The NL East, the division we all REALLY care about right? This could be an interesting year in the East when you think about it. No division is more in limbo than the NL East. You have two teams that appear to be the heavy favorites on paper, but one of them already is decimated by injuries. You have our beloved up and coming Mets trying to get noticed again, the young Marlins trying to relive the magic of the 90’s and the Phillies… oh the Phillies.
5th Place: Philadelphia Phillies
Okay, so part of me is more hoping this happens than expects it to happen.
I recently stumbled upon this twitter account, and got a good laugh. I have been saying for a few years now that Ruben Amaro (Ruin Tomorrow) has completely ruined the franchise that was built up to be a dynasty. Now, it looks like Phillies fans are catching on.
This is an old team, with barely anything to look forward to in the future. Their biggest off-season move was bringing in A.J. Burnett. Because, pitching in a homer-friendly park is going to fit Burnett real well right?
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are heading into the twilight of their careers. Howard has almost become a non-factor. This is a team that used to be scary to face, and instead of continuing to build around these guys, they continue to lean on them to be their former selves. It’s not going to happen.
This team is old, beat up, and if I had to guess – there will be a major shakeup here very soon. New manager Ryne Sandberg isn’t here to manage a bunch of veterans stuck in their ways. He’s here to try and build something. The problem is so many of these contracts are tied to no trade clauses, so things will need to get pretty bad in Philly before guys like Cliff Lee agree to go elsewhere (Baltimore, Cliff…Baltimore).
4th Place: Miami Marlins
I am a huge Giancarlo Stanton fan and if he weren’t in our division, I would hope to see him win an MVP very soon. This team is built around two very good, and pretty young players in Giancarlo and pitcher Jose Fernandez.
The problem is, two players won’t carry you through an entire season.
Their offense is either a who’s who of “what have you done lately?” types such as Casey McGehee or Rafael Furcal mixed with players that you aren’t really sure what they can do in a full campaign yet.
For example, I imagine most fans in Miami are curious if Christian Yelich is ready to play an everyday role in 2014. We’re going to find out for sure.
Opponents will be hoping to avoid Jose Fernandez, and if they do – they will be okay. Fernandez will likely be in the top 10 again, but after him – I’m not worried about anybody else.
3rd Place: New York Mets
For me, I have to be honest – I think they could finish in 2nd place but I am going to be cautious here. I do not think the Mets will win 90 games per Sandy Alderson, but I do think they will finish above .500. So, anything is possible I suppose.
Dillon Gee and Jon Niese just need to do what they always do when healthy. If those four can do their job, then perhaps Jenrry Mejia or Daisuke Matsuzaka can surprise us and be one of the best #5 starters in the NL. I do want to see what Mejia can do, but I honestly feel like Dice-K could have a sneaky good year. He looked really good this spring.
The lineup – well we all know what is going on there. There are questions heading into the season, but I think the pitching will buy the Mets time to figure things out.
If you love high scoring games, the Mets won’t be for you this year. When you have good pitching 1-5, anything is possible and if Alderson says 90 games as his goal – then that is my goal as well.
I don’t think they will achieve it, but I don’t think it’s as difficult as some think. I think this entire year will be watchable, which is a nice break from the recent past.
2nd Place: Atlanta Braves
The Upton’s need to lead this team if they hope to qualify for a wildcard spot.
You know, as I write this – I am almost regretting not having the guts to pick the Mets in second place. I’d take the Mets rotation over the Braves, if the Mets didn’t have questions at 3 offensive positions, I might have done it.
I do expect the Braves to overcome whatever adversity comes their way. They always seem to do things the right way, and while I am not high on Ervin Santana – they seem happy with the addition.
The bullpen might play a huge role in whether the Braves can salvage the year – because they will likely be faced with a lot of close games that Craig Kimbrel and Jordan Walden might play a huge role in.
1st Place: Washington Nationals
Everybody who watches the Nats is expecting big things from Bryce Harper this year. Similar to Jason Heyward, I think people tend to forget how young Harper was when he broke into the big leagues. He’s still a baby compared to most.
Everybody seemed to praise the Nats when they acquired Doug Fister, and now he starts the year on the DL with a back injury.
Still, the rotation with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman is the most proven and consistent rotation in the division. This rotation is the one if you’re a Mets fan, you hope they 2 out of 3 stay healthy because it gives you more hope regarding Matt Harvey.
