Continuing the week-long predictions, we look at the NL East. This one is going to be an interesting one to look at, and I’m going to include one bold prediction.
1. Washington Nationals
The Nationals are going to take this division easily. Partially because they are very talented. Partially because they are in a very weak division, and I’m not sure that anyone else is going to compete with them. I also am not sure they start out as slow as they did last year. In 2013, they were under .500 for almost the entire year, only getting above it in September when they fell short of making a wild card run when it was too late and they were too far gone. This year, they’ll have a much stronger start, and that will help them wing he division.
2. Atlanta Braves
This is going to be an interesting one. I really want to put them 3rd or 4th, but I honestly don’t know who would pass them up. For the entire season last year, the NL East was the weakest division in the NL, and this year, I expect the same. It’s going to be a weak division, but the Braves are the best of the worst. Now for my bold prediction: the Braves are only going to have around 75 wins. That’s something that they’ve only done once in the last 19 seasons (2008 they went 72-90). They have a solid team for the most part, but they got so much weaker this year.
The one big position player that they lost is Brian McCann. He’s not going to be a big loss behind the plate, because Evan Gattis can produce similarly to Brian McCann, but the problem is that the Braves wanted Gattis in the lineup last year and he was playing in left most of the year. The Braves have to replace him in the outfield, and it looks like B.J. Upton is going to get that spot. You know, the guy who got benched last year for striking out so much. He’s always had 150-160 strikeouts in a season, but last season he did it in about two-thirds as many plate appearances. He could end up getting close to 200 strikeouts this year if he gets a full season of plate appearances, and that’s on the team that was 3rd highest in strikeouts last year, tied with the Mets, and only the Astros and Twins were worse. Not exactly the greatest company.
But the biggest issue is the rotation. Last year’s opening day rotation looked like this: Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, and Julio Tehran. Tim Hudson, the ace, is now in a Giants uniform. Kris Medlen had Tommy John surgery. Mike Minor will start the season on the DL. Paul Maholm is now a Dodger. Julio Tehran, who was the 5th starter last year, starts opening day this year. Brandon Beachy, who was hurt off and on last year, and they wanted to get in the rotation, is also having Tommy John. They just signed Ervin Santana, and there’s no way to tell if he’s going to be fine-tuned by opening day. Even then, he has a career ERA over 4 and a career record just over .500. Not exactly confident. They just released Freddy Garcia, who had a 4.37 ERA last year in order to probably sign Aaron Harang, who had ERA’s over 5 in 2012 and 2011, and a career ERA of 4.28 and a career win percentage below .500. That’s a mess, and not one that they can recover from. That said, I have no idea who is going to pass them up, and so, they’re 2nd.
3. New York Mets
The Mets are going to stick around in 3rd, and if anyone could pass the Braves this year, it’s them. They have improved in many areas, but they also did lose Matt Harvey. If he was pitching this year, I’d have them easily in 2nd. Since he’s out, I’m going to say they win just less than the Braves. By just less, I mean around literally 1 less game. They’ve had a pretty strong spring, and they will try to fight their way up, just not sure if that happens this year. In 2015, if they improve a little more, and get Harvey back to form, They’ll at least be in the mix for a wild card.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies remind me a little bit of the Angels, and in that, I mean that they have an aging team, that is on the downhill part of their career. They aren’t playing like they were when they were young, and they aren’t getting any better. They signed Marlon Byrd in the offseason, but that just adds to their age. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to field that team all year. Plus, you have a first year manager, who is already getting into public arguments with his players. That’s a recipe for disaster.
5. Miami Marlins
I mean, is it really a surprise that they will probably in the cellar again? I think they may be able to get 63 wins so that they don’t get the dreaded triple digit losses, but does anyone really think that they’re going to do much of anything for the near future. They got Rafael Furcal, who hasn’t really played since August 2012, and is an old guy on a young team. Fernandez is probably going to pick up about 1/3 of their wins, and Giancarlo Stanton is going to have a solid year, but it’ll be another year of futility for the fish.
As you can tell, I know more about the Braves than I do most of the other teams. That’s probably because I live about 10 minutes from the Georgia border, and 2 hours from Atlanta, where I am going tonight to catch an American Authors concert, and again in a little over a month in order to catch a Cardinals game down there. In any case, that’s where I see the standings for the NL East with this caveat: I could easily see the Mets and the Braves swapping places or the Phillies and the Marlins trading places. I still think this is the most likely finish for all the teams, though.