Predictions - NL East

The last division prediction for my world.

1. Washington Nationals

Overall - This is not as strong a team as last year but they have no competition for the NL East. As they have been prone to do throughout the years with this roster, winning a playoff series will be a challenge.

Strengths - 1) Two aces. They may be the only team with a legitimate ace 1A and ace 1B in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer has been more durable, limiting right handed bats to a .137 average. The duo is good for 30 wins if both stay healthy. After those two the rotation gets dicey. Don’t expect a repeat year from Gio Gonzalez.
2) RF. Perhaps everyone expected too much from Bryce Harper. He has fallen short of Mike Trout in production and staying healthy has been an issue with his all out play. He is one of the best right fielders in the game when he is in the lineup with a .595 slugging percentage. If he can play 150 plus games expect MVP consideration.
3) Infield. When everything is clicking this is the best infield in baseball. Anthony Rendon is one of the more consistent performers in the lineup. Last year he was second to Ryan Zimmerman in RBIs with 100. Trea Turner at short can steal bases (46) but also hit for pop. Last year was a down year for him as he battled injuries. Daniel Murphy will miss the first month of the season but he is usually good for 20 plus homeruns and his .322 average was second in the National League. Staying healthy has always been a challenge for first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Last year he stayed healthy and hit .303 with 36 homeruns and 108 RBIs. Despite that production he got no consideration in the MVP voting.

Weaknesses - 1) Catching. Matt Wieters had an off year hitting .225. His defense is not that strong to rely on weak production with his offense. He does work with pitchers well.

Top Rookie - We suspect Erick Fedde will get more opportunities in the starting rotation than Victor Robles in the outfield.

Top Prospect - The five tool player may have to wait until next year to show his stuff. The Nationals expect him to replace Bryce Harper if they can’t resign Bryce.

Expected Finish - First place, but winning a playoff series is probably not in the cards. The Nationals are still winless in their three playoff series.

2. New York Mets

Overall - The Mets were plagued with a number of injuries last year, which torpedoed their assault on the playoff race. They hope to avoid those injuries this year.

Strengths - 1) Starting Pitching. Two years ago this rotation was anticipated to be the rotation of the ages. Injuries prevented that from happening last year. Noah Syndergaard is healthy and will be the ace of the staff. Last year he was limited to 7 starts. Jacob DeGrom was the only starter to start over 30 games last year but his 28 homeruns put his ERA at 3.53. He needs to keep more balls in the park. Steven Matz may never have a completely healthy year but the Mets are hoping to get 20 plus starts and get that ERA (6.08) dropped by at least 2.5 runs. Matt Harvey looked good in the spring but like Matz he was very hittable last year (6.70 ERA). If these four can’t find their mojo the Mets have no chance to compete.
2) Outfield. When healthy it can be one of the best in the National League. Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto each have the potential to hit 30 plus homeruns each. Staying healthy has been an issue. Michael Conforto will start the season on the disabled list. That will help out the defense in centerfield, but the offense will be restricted. Yoenis Cespedes has not stayed healthy in his two years in the major leagues.

Weaknesses - 1) First Base. Adrian Gonzalez has seen his best years. The Mets may be better off using Jay Bruce at first base to improve their outfield defense, allowing Conforto to play a corner.
2) Catcher. Travis d’Arnaud is another player with health issues. Last year he did catch 93 games, hitting 16 homeruns. The Mets will take that kind of production but relying on d’Arnaud to stay in the lineup has been a Tulowitski like challenge.

Top Rookie - If the Mets continue to have problems with the health of their starting pitchers Marcus Molina could get a number of opportunities to start. He is not overpowering, but he has command and a plus slider.

Top Prospect - No clear favorite here, but most seem to think Andres Gimenez is the Mets top prospect. His glove is gold glove, but it may have to move from shortstop to second base because Amed Rosario may be entrenched at short when Gimenez is ready to contribute. Gimenez lacks power but he is a contact hitter with the ability to hit .300 or greater.

Expected Finish - Second Place, but they fail to avoid injuries and miss out on the wild card.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

Overall - Their prospects are being filtered into the lineup. The team also signed a couple of veteran free agents to fill leadership roles to the offense and the rotation. It may take another year before the Phillies see the roots of their rebuilding process take growth.