Still, the lineup to me isn’t that exciting. I’m not a big Jayson Werth guy, and with Ryan Zimmerman dealing with lingering issues, Harper needs to be an MVP caliber player in 2014. I think he can do it, but I also think the team will be carried by the pitching into the division title.
NL East MVP: Bryce Harper – As mentioned, I think he will play a huge role in whether the Nats have success or not.
NL East CY: Bartolo Colon – Going a little under the radar here. He was a top 5 pitcher in the AL, and it seems that whenever OTHER pitchers come from the AL to NL everybody predicts them to have a huge year…but nobody seems to be saying that about Bartolo, so I will.
NL East Sleeper: Dice-K: I cannot say it enough, I was really impressed with how he looked this spring, and I don’t think the Mets would pay him the money they did if they didn’t intend on bringing him up soon. All he needs to be is their 5th best starter, and if I am right, he’d fit into every teams rotations except maybe Washington.
As much as I hope upon hope the Phillies take up the cellar, and I think it’s possible, I just don’t think the Marlins have enough to overtake them. Fernandez is great, Nathan Eovaldi is going to break out and be a real solid #2 starter and Jacob Turner‘s hype is real, but this team has way too many issues offensively. Sure, Stanton has legit 50-homerun power in an era where we’ve seen only twelve 40-homerun seasons this decade, and Yelich has tons of potential, but where’s the rest of the offense? The team just doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of Stanton’s power. But if they get a surprise season from another player or two, I could see them finishing fourth.
The Phillies are the worst. I’ve been leading the charge against Ruin Tomorrow, Jr. for years now as he’s actively destroyed the championship team he was handed with reckless abandon. Besides the surprise season from an unknown Marlin or two, the Phillies can find themselves in the cellar if Hamels’ arm finally falls off, as it’s threatened to do each of the last two seasons.
I have the Mets at or around .500 this season, depending on how often Juan Lagares plays. Eric Young, Jr. has no business starting on this team. I really like the addition of Chris Young, as he’s the type of player build to succeed in this ballpark. Great defense, plus power and speed can also describe Granderson, provided both Grandy and C. Young are in corner spots with Juan Lagares in center. I think E. Young has a place on this team and could be one of the most valuable fourth outfielders in the league with his versatility, solid outfield defense and great speed, but starting him weakens two outfield positions. Food for thought: if Harvey hadn’t gotten hurt and forced the Mets to sign a pitcher, where would that money have gone? The Mets were able to avoid the Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz potential disasters. Would they have been more interested in Jose Dariel Abreu? Would they have been players for my personal favorite first base option, James Loney? The point is moot, but I’m glad the signings they made were smart, making the team better now while not blocking any of the high upside players on the brink of their debut.
Sadly, I’m not nearly as down on the Braves chances as most. I can’t see losing Beachy hurting them for two reasons: Teheran is a legit beast and probably better than Beachy, and Beachy hasn’t contributed more than 145 innings in any season in his career, and has a total of 111 combined the last two seasons. I don’t think they will miss what they essentially never had. Medlen poses a bigger problem, and Santana is certainly a downgrade. But he’s solid, and should be fine. Aaron Harang is terrible, and Alex Wood and David Hale are question marks, but I just don’t see how they’re so much worse off now for replacing Medlen with Santana and the previously non-existent Beachy with any warm body. It hurts their chances, but I don’t buy the idea that they’re in real trouble.
The Nats are one of the most complete and well-balanced teams in the league. Their rotation is deep even without Fister, their bullpen is deep, there’s an MVP candidate in the outfield in Harper, a top player at third base in Zimmerman, one of 2013’s best shortstops out there in Ian Desmond and a really exciting rookie at second base in Anthony Rendon. Wilson Ramos is underrated behind the plate and LaRoche is solid at first base, though his down season last year bears keeping an eye on. The Nats will have to suffer serious injuries to a few key guys to not win this division.
NL East MVP: Bryce Harper. He was my pick last season and had an MVP April before injuries hurt his May and cost him all of June.
NL East CY: Jessep went with Colon as the division’s best pitcher, and I’ll also throw a curveball here. Watch out for Jordan Zimmerman.
NL East Sleeper: Nathan Eovaldi. He’s going to break out in a big way.