Reading Time: 9 minutes

For the first time since October, Major League Baseball is being played. Much like last year, the National League East is the most loaded division in the league. All five teams have serious playoff aspirations and have the talent to get there. Atlanta is out for blood and looking to take the final step with a revamped New York squad right on their tails. Washington and Philadelphia no doubt have the teams to make it to October and Miami is coming off a stunning return to the playoffs last year. With all that being said, here is a full preview of each team with lineup and rotation projections to go along with possible standings.

1. Atlanta Braves: 100-62

Projected Lineup:

RF: Ronald Acuña Jr.

2B: Ozzie Albies

1B: Freddie Freeman

LF: Marcell Ozuna

C: Travis D’Arnaud

SS: Dansby Swanson

3B: Austin Riley

CF: Cristian Pache

Projected Rotaion: Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, Drew Smyly

For the third straight year in 2020, the Braves claimed the NL East crown but were knocked out of the playoffs before the World Series round. While they did reach the NLCS for the first time with this core of players, Atlanta squandered a 3-1 series hold on the eventual champion Dodgers. After this brutal elimination, Atlanta went to work this offseason to make sure it wouldn’t happen again this year. While it took some time, the Braves locked up Marcell Ozuna to a 4 year deal in hopes he can continue his elite offensive production of past years. Starting pitching was also a priority this winter as the Braves picked up Charlie Morton, a seasoned veteran with a fantastic repertoire. From 2017-2019 with Houston and Tampa, Morton won at least 14 games a year as well as averaging a 3.27 ERA over those three campaigns. Morton joins a young and promising group headlined by 2020 breakouts Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Mike Soroka is still recovering from a torn achilles but the team is optimistic the 2019 runner up for NL rookie of the year will be ready to go for opening day. In the fifth spot, Atlanta will likely turn to veteran Drew Smyly who only pitched 7 times in 2020, but put together a nice 3.42 ERA. Behind this quality rotation comes a very solid bullpen unit as Shane Greene, Chris Martin and Luke Jackson are all effective set up options for lefty specialist Will Smith. Even with this balance of pitching, it isn’t even the team’s biggest strength. The Braves lineup is arguably the second best in the National League and only has the potential to get better. 5 tool superstar and 40 home run/40 stolen bases threat Ronald Acuña leads it off as one of the best all around players in baseball. Another total package comes right behind him in the exciting Ozzie Albies as well as the 2020 NL MVP and arguably the best pure hitter in baseball, Freddie Freeman. The bats don’t stop there though as the aforementioned power of Ozuna and a breakout Travis D’Arnaud continue the threat. Austin Riley‘s huge pop, Dansby Swanson‘s continuing improvement and the potential of Cristian Pache round out a fantastic Braves lineup. These guys are outstanding with the gloves too as Freeman is a former gold glover with Albies and Acuña also showcasing some serious flair with the leather. Overall, the Braves are one of the most balanced teams in the league across the board and are only getting better with a very promising young core. While the NL East will be arguably the most competitive division in baseball this year, as long as Atlanta stays healthy, they will be very hard to catch. The Braves should put together another fantastic season en route to their 4th straight NL East title but the big goal for them this year will be to take that next step and get to the World Series.

Team MVP: Freddie Freeman

2. New York Mets: 94-68

Projected Lineup:

CF: Brandon Nimmo

2B: Jeff McNeil

SS: Francisco Lindor

RF: Michael Conforto

1B: Pete Alonso

LF: Dominic Smith

3B: J.D. Davis

C: James McCann

Projected Rotation: Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson

After a very eventful offseason in Queens, the other New York team enters the 2021 season with October in their sights. Starting out the winter, the team addressed their biggest issue of the last two seasons of the bullpen by picking up fireballing Trevor May and later getting veteran lefty Aaron Loup. Signing 2019 all star James McCann for the backstop was also a quality move. However, New York’s biggest splash this offseason came with the acquisition of four time all star shortstop Francisco Lindor as well as a rock solid starter in Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians, in exchange for Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez and two prospects. Lindor benefits this team enormously on defense as the Mets notorious woes in the field will surely get some relief with the addition of the two time gold glover at short. His impact on offense is remarkable as well as Lindor makes one of the most impressive lineups in the league even better. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil both excel at getting on base at the top of the order and should provide Lindor many RBI chances. The bats don’t fall off after him as the dynamic lefty swing of Michael Conforto is progressing to an elite level. The long ball threats are very present later in the order as 2019 home run champion Pete Alonso and 2020 breakout Dominic Smith should each provide 30 plus dingers in 2021. J.D. Davis has shown some very impressive offensive upside since he came to Queens in 2019 and with a rare strikeout bet in McCann rounding out the order, this is a very dangerous lineup to pitch to. By the way, this team can still dominate on the mound. Having the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation already sets them apart but New York has several solid guys to back him up. Both Marcus Stroman and Carlos Carrasco are seasoned veterans with playoff experience and are still pitching at all star level forms. Getting Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed a fantastic shortened 2020 season, is also a nice depth add. Lefty David Peterson showed very promising potential in his rookie year in 2020 posting a 6-2 record with a 3.44 ERA and with Noah Syndergaard set to return from Tommy John surgery in May/June, this rotation is going to be among baseball’s best. The bullpen is the big question mark of this team as with closer Seth Lugo set to miss at least the first few weeks of the season, the Mets will have to bank on Edwin Diaz returning to his 2018 form after a disaster of a 2019 season. New arms May and Loup should be beneficial but only time will tell the effectiveness of the bullpen this year. Overall, a fantastic offseason has put New York in a position to push for a playoff spot and while the Braves will likely have them beat in the division, the Mets will be right in line for a wild card spot as they return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Team MVP: Francisco Lindor

3. Washington Nationals: 89-73

Projected Lineup:

SS: Trea Turner

2B: Starlin Castro

LF: Juan Soto

1B: Josh Bell

RF: Kyle Schwarber

3B: Carter Kieboom

C: Yan Gomes

CF: Victor Robles

Projected Rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester, Joe Ross

After a surprising run to the 2019 World Series championship, the Washington Nationals came crashing back down to Earth in 2020. While they did see an offensive breakout from Trea Turner and the continued development of young phenom Juan Soto, not much else went right for the defending champions as they failed to reach the postseason. Even with last year’s struggles, Washington looks like it will be right back in the playoff discussion in 2021. The starting rotation is still as scary as ever with the ultimate gamer Max Scherzer at the top with a returning Stephen Strasburg and a hopeful bounce back year from Patrick Corbin. Adding Jon Lester as a quality veteran behind them was a nice move and a solid Joe Ross rounds out an October built rotation. The bullpen should also be a strong part of the team as while closer Sean Doolittle left in free agency, Washington upgraded by signing 3x all star Brad Hand. Will Harris and Tanner Rainey both had very nice campaigns last year and if the Nats can get the 2019 version of Daniel Hudson, this team is going to be hard to score on throughout all nine innings. Ever since the departures of Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper, Washington’s biggest weakness has been with the sticks. Trea Turner and Juan Soto both had outstanding 2020 seasons, but it wasn’t enough to get them back to the playoffs. To address this, Washington got them some help with the power bats of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to go in the middle of the order with an improved hitter in Yan Gomes up there as well. While Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles have yet to breakout offensively, their defensive contributions along with that of Turner and Starlin Castro make this team very formidable in the field. Overall, Washington has a very solid team all around and the Nationals should find themselves to be competitive throughout the season. However, with a stacked wild card race that would include the rival Mets and the NL West runner up, Washington won’t be able to do enough to get themselves back to October. With Max Scherzer and Trea Turner becoming free agents after this year and Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg only getting older, this year could be the end of an era in the nation’s capital.

