2016 MLB Preview: National League East

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai, USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

We continue the preview of the 2016 MLB season with the National League East, home of the defending NL Champion New York Mets.


 

2015:

  1. New York Mets* 90-72
  2. Washington Nationals 83-79
  3. Miami Marlins 71-91
  4. Atlanta Braves 67-95
  5. Philadelphia Phillies 63-99

2016 Prediction:

  1. New York Mets* 89-73
  2. Miami Marlins 85-77
  3. Washington Nationals 80-82
  4. Atlanta Braves 72-90
  5. Philadelphia Phillies 70-92

 

Oh the Mets. I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Mets are not utilizing their pitching staff to its full potential. But even still, this is hands down the best team in the division. The pitching staff is as good as you will find and Jeurys Familia at the back end is one of the best closers in the game. Two of the three blown saves in the World Series were not his fault (a lack of defense may have had something to do with it…). The Mets will not have to worry about who gets the ball in the ninth. My full thoughts about the Mets can be found in the link above, but it should be noted that this is a team that will be a force in the National League once again in 2016.

Yes, I did pick the Marlins to win the World Series a season ago at the beginning of the season. But EVERYTHING went wrong for this team. Henderson Alvarez got hurt and the rotation as a whole faltered, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was released, Steve Cishek was traded, Marcell Ozuna got demoted, Giancarlo Stanton hurt his hand, and Mike Redmond was fired. The list goes on and on. The only thing that went right for them was Dee Gordon had a breakout season and was rewarded with a contract extension. I still think there is too much talent on this team for them to be that bad again. The rotation should be improved with Wei-Yin Chen settling in behind Fernandez as the number two starter. I expect Fernandez to make a run at the Cy Young Award, Stanton to make a run at the MVP and Christian Yelich and Ozuna to take the next step. I do not think they will make the playoffs, but they will come close if things go right, and things cannot be worse than they were last season in Miami.

Can you say “overrated?” Because I will, and have been these past few seasons. Last season I predicted the Marlins to win this division with the Nationals grabbing a Wild Card spot. Needless to say, that was wrong, but I was right in not buying into the Nationals hype. One thing this team does not have that teams need to have a chance in the postseason is clubhouse chemistry. Bringing in Jonathan Papelbon last season summed up what ended up being a forgetful season. It made no sense at the time and they have since traded Drew Storen and not Papelbon, though nobody wants him in their clubhouse anyway. He can still get the job done in the ninth inning and has had an excellent career on the mound, but teams that has chemistry issues have not have success in the postseason. The fact that he remains with the organization heading into 2016 does not bode well as far as that is concerned. With Matt Williams no longer in the picture and Dusty Baker in, that is a definite improvement. But this mix of players has just not gotten it done, and I do not know that they will. Their best chance to make a run very well could have been in 2012. But they shut Stephen Strasburg down thinking they will have other opportunities to make a run in October. They made it back once since and got sent home by the Giants in the NLDS and with Strasburg entering his free agent season, it may never happen with him in a Nationals uniform. This team is missing something, and maybe Dusty Baker is it. But as some Nationals players said last season, they felt that they were the team to beat in the division. I really do not see it because they have combined to win four postseason games since 2012. If you are the team to beat, go out there and get to the postseason and actually win a series there. One thing I will say is if they had any idea what they were doing, Daniel Murphy would be playing third base where he belongs and Anthony Rendon would be playing second base. That would be the best way to go as far as defense is concerned, but I doubt it will happen.

Braves fans need to continue to trust John Hart. Since joining the organization, he has built one of the top farm systems in all of baseball. Turning Andrelton Simmons into Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis and Shelby Miller into Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair drew rave reviews. People argue that they are “tanking” and teams have had success taking a familiar strategy in the recent past (Royals, Astros, Cubs), so there is evidence that “tanking” or “rebuilding” does work. Whatever you want to call it, the Braves should be back to relevancy in a few years, but the final season for the Braves at Turner Field will be a long one.

The Phillies are going to have another long year, but credit goes to new GM Matt Klentak and the front office for turning one of the worst farm systems in the game into one of the best very quickly. Turning Ken Giles into five players from a loaded Astros farm system was excellent. Philly also did well in their return from Texas for Cole Hamels, a trade that was engineered by former GM Reuben Amaro. Aaron Nola looks to be a fixture in the rotation for a long time and he as well as young players such as Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera come over from the 2015 Phillies. They will soon be joined by 2013 first overall pick Mark Appel, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, and Jorge Alfaro as Phillies fans will begin to get a glimpse of the future at some point in 2016. They are in a similar situation as the Braves as far as their rebuild is concerned. It has proven to work with other organizations recently. Their process took a big step forward as far as building the farm system in the past year.

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