Strengths - 1) First Base/Left Field - They should get a lot of offense from Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins. Myworld does not feel Hoskins will hit 54 homeruns in 2018 if he plays 150 games as would his projection from last year. The duo should combine for 60 plus homeruns next year. Their defense will also be less than stellar.
2) Catcher. Jorge Alfaro will finally get his opportunity. Health has delayed his major league career. He should provide 20 plus homerun pop and more consistent hitting than their catching corp last year.
3) Utility. Scott Kingery could play a number of different positions in 2018. The Phillies could use him like the Astros use Marwin Gonzalez, sticking him out at second, third and left field. He has the potential to hit 20 plus homeruns if he can play 120 plus games.

Weaknesses - 1) Defense - This will not be a strong team defensively. To get all the productive bats in the lineup they may be forced to put square pegs in round holes filling out the positions.
2) Closer. Hector Neris had trouble retiring lefthanders. He also allowed too many balls to leave the park (9), but was still able to string together 26 saves.
3) Starting Pitching. They were able to sign Jake Arrieta to a free agent contract, but he struggled last year. Aaron Nola had a strong year but with Jake taking over the number one role that would take the pressure off Nola. The Phillies are hoping that the young pitchers who follow them will have more productive years than last year (Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Ben Lively).

Top Rookie - J.P. Crawford will get the starting nod at short. His bat may not produce enough to get considered for Rookie of the Year. Myworld expects Scott Kingery to have the more productive bat as he plays multiple positions and vies for the top rookie.

Top Prospect - J.P. Crawford is considered the top prospect but his bat has disappointed the last two years, despite having the tools to be able to hit.

Expected Finish - Third place, but if their pitching surprises they could sneak into the playoff race.

4. Atlanta Braves

Overall - Their rebuilding process took a hit when they were forced to release a number of prospects for violating the international cap. They need to sort out the pitchers that will take them to the playoff race.

Strengths - 1) First base. Got to feel sorry for Freddie Freeman to have to battle through this rebuilding process. He hit .307 with 28 homeruns despite being limited to 117 games last year.
2) Talented Youth. You don’t know when prospects with impressive tools like Dansby Swanson, Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies break out. Also the pitching staff will trout out a number of young arms to the mound in Luiz Gohara, Mike Soroka, Max Fried and A.J. Minter. Not all these players will succeed but the Braves are hoping three or four will have impact years.

Weaknesses - 1) Left Field. There is a black hole there now. When Ronald Acuna fulfills his minor league time for the month of April he should take over the position. It may take some time before he produces.
2) Third Base. Austin Riley is the future here, but young Rio Ruiz will try to hold down the position until Johan Camargo gets healthy. Ruiz hit .193 last year in limited playing time. Camargo lacks the power one expects from this position.
3) Closer. Arodys Vizcaino has never permanently claimed the closer role despite being the expected closer for the last three years. One of the younger pitchers with lots of stuff like Gohara may be better suited for the role.

Top Rookie - Ronald Acuna will take over the left field job in May and battle for the rookie of the year award.

Top Prospect - Acuna, but after him it would be a any one of the pitchers mentioned to fill the starting rotation.

Expected Finish - Still a year or two away. Fourth Place finish is the best they can hope for.

5. Miami Marlins

Overall - New ownership same results. Marlins fans will have to sit through another rebuild. Trading away the best outfield in baseball had to be like breaking up with your girlfriend not because you wanted to but because you had to.

Strengths - 1) Youth. They will be starting a number of talented rookies in Lewis Brinson, Brian Anderson and Magneuris Sierra. Watching them grow and become stars is better than watching a bunch of veterans stumble into last place.

Weaknesses - 1) Catching. J.T. Realmuto is starting the season on the DL. He also has requested to be traded. Without him they will have a couple backups in Tom Tellis and Chad Wallach man this position.
2) Shortstop. J.T. Riddle and Mel Rojas are just place setters for a player to be drafted later. This will be a tough position to stock with Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter overseeing the process.
3) Outfield. It will be tough to replace Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. They will lose 60 homeruns at that position.
4) Starting Pitching. This is where they will really get beat up with a handful of journeyman filling the position until their young arms are ready. No sense in using up service time for a last place finish.

Top Rookie - Lewis Brinson will take over the centerfield job. There will be some hiccups in his play, but when the season is done he will hit around .270 with 20 plus homeruns and compete with Ronald Acuna for the National League rookie of the year award. Brian Anderson is also a potent bat who could make some waves with his production.

Top Prospect - Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Guzman are two young pitchers they acquired who throw the ball hard. Don’t expect them to pitch until the 2019 season.

Expected Finish - They will battle for the top pick in the 2019 draft.

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