in Philly are starting to payoff. Last season, we saw debuts from top prospects and potential franchise cornerstones J.P. Crawford, Rhys Hoskins, and Nick Williams. Jorge Alfaro also showed some flashes in his 2nd cup of coffee. All four should have everyday jobs to start the season.
César Hernández and Odubel Herrera will return to lead the offense again, both of whom are two of the most overlooked and underrated players in the game. The offense could really come together well with the addition of Carlos Santana and a rebound year from Maikel Franco, who’s regressed every year since 2015. This will be a make or break season for the 25-year-old third baseman.
The rotation has a ton of depth. The only problem being that, outside of Aaron Nola and the oft-injured Vince Velazquez, none are very good. The rotation allowed an average of 4.80 runs per game, good for 10th in the National League.
As a whole, the pitching staff gave up a staggering 221 homers. Only the Reds and Padres surrendered more in the NL. The bright side is that they were the youngest staff by far, with an average age just shy of 27.
The Phillies are relying on internal improvement from the pitching staff to remain relevant in 2018.
1. Aaron Nola
2. Vince Velazquez
3. Jerad Eickhoff
4. Nick Pivetta
5. Ben Lively/Jake Thompson/Mark Leiter
CL: Hector Neris
SU: Tommy Hunter
RP: Pat Neshek
C: Jorge Alfaro
1B: Carlos Santana
2B: César Hernández
3B: Maikel Franco
SS: J.P. Crawford
OF: Rhys Hoskins
OF: Odubel Herrera
OF: Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr
Prediction: 73-89, 4th Place NL East
2017 Season: 72-90, 3rd Place NL East
Notable Additions: SP Scott Kazmir, SP Brandon McCarthy
Notable Subtractions: 1B Matt Adams, 3B Adonis García, OF Matt Kemp, SP RA Dickey, RP Jason Motte, RP Jim Johnson
The Braves are in a similar situation to the Phillies, where both are on the verge of breaking through with their young talent. The Braves have the edge due to the advancement and proximity to the Majors of their stable of arms.
Aside from Newcomb and Foltynewicz, who appear penciled into the rotation, the Braves have top prospects Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Max Fried, Lucas Sims, and Mike Soroka who have appeared, or should appear in the big leagues in 2018.
The pitching was bad in 2017. But, with the addition of two veteran starters in McCarthy and Kazmir, and a breakout performance from one of their highly-touted arms, a significant improvement seems likely.
The offense will be just as exciting should consensus top prospect Ronald Acuña break camp with the Braves. Up the middle, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies could form a dynamic double play duo for the better half of the next decade.
Freddie Freeman, who is an MVP candidate in any given year pending his health, will lead the Braves through an up-and-down 2018 season. Looking ahead, they should be ready for October baseball in 2019 and beyond.
1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Sean Newcomb
4. Brandon McCarthy
5. Scott Kazmir
CL: Arodys Vizcaino
SU: Jose Ramirez
RP: Sam Freeman
C: Tyler Flowers/Kurt Suzuki
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Ozzie Albies
3B: Johan Camargo
SS: Dansby Swanson
OF: Ronald Acuna
OF: Ender Inciarte
OF: Nick Markakis
Prediction: 77-85, 3rd Place NL East
New York Mets
2017 Record: 70-92, 4th Place NL East
Notable Additions: 1B Adrián González, IF José Reyes (Re-Signing), 3B Todd Frazier, OF Jay Bruce, SP Jason Vargas, RP Anthony Swarzak
Notable Subtractions: N/A
Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Mets in 2017. The rotation was absolutely ravaged by injuries. Jacob DeGrom was the only pitcher to make more than 23 starts, or throw more than 120 innings. Ace Noah Syndergaard only appeared in 7 games.
Injuries threw Steven Matz and Matt Harvey off track. Both pitched to ERA’s over 6 runs a game. The team trotted out Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Tommy Milone, Tyler Pill, and Adam Wilk to fill the innings. The results were less than favorable.
With the addition of veteran lefty Jason Vargas, and a seemingly healthy rest of the rotation, New York appears to be in decent position to challenge the Nationals. The lineup is filled with veteran hitters, with Amed Rosario expected to get the keys to shortstop.
Michael Conforto, their best hitter, should return sometime in May, giving them a huge boost. If Adrián González falters, they have Dom Smith, who should be given the first base job regardless. Everything will need to go right this time around for the Mets, or Washington will be walking away with the division yet again.
1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Jacob DeGrom
3. Matt Harvey
4. Jason Vargas
5. Steven Matz
CL: Jeurys Familia
SU: AJ Ramos
RP: Anthony Swarzak
C: Travis D’Arnaud
1B: Adrián González
2B: Asdrubal Cabrera
3B: Todd Frazier
SS: Amed Rosario
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo
OF: Yoenis Céspedes
Prediction: 85-77, 2nd Place NL East
2017 Record: 97-65, 1st Place NL East
Notable Additions: 1B Matt Adams, IF/OF Howie Kendrick (Re-Signing), RP Brandon Kintzler (Re-Signing), RP Joaquin Benoit
Notable Subtractions: 1B Adam Lind, OF Jayson Werth, RP Matt Albers
Washington is seemingly set an every position with ample amounts of depth behind their anointed starters. They have dominated year after year in the regular season. Though, a different Nationals team seems to show up when the leaves turn brown.
Dave Martinez, a Joe Maddon understudy, will try to change Washington’s fortunes this coming year. A feat that neither Dusty Baker nor Matt Williams could accomplish.
The offense gets back outfielder Adam Eaton, who only played in 23 games before losing the season to a knee injury. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner will also look to stay on the field, as both missed over 100 games combined.
The rotation has been very consistent, on the other hand, and will feature the same familiar names in 2018. A.J. Cole seems the favorite to land the 5th starter’s job, with top prospect Erick Fedde waiting in the wings. The bullpen has been their kryptonite over the years, but with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson on board after a midseason trade, they appear to be in a solid spot to start the season.
Barring a New York miracle, the Nationals will once again be playing October baseball, looking to prove they are more than just a regular season performer.
1. Steven Strasburg
2. Max Scherzer
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Tanner Roark
5. A.J. Cole/Erick Fedde
CL: Sean Doolitlle
SU: Ryan Madson
RP: Brandon Kintzler
C: Matt Wieters
1B: Ryan Zimmerman
2B: Daniel Murphy
3B: Anthony Rendon
SS: Trea Turner
OF: Bryce Harper
OF: Adam Eaton
OF: Michael Taylor
Prediction: 99-63, 1st Place NL East