Team MVP: Juan Soto

4. Philadelphia Phillies: 77-85

CF: Andrew McCutchen

2B: Jean Segura

RF: Bryce Harper

1B: Rhys Hoskins

C: J.T. Realmuto

3B: Alec Bohm

SS: DiDi Gregoroius

LF: Roman Quinn

Projected Rotation: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zac Eflin, Spencer Howard, Vince Velazquez

In 2021, the Philadelphia Phillies will be experiencing a crossroads year. Ever since signing Bryce Harper and trading for JT Realmuto in the 2018 offseason, the Phils have not cracked the .500 mark in either 2019 or 2020. With their main issue of those years being a historically bad bullpen, Philadelphia went to work in that department acquiring Jose Alvarado from Tampa Bay as well as signing Archie Bradley to be the closer. And with the team completing the high priority of keeping JT Realmuto, extending him for 5 more years, the Phillies have an improved team for this year. The lineup is deep and has 7 legitimate hitters, starting off with two veterans in Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, whom are both plus hitters when healthy. Behind them comes the boom with the $300 million dollar man in Bryce Harper and the big first baseman Rhys Hoskins. One of the best hitting catchers in baseball in Realmuto continues the depth for the lefty pop in DiDi Gregorious and a very promising young third baseman in Alec Bohm who was very impressive in 2020. Defensively, Realmuto is of course very reliable behind the plate and Harper’s cannon in right make this team formidable with the gloves. On the mound, Philadelphia has a quality top 3 in the rotation as Aaron Nola is a perennial all star with a rising Zack Wheeler and breakout Zac Eflin behind him. Rookie Spencer Howard has high expectations behind them and should be a decent piece with Vince Velazquez rounding out the rotation. The bullpen, like it was in year’s past, is the big question mark for the Phillies. Alvarado and Bradley are nice pick ups but Alvarado had a 6 ERA last year and Bradley hasn’t been a regular closer in his career, registering just 28 career saves. Outside of these two additions, Philadelphia does not have a go to guy to slam the door night in and out which could bode huge trouble in the late innings again. The Phillies in the last few years have spent almost as much as anyone to make their team a contender and with that not even materializing yet, this year is truly a make or break for Philadelphia to prove they can be a competitor. However, with three playoff teams in the division and a stacked NL wild card race, the Phillies bullpen and lack of depth will be their downfall again as their playoff drought extends to 10 straight Octoberless years.

Team MVP: J.T. Realmuto

5. Miami Marlins: 74-88

Projected Lineup:

CF: Starling Marte

LF: Corey Dickerson

3B: Brian Anderson

1B: Jesus Aguilar

RF: Adam Duvall

SS: Miguel Rojas

C: Jorge Alfaro

2B: Jon Berti

Projected Rotation: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Sixto Sanchez, Elieser Hernandez, Trevor Rogers

After a surprise playoff appearance in the shortened 2020 season, the Miami Marlins enter this year with expectations. The rebuild looks like it is finally showing off some results as the fish surprised many with last year’s playoff appearance including eliminating the NL Central champion Cubs while being one of the most COVID affected teams in the league. This year however, with a full season, Miami will be put to the test. It was a fairly quiet offseason in south beach this winter as the only notable moves the team made were picking up Adam Duvall for some more pop and Tampa Bay breakout John Curtiss for the back of the bullpen. The lineup will be the team’s biggest strength this year as it has some nice upside 1-9. Proven veteran Starling Marte will leadoff, who is coming off a nice 2020 campaign. Behind him comes very solid contact hitters in Corey Dickerson and Brian Anderson, both should be plus hitters this year. Jesus Aguilar is still looking to find his old 2018 form but a nice power bat in Adam Duvall adds to the depth. Miguel Rojas has shown promise as a possible .280 plus hitter and with Jorge Alfaro and Jon Berti being used for defense, the Marlins order shouldn’t be overlooked. The rotation is very young but also full of potential as Sandy Alcantara has had an impressive start to his career as a 2019 all star. The youth is coming in strong behind him as Sixto Sanchez has been billed as the next Pedro Martinez and Elieser Hernandez who was very impressive in his limited work last year. Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers are both seasoned veterans who should be able to eat up innings as well. The bullpen is full of guys who have been around the block and are capable of shutting the door as Adam Cimber, Dylan Floro, Yimi Garcia and John Curtiss will be the featured arms. While Miami does have a fairly balanced roster, the talent level is not there yet to the point where they can stay afloat for 162 games. Miami should be a fairly competitive team in 2021, but playing in a division with four playoff contenders will be their downfall as the Marlins look to stock up next offseason and get back to contention.

Team MVP: Brian Anderson