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MLB Preview: NL East

Jarrett Bailey, Sports Writer

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One division in the National League is done with, but the predictions and outlooks are far from over. That said, it’s time to take a look at the NL East.

 

  1. Mets: The Mets really shocked the entire MLB with their performance last year, and with the squad that they have together for 2016, don’t be surprised to see more of the same. They made two of the biggest splashes of any team by acquiring Second Baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates, and Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Rays. These moves made their already strong lineup that much better. When you look at their infield, I see almost no flaws. With Lucas Duda (27 HR, 73 RBI)at First, captain David Wright at third, and Walker and Cabrera (.315 OBP) in the middle infield, the Mets have one of the best infields in all of baseball. If you think that’s good, you should look at their outfield, made up of Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, and youngster Michael Conforto. Cespedes is a guy who is on ever team’s radar, as he clobbered 35 HRs and 105 RBI in 2015. Pitching wise, they are just as strong. They have a great 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation in Jacob deGrorn and Matt Harvey. They combined for a record of 27-16 with a total ERA of 2.63 and 393 strikeouts. The Mets are a team that are coming off a disappointing World Series loss, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them hoist the trophy as Champions at the end of October.
  2. Nationals: The Nationals had a disappointing 2015 campaign, finishing 83-79 and missing out on the playoffs. Don’t let the record fool you; this is a team that, we all know, is stacked with game-changing talent. They have one of the best talents in all of baseball in right field; his name is Bryce Harper. Now, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years and haven’t heard of what an absoloute animal this guy is, I’ll fill you in. He finished 2015 3rd in the majors in Home Runs (42), 3rd in average (.330), and added 99 RBI. The guy is an incredible ball player and that cannot be stressed enough. He’s not alone, though. Guys like Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and newcomer Daniel Murphy, who they brought over from the Mets, are going to be pivotal players in this lineup. Pitching wise, Max Scherzer is one of the best aces in the game. He threw two no-hitters last season, the absoloute highlights of his 14-12 campaign in which he threw for 276 strikeouts. Stephen Strasburg is their second man in the rotation, and we saw some improvement from the former All-Star. He went 11-7, but that 3.46 ERA is something that could use improvement. If the rotation and batting lineup can help each other out in 2016, the Nats should be right in the mix the race for a wildcard spot.
  3. Phillies: The rest of the division is up for grabs, but I’m going with the Phillies. Philly has been in the stage of rebuilding for the past few seasons, but with the young corps they have now, they may start coming into their own as a team. They still have long-time first baseman Ryan Howard, who is still shown that he can be productive, even at age 36. Maikel Franco is a guy that many experts are looking at as having a breakout 2016 season. The young third baseman batted .280 with 14 homers and 50 RBI in just 80 games last season. Odubel Herrera in centerfield is another guy that, in just his second year, could have shades of greatness. Pitching wise, Aaron Nola has gone from relief pitcher to the top man in the rotation. One thing that Nola has going for him is his curveball, which accounted for 76 outs last season. They brought over Jeremy Hellickson from Arizona, which could be a good pick up for this rotation that needs to find a rhythm and stability. There is a lot of potential in this lineup, and I see them improving in 2016.
  4. Marlins: The Marlins are another one of those teams that may not be great this year, but will benefit from a season of gelling together. One guy on my radar is Justin Bour at first base. He whacked 23 homers last season, and has shown that he can be a feature first baseman in this league. With Dee Gordon at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at short, and Martin Prado at third, the Marlins have a solid infield to work with. Giancarlo Stanton in right field is one of the elite players in all of baseball. If he can stay healthy and put up numbers that we are costumed to seeing, their lineup should be just fine. Pitching wise, I really see a lot of potential in Jose Fernandez. The right hander is making the jump from relief pitcher, but with a 6-1 record and a 2.92 ERA in 2015, he seems poised and should have a steady 2016 campaign. They also acquired Wei-Yin Chen from Baltimore, which could lead to a steady rotation and moderate success to build on. With a new manager in Don Mattingly, who has a great reputation in baseball, at the helm, the Marlins will be exciting to watch this season, even if it doesn’t mean playing in October.
  5. Braves: The Braves, I believe, are a team that we will see struggle again in 2016. That said, I trust their pitching staff to see some improvement. Julio Teheran isn’t an All-Star by any means, but is a solid pitcher to have at the top of their rotation. He went 11-8 last season and had a respectable WHIP of 1.31. He is going to have to be the catalyst of this rotation in 2016. In order for this team to have any success, or a glimpse of success, is starting with good pitching. One guy that is on my radar for the Braves is Adonis Garcia. In 58 games last year, the young right hander accounted for 10 HRs and a .277 average. Though he is just 5’9″ and weighs only 190 pounds, Garcia showed that he can be a power hitter, which is much needed in this lineup. The Braves finished last in both Home Runs and RBI last season. Out of only 100 homers hit, First Baseman Freddie Freeman accounted for 18 of them. Their lineup lacks power hitters, and I don’t see a very successful season unless a trade is made or something crazy happens.
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