The National League East was one of the toughest divisions in baseball in 2019, and if there was a full season last year it could have still been the toughest division. This year the division is sure to be pretty competitive, none of the teams lost a lot of talent, while other teams drastically improved and have a chance to win the pennant. Here is how I see the division ending up when the regular season ends.
Fifth Place: Miami Marlins
The Marlins were one of the most surprising teams in baseball last season, they went from being one of the worst teams in the league to a playoff team in just a couple of months. One of their top prospects in Sixto Sanchez showed a lot of promise last year and he looks to be a big part of the team’s future. Sandy Alcantara will look to continue his strong play and lead the young Marlins rotation. Last year’s trade deadline acquisition Starling Marte will look to find himself a permanent home in Miami after getting traded twice in the past year. The Marlins also added Adam Duvall who had a powerful bat during this off-season. He will look to provide the lineup some power. Despite all of this being said, the Marlins are still a very young team and they would have to be big overachievers again to be playing meaningful games in September. If there was a full 162 game season last year I really don’t think that would have made the postseason. They made some notable additions during the past year, but no one that is a big game changer and I expect them to finish in last place similarly to 2019. However, it’s fair to say that they are going in the right direction.
Fourth Place: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies fell just short of a playoff spot last year and it looks like they will be just an average team again. Their bullpen was not very good these past years, they added some guys including Archie Bradley to try and improve the bullpen and if all goes right with that part of the team they will still need some other things to happen for them to make the playoffs. The top of their rotation is really strong led by Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, one of the better 1-2 punches in the game. However, after Zach Eflin at number three in the rotation, they don’t have much. The top three teams in the division all have strong rotations and the case can be made for any one of the three to be considered one of the top in the league. The Phillies are clearly not that level at this moment. Their lineup certainly has a lot of potential with Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins and second year player Alec Bohm. However, expect the pitching to hold them back from a playoff spot.
Third Place: Washington Nationals
The 2019 world series champions had a tough 2020 year as they finished fifth in division. The loss of Stephen Strasburg had a big part to do with that, but he will be back this year and will play a big role as the #2 starter. He will join Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to make up a deadly top of the rotation. Their front office also made some smart moves by bringing in Josh Bell, Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber. Both Schwarber and Bell will add some power to a lineup that already contains Juan Soto and Trea Turner. They definitely improved over the off-season and might have a chance to get a wild card spot by the end of September.
Second Place: Atlanta Braves
The Braves had a tremendous 2020 season overall, as they made it all the way to the NLCS and made it really tough for the eventual World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers. NL MVP Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. are both absolute stars and will likely continue their strong play. The Braves will also have Mike Soroka back after a gruesome leg injury last year. When they have all of their top pitchers healthy, they are tough to beat and the recent addition of Charlie Morton can only help. Other than the loss of Adam Duvall, the Braves did not lose much, and they are still in a very good position to make the postseason. They are the defending division champions and I expect them to be around a 90 win team, that would likely put them in a wild card spot.
First Place: New York Mets
The Mets were one of busiest teams this off-season, including acquiring Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in a blockbuster trade with the Indians as well as signing free agent catcher James McCann. The lineup is arguably the best in baseball, with Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor being at the top. Followed by three power hitters in Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith in the middle of the order. The lineup is stacked to say the least and it is going to be hard for pitchers to succeed against a lineup like this. The rotation led by Jacob deGrom is also really strong and eventually Noah Syndergaard is going to return which will furthermore strengthen the rotation. The bullpen also got some improvements in Aaron Loup and Trevor May. The overall team is expected to win around 95 games this year, which is a reasonable number. The Mets finished off strong in 2019, ending off with a 86-76 season. I expect them to play similarly to the way they ended off 2019, not in 2020 and win the division for the first time in six years.
The NL East is sure to be pretty competitive and have two teams making the playoffs, but I anticipate the Mets edging out the Braves for the top spot in the division.
Photo Credit: The Athletic