2017 National League East Projected Standings:
- Washington Nationals
- New York Mets
- Miami Marlins
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Atlanta Braves
After a season cut short due to losing in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs last year, the Nationals are starting to assert themselves as a dominant presence in the National League. The last three even years, the Nationals have made the playoffs and have lost all three times in the NLDS, which is pretty remarkable. Washington teams just have a history of making the playoffs, but not going very far. But, the team has the reining Cy Young Winner in Max Scherzer and a MVP in Bryce Harper. I expect the Nationals to reign supreme again in the East, even with the resurgence of the Mets’ pitching rotation. One concern that Nationals fans do have heading into the new season is the market for Bryce Harper. Washington has already came out and stated that they would not pay the substantial contract the Harper has supposedly asked for and rightfully earned.
Only playing in 73 games last season, Trea Turner proved that he has what it takes to play in the big leagues, batting .342, hitting thirteen homeruns and stealing thirty-three bases. Turner ended up playing center field for the team in their home stretch, but will most likely play shortstop in this upcoming season with the addition of Adam Eaton. Eaton, a similar play style to Turner, hit .284 last season with nine triples and fourteen homeruns. Eaton is a defensive monster and a total workhorse, playing in 156 games last year. Returning to the second base position is Daniel Murphy, who had a slug-fest last season, hitting .347, with twenty-five homeruns with 104 RBI’s. Murphy finished second in the MVP voting and won a silver slugger award, along with being rewarded as an All-Star. One player to watch this season will be Bryce Harper. Many are saying this season will be Harper’s last in Washington, so hopefully he goes out with a bang and repeats all of the constant high numbers that he puts up.
New York Mets:
The story for the past couple of seasons for the New York Mets has been the dominance of their starting rotation, but not being able to execute the win later in the game. It’s not that their bullpen is bad, because it’s not, it has been the case of their offense not being able to generate runs in the later innings of games. Another issue that they face every year is injuries and keeping players on the field. By the end of last year, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Stephen Matz, and Zack Wheeler had all been sidelined. With the departure of “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon, the Mets are now without a solidified number five starter and with their core-four starters all coming into the season healthy, this is going to be a big deal for the team to execute those wins. There are currently three pitchers in consideration for the job, with Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo all pitching for the job. Ha.
Many of the problems that the Mets have been facing have been keeping players on the field. On paper, the Mets should be a team that are a constant presence in the playoffs and winning important games too. The Mets re-signed two important players this off-season, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce. Both bring massive amounts of power to the lineup and some above average defense. The middle infield for the Mets is also going to be one of the most important factors with Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Both are superstar defenders and can also hit pretty well. The last concern that I have, is the stability of Lucas Duda and David Wright. Last year, both of them had severe back issues that kept them off the field and ultimately the team’s record low. One player to watch this year for New York will be Noah Syndergaard. Last season he went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Syndergaard and the Mets’ pitching staff will have to be the anchor on the team as they hope to stay afloat.
Last year, the Marlins stared death and tragedy right in the eye, as their beloved starter Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident. But, through all of the sadness, the team became closer than ever. With the loss, the did gain two very important pieces this off-season, Edison Volquez and Jeff Locke. Both of these pitchers are going to be workhorses this year, working alongside Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, and Tom Koehler. Now, Jose Fernandez is an irreplaceable starter, if he was still alive and kept at the pace that he was at, definitely would have been a Hall of Famer, no doubt about that in my mind. Since the pitching staff will be mainly eating up innings, queue the bullpen. When All-Star closers like Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman went elsewhere, they spent there money on players like Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler, and Dustin McGowan, which will add to an already great bullpen.
If this team figures out how to score runs, then they could be one of the super teams in the MLB. But since they cannot figure this piece of the puzzle out, they remain as one of the mediocre teams that will constantly be at about .500. But, last year the team placed fourth in the league in average, fifth in hits, and thirteenth in on base percentage. Another factor that prevents the Marlins from excelling is injuries and suspensions. Dee Gordon sat out the first eighty games of last year’s season due to a PED related ordeal and slugger Giancarlo Stanton only played in 119 games last year. With players such as Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Justin Bour the team’s power numbers are sure to increase this year. One player to watch this year will be Stanton and whether or not he can stay healthy and help lead his team to the playoffs.
After last year’s catastrophic season, the Phillies are looking to bounce back and hopefully make a run at some of the teams in the NL East. Although some fans will not admit it, they had a very silent but great off-season, signing a couple of key players that could help the cause. The inked former Blue Jays’ outfielder Michael Saunders, who last year hit twenty-four homeruns with fifty-seven RBI’s, along with a 1.3 WAR. Although the numbers don’t look very promising, he is an absolute stud out in the field and can play any spot in the outfield. Along with stabilizing their pitching staff by also signing Clay Buchholz and it seems like the Phillies do have a chance to make a run in the middle of the year.
Jeremy Hellickson had a very quiet but great year last year for the struggling team, going 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and throwing in 189 innings. Last season, Maikel Franco who has now established himself as an everyday third basemen, hit a total of twenty-five homeruns along with eight-eight RBI’s. Franco is a hard-hitting slugger who goes great with the new Phillies young team. Franco will be joined by Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, and Tommy Joseph in the infield, (left to right). Now, the Phillies have holes everywhere on their team, they have extreme inconsistencies that could lead to another terrible season, but if they do get everything together and in check, they could absolutely make a run for October. One player to watch this year will be Clay Buchholz. Clay has fallen off of the rails over the past couple of seasons, but I personally hope that he can bounce back and lead this young group of guys to a postseason. They aren’t ready for a World Series per say, but maybe a second Wild Card will calm Philadelphia fans’ nerves for a year.
The Braves were just in the news the other day as the received Brandon Phillips in a trade from the Reds. I personally didn’t think that the Reds would ever unload Phillips, even though many rumors circulated around him for the past two years or so. As bad as it sounds, Atlanta just needs to get through this season in order to be contenders again. They have about $50 million in talent leaving after this season, as they are faced with losing Julio Teheran, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp, and Nick Markakis. With many free agents hitting the market after this year, this could set up the Braves to be huge spenders.
Now, the team on paper does look like a team that could be in the playoffs. In the outfield, you have Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis, which defensively sounds like a stellar team. In the infield right to left, you have Adonis Garcia, Dansby Swanson, Brandon Phillips, and Freddie Freeman, which could honestly pose more of a threat than the outfield. The one thing that concerns me personally, is their bullpen because the starting rotation is not all that great. Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, and lastly Mike Foltynewicz. I’ve been following Dansby Swanson since his Marietta High School days and that’s why he is my player to watch this season. The man can flat out do everything and do everything in style. He only played in thirty-eight games last year, but hit .302 in that time frame. Swanson is Atlanta’s future and this year he will have a full year to prove himself as a superstar.