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2016 National League East Predictions

2016 National League East Predictions

As expected, the Senior Circuit’s World Series participant came from the East. Quite unexpectedly, though, it was the Mets representing and not the heavily favored Nationals. It appears that it’ll be a two-team race this season, as the Braves and Phillies are in rebuilding mode, while the Marlins teeter on the border between success and rebuild again.

Washington Nationals

Washington woefully under performed last year, despite the valiant efforts of Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Injuries had a lot to do with it, but former manager Matt Williams lost this squad early on and never got them back. Enter Dusty Baker, a notorious player’s manager who has some outstanding regular seasons under his belt.  The rotation will challenge that of the Mets, though they aren’t as talented at the back end. Scherzer and Steven Strasburg are dominant; a full season from the latter is a necessity, though, if he wishes to cash in during the next offseason.  Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, and either Tanner Roark or Bronson Arroyo will back them up, and young buck Lucas Giolito isn’t far behind.  The bullpen is average at best, and the Nats couldn’t find any takers for closer Jonathan Papelbon’s attitude and contract. Losing Drew Storen stings, as there is no longer a clear back-up.

The lineup is talented, but very brittle. Moving Ryan Zimmerman to 1B is just the latest effort to keep him in the lineup. Fear not, as he’s certain to find the DL again this year. LF Jayson Werth is certain to join him at some point. 3B Anthony Rendon missed half of the year himself, while C Wilson Ramos and Harper himself have injury histories of their own. The bench is one of the better ones in baseball, and the talent there and in the minors could come into play. Keep an eye on prospect SS Trea Turner. He could be a star in the making and really produce at the top of this lineup.

Take the Nationals over 89.5 wins (-110)

New York Mets

The Mets utilized some young and ridiculously talented arms and a timely trade acquisition to win the league last season.  All of the arms are back, and they may be getting another back mid-season. Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz make up the most talented young rotation since the Braves of the ‘90’s.  Each is capable of a strikeout per inning, each can go deep into games, but each is going to have their workload carefully monitored after the post-season run. The bullpen will be a bit thin to start the season, but Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia will close games quite nicely while the rest get healthy.

There are some areas of concern in the lineup, especially on the left side of the field. SS Asdrubal Cabrera may begin the season on the DL with a knee issue, 3B David Wright’s balky back has reduced him to a slap hitter with below-average power and range, and LF Michael Conforto will not be able to sneak up on pitching staffs like he did in September. CF Yoenis Cespedes is back; we’ll see how well he performs when he’s NOT playing for a new contract. We see a regression for him. Runs won’t be easy to come by for this offense but, thankfully, they won’t need to score too many.

Take the Mets under 90.5 wins (+105)

Miami Marlins

Miami has, potentially, the top slugger and top starter in the division and if they can stay healthy, the Marlins could challenge for a wild card. The team will only go as far as Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez will take them. The former is coming off of wrist surgery and the latter will be handled with kid gloves after returning from TJ surgery last season. Don’t expect more than 170 innings from him, though they should be outstanding innings.  The supporting players remain generally intact; the only addition of note is SP Wei-Yin Chen, who will be a rock solid #2. After spending so much time in Camden Yard, he’ll reap the benefits of spacious Marlins Ballpark. A sub-3.00 ERA is possible. The rest of the rotation is merely adequate. The bullpen took a huge hit this spring when Carter Capps was lost to his own TJ surgery.  He was the closer in waiting in case AJ Ramos faltered.  As for the lineup around Stanton; it is solid, if unspectacular. 2B Dee Gordon shocked the world by winning the NL batting title. He was extremely fortunate with his hit placements, so expect a step back. His speed and glove, however, remain elite.  He and LF Christian Yelich will set the table nicely for Stanton, as both are adept at getting on base.  CF Marcell Ozuna needs to step up; efforts to trade him in the offseason were fruitless and this is his final chance to stick in Florida. The defense remains outstanding all around.

Take Miami over 79.5 wins (-110)

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies will not be good. They are in full rebuilding mode and are ditching bad contracts for prospects left and right; except for the untradeable Ryan Howard, one of only two leftovers from the championship squad of just a few years back. The lineup will be led by 3B Maikel Franco, who had his breakout last season; to the tune of .280/14/50. He’s not a .280 hitter, but he could top out around 25 HRs and 80 RBIs. Don’t expect much else from the lineup, as it is quite devoid of power, speed, and talent. A few youngsters could see some time once the rosters expand in September; SS JP Crawford could come up even sooner.  Howard is simply playing out the string. He can’t hit lefties and strikes out far too often to make an impact.

The pitching staff isn’t any better. They’ll be ‘led’ by either Aaron Nola or Jeremy Hellickson. Nola has some promise, but he’s more a #3 or #4 – certainly not a staff ace. Hellickson has been unimpressive since his rookie season. He’s there to eat innings; nothing more. Same can be said for Charlie Morton and Brett Oberholtzer. Keep an eye on former Astros top pick Mark Appel. He struggled mightily in their farm system; perhaps a change of venue was needed.

Take the Phillies over 67 wins (-125)

Atlanta Braves

Then there’s Atlanta (65), a fellow rebuilder. They used 116 different lineups last year and none were very good. They’ll be hard-pressed to match last season’s ‘production.’  They lack power; Freddie Freeman led with 18 and nobody else hit more than ten. They lack pitching; Julio Teheran is the only SP who cleared 117 innings last season. They have no identity whatsoever. New CF Ender Inciarte will provide a nice glove and good speed at the top of the lineup but that’s about it, save for Freeman. RF Nick Markakis has no power or speed any longer; he’s become a slappy on-base hitter who, at times, seems uninterested.

Names like Hector Oliviera, Jace Peterson, and Adonis Garcia SOUND cool; they just don’t excite on the field, where it counts.  The rest of the rotation behind Teheran is rife with former fringe prospects like Manny Banuelos, Matt Wisler, and Williams Perez. None belong on a roster as starting pitchers; they’re best suited for the bullpen. The best players in the organization are SS Dansby Swanson and SP Sean Newcomb, neither of whom should see the major league roster until 2017.

2016 National League East Predictions

  1. Washington       92-70
  2. NY Mets              87-75
  3. Miami                   81-81
  4. Philadelphia      69-93
  5. Atlanta                 63-99