National League East Preview

Feature photo courtesy of Keith Allison

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will preview the 2015 Major League season. This morning is the National League East preview.

The Nationals are regarded as the best team in baseball with their incredible starting rotation. The Phillies and Braves are tanking, leaving the door wide open for the Marlins and Mets to improve from 2014.

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First Place: Washington Nationals

Hitting: The Nationals are starting off the season with Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, and Jason Werth on the disabled list, so their offensive stats will be deflated for the first few weeks of the season. Ian Desmond, Dan Uggla, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos are all above-average big leaguers, and give the Nationals a great infield. Anthony Rendon has high expectations to repeat his terrific 2014 season, and has the capability to do so. Bryce Harper has to step up his production in order to live up to his high prospect status.

Pitching: The Nationals signed Max Scherzer this past offseason in case they needed to trade ace Jordan Zimmerman. Zimmerman and the Nats have not been able to work out an extension, so they put the 28-year-old righty on the trade block. However, Zimmerman is still on the roster, giving the Nationals two aces on their staff. Along with Stephen Strasberg, who is more than capable of becoming an ace, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister, the Nationals have five top of the rotation starters. This is the best rotation in the MLB.

Organizational Direction: On The Rise

It is hard for a 96-win team to get better from one year to the next, but the Nationals should be able to pull it off. Playing in a weak division, the Nats will have the most wins in baseball. Expect 97-102 wins.

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Second Place: Miami Marlins

Hitting: The Marlins gave Giancarlo Stanton a 13-year contract worth $325 million, the biggest contract in sports history. The 25-year-old is averaging almost 31 home runs a season, and led the NL last year with 37. Stanton has never had support in the lineup, yet he produces MVP numbers every year. This season, the Marlins added Mike Morse, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon, which will help take some of the pressure off Stanton. Gordon and Prado get on base often, which will only help Stanton’s RBI total. This is a strong lineup.

Pitching: After Jose Fernandez had Tommy John surgery and missed most of 2014, Henderson Alvarez took the baton as ace of the staff, putting up a 12-7 record with a 2.65 ERA. Fernandez will start the season on the DL, but expect him to come back before June. The Marlins acquired Jared Cosart during the 2014 season, and he produced an ERA under 3.00. In the offseason, they added Dan Haren and Mat Latos to make the back end of their rotation stronger. Steve Cishek is among the best closers in the major leagues. The Marlins pitching staff should be one of the strongest in the NL.

Organizational Direction: On The Rise

The Marlins are taking advantage of the current outlook of the division. The Braves and Phillies, usually at the top of the division, are tanking and the Mets are still a year or two away from making their playoff push. The Marlins did not go into free agency to make the slam-dunk signing, but rather to fit players around their two best players, Stanton and Fernandez. Expect 82-87 wins.

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Third Place: New York Mets

Hitting: The Mets made the first move in free agency, signing Michael Cuddyer to strengthen the offensive production. Long-time third baseman David Wright struggled last season for the first time in his career, hitting a career low eight home runs. Wright and Daniel Murphy, who had a down year, should both bounce back, helping this struggling lineup immensely. However, the Mets still do not have a lot of firepower in their offense and will struggle to put up runs on a consistent basis.

Pitching: Matt Harvey had an incredible 2013 season, but missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. Harvey is back now and ready to repeat his 2013 success. He will lead the young pitching staff (and veteran Bartolo Colon) to its first winning season since 2008. Jacob DeGrom picked up for Harvey in 2014, winning 9 games and posting an ERA under 2.70. With the loss of Zack Wheeler to elbow surgery, expect the Mets to call up Noah Syndergaard, their top pitching prospect, to help bolster their rotation. Along with Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, this rotation has the ability to be amongst the top in the National League.

Organizational Direction: On The Rise

This rebuilding process has been slow for the Mets, yet their fan base has remained patient for years. Now is their year to finally get above .500 and compete for a playoff spot. They have a ton of young talent, but general manager Sandy Alderson refuses to sign a big name bat in free agency. Expect 80-85 wins.

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Fourth Place: Atlanta Braves

Hitting: Braves’ fans may have trouble recognizing their team, as the Braves made significant changes this offseason. They lost their entire outfield, trading Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, then signed Nick Markakis and Eric Young Jr. Freddie Freeman is the lone power bat left in the lineup, putting a lot of pressure on Chris Johnson and Markakis to produce big numbers. With the Braves tanking, it would not be a surprise if Freddie Freeman was put on the trade block this June. Their lineup will not win them a lot of games.

Pitching: The Braves starting rotation still has a lot of talent, despite their efforts to throw away 2015. Julio Teheran and Alex Wood both had over 10 wins last season with ERAs under 3.00. The Braves traded Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for righty Shelby Miller, who won 15 games in 2013. Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson were both dominant closers in 2013, and now share the same bullpen. Pitching will keep this team away from the cellar.

Organizational Direction: Rebuilding

No team has tried harder to lose in one season than Atlanta. They traded away Craig Kimbrel, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Justin Upton, and Melvin Upton Jr., and received significantly less major league talent in return. However, their pitching will keep them out of the cellar of this relatively weak division. Expect 64-69 wins.

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Fifth Place: Philadelphia Phillies

Hitting: The Phillies have taken a chance on Grady Sizemore. The former Cleveland Indians phenom has had his career ravaged by injuries, and has never lived up to his potential. The fact that this is the main headline for the Phillies’ lineup says it all. Without fan favorite Jimmy Rollins, who was traded to the Dodgers this offseason, all that is left of the o 2008 World Series winning lineup is Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Anything Ryan Howard produces is a plus, and Utley’s spot is waiting for him on the disabled list like it is nearly every year. The rest of their lineup shapes up with unknown hitters to the common fan.

Pitching: Cole Hamels is still the ace of this staff, but it is unknown for how much longer he will stay in Philly. It is no secret that the Phillies are trying to trade him for top prospects. Jonathan Papelbon is the closer in a weak bullpen. If he produces, he could be on the trade block too.

Organizational Direction: Rebuilding

Ruben Amaro Jr. is working very hard to tear this team apart and put the pieces back together. After finishing in last place last season, they are on pace to do the same this year. J.P. Crawford, a top prospect, could make an appearance in the big leagues this season. Expect 58-62 wins.

Liam Beatus
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Liam Beatus

Columnist at The Left Bench
Liam is a freshman at the University of Maryland. He is a huge Yankee, New York Giant, and Knicks fan who loves his Terps. Also a sportswriter for pulsefeedz.com and bknation.org
Liam Beatus
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About Liam Beatus 38 Articles
Liam is a freshman at the University of Maryland. He is a huge Yankee, New York Giant, and Knicks fan who loves his Terps. Also a sportswriter for pulsefeedz.com and bknation.org