NL East Predictions

The last of our division predictions.

1. Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths - The new guys. Bryce Harper is the most publicized new guy, but there were more important additions prior to the Harper signing. The trade for J.T. Realmuto provides a more experienced catcher to lead a younger starting rotation. They traded their previous catcher Jorge Alfaro to upgrade at this position. The same holds true for Jean Segura, a quality shortstop who they acquired from the Mariners, including in the trade their previous shortstop J.P. Crawford and again upgrading this position. Signing Andrew McCutchen as a free agent upgrades left field from a defensive stand point and moves the big bat of Rhys Hoskins to first base where his power belongs. Seranthony Dominguez won their closer job last year and did a good job in saving games. Newly acquired David Robertson provides the team choices at the closer position and gives the team an experienced arm in case Dominguez falters.

Weakness - The starting rotation looks slim after Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez all have talent but suffer from youthful inconsistency. They certainly fall short of the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves starting rotation. Defense is not a strength here. No gold glovers covering the infield or outfield.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Most of their top prospects who were close to the major leagues were traded. What’s left are mostly relievers like Enyel de los Santos and Ranger Suarez. Ranger could help in the rotation but his ceiling is as a fifth starter.

Expected Finish - It will be a four team battle but the Phillies will rise to the top because of improvement in their offense, provided injuries don’t eat into their depth.

2. Washington Nationals

Strengths - The top three starters are the best trio in baseball. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin can not be matched by any other team, provided they stay healthy. That is no sure thing for Strasburg and Corbin needs to show that last year was not a fluke. The left side of the infield with Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner is strong both offensively and defensively. Turner provides the speed while Rendon shows the power.

Weakness - The Nationals have failed to make the playoffs twice, both times when they were favored to win the division. When they make the playoffs they get eliminated in the first round. Much of that is blamed on a lack of leadership in the locker room. That is still a problem, with too many quiet players reluctant to lead. Max Scherzer is the one vocal leader but pitchers are tough to lead since they only appear in the lineup every five days. The outfield lacks depth. Adam Eaton gets injured a lot. This could create a problem if Victor Robles struggles as a rookie and Michael Taylor stays inconsistent.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Victor Robles will not make as great an impact as Juan Soto. His defense will be better but the bat will not be as productive. The speed should create havoc on the bases provided he has the instincts to make the right choices. Carter Kieboom shined during spring training, hitting two homeruns off Justin Verlander. He could be called up by mid-season once injuries eat away at depth. Tanner Rainey has trouble finding the plate but the fastball hits triple digits. The Nationals traded Tanner Roark for him so expect him to get an opportunity.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Braves for the wild card spot and win it by a game or two. Starting pitching will prove the difference.

3. Atlanta Braves

Strengths - The depth of the Braves starters is impressive. It is being used early with the injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Guasman. Not a good start to the season. The rookie of the year Ronald Acuna should have a better year his sophomore season, moving from the leadoff spot to the middle of the lineup. Freddie Freeman is a potential MVP at first base.

Weakness - When the Braves were winning consecutive division titles one of their weak areas was the bullpen. This could create a problem in 2019. A.J. Minter served as the closer last year but he will also start the season on the disabled list. Arodys Vizcaino is another option but he has had trouble staying healthy.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Lots of possibilities to fill the rotation to begin the year. Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka and Bryse Wilson are part of the first wave. Ian Anderson and Luiz Gohara are the second options. On the offensive side Austin Riley could be ready for third base. If Josh Donaldson struggles to stay healthy or his bat fails the Braves will not hesitate to bring up Riley. Kolby Allard is a lefthander who lacks explosiveness with his fastball. Command is his strength and he could fill out the bullpen.

Predicted Finish - Starting pitching lacks experience and this will prove critical as they fall short of the Nationals for the last wild card spot.

4. New York Mets

Strengths - Starting pitching if they stay healthy. They don’t get any better than Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young last year. Noah Syndergaard has the potential to win a Cy Young but has struggled to stay healthy the last two years. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are two other talented pitchers who have spent much of their career on the disabled list. The acquisition of Edwin Diaz gives them a 50 save closer from last year.

Weakness - Too many hopes and ambitions. They hope Amed Rosario will be one of the best shortstops in baseball. They hope Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith can provide answers at first base. And they hope Yoennis Cespedes can come back healthy to enhance an outfield lacking in power, except for Michael Conforto. They hope Wilson Ramos can stay healthy for a full year and Robinson Cano does not start feeling his age. And they hope their starting rotation stays healthy. All those hopes will not come to fruition.

Prospects to Make an Impact - Peter Alonso has a powerful bat that has the potential of hitting 30 plus homeruns. His defense is not good but if his bat can be productive the Mets will take the tradeoff. Tomas Nido will act as the back up for Ramos, but this will result in a lot of playing time to keep Ramos healthy. Andres Gimenez and Luis Guillorme will vie for the Mets utility job. Both are superior defensive players but Gimenez may have the better bat.

Predicted Finish - Health and lack of depth will drop them down to fourth but they will stay competitive for a playoff spot into September.

5. Miami Marlins

Strengths - They have the strength to play poorly enough to fight for the first pick in the 2020 draft, if they can be called a strength. Brian Anderson may lack the power to play third but he is the one bat to fear in the lineup. Starlin Castro is a veteran bat who will probably be traded before the year is out.

Weakness - Two of their three outfielders they traded, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich both won MVPs the last couple years. The outfield the Marlins are trotting out this year would be hard pressed to make an All Star team in AAA. Starting rotation will not limit runs and it will get ugly. Same holds true for the bullpen. A lot of ugly on this roster. This team would be more competitive in AAA.

Prospects to Make an Impact - The Marlins have no motivation to use up service time on another wasted season. Isan Diaz could be called up mid-season after Castro is traded. He has been highly touted but his strikeouts have hampered his offensive performance. Sandy Alcantara has made the rotation. His fastball is impressive but his command is lacking.

Predicted Finish - They will fight with the Orioles and Royals for the first pick in the 2020 draft.

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