2018 MLB Preview: NL East

nleastThe National League East has not been a division that many look to and fear for a number of years although it wasn’t always that way.

When the Braves continued to come out of the division they were consistently one of the best teams in the league.

Now they are consistently one of the worst teams in the league and they are just following the pattern of the division.

In 2017 the East saw four teams end the season with a record under .500 leaving one team to run away with things.

The East has been a bit of a mixed bag in recent years as their records are just the tip of the iceberg.

When looking at many of the teams in the division it is clear that there are a lot more problems than what they put on the field.

In Miami the constant issues at the top with an ownership group that never really seemed to care about winning.

In New York, the Mets are just being the Mets and continuing to be that second fiddle team in the region.

Although the Braves are not necessarily the worst run organization their long run of dominance in the league has led to the inevitable, a rebuild.

They are following the biggest rebuild of the all in Philadelphia who sunk directly to the bottom in order to get better and that road has been a long one for Phillies fans.

The only team that has been any good in the division over the last few years has been the Washington Nationals.

Even they fall into the NL East trap as they continue to be one of the top teams in the league until they reach the postseason.

That is the point where they just become a regular team and their promise to potentially win the World Series fades.

The East is a division that cannot seem to figure things out despite the fact that they have talent throughout the division.

They have been home to some of the best players in the MLB including Giancarlo Stanton, Noah Syndergaard, Bryce Harper and Matt Harvey.

None of these players have been able to carry the East to a championship though and things aren’t necessarily looking up.

The East will once again be a division where anything can happen as a few teams could find their groove at the right time and make a challenge.

Most likely it will be the Nationals for another year sitting on top while the other teams struggle to keep up.

There is no guarantee though and as the rebuilds continue or just start they could find the right combination or things could fall apart.

That is the way in the East as the unexpected can and has happened and this year every team will take their shot at the unexpected.

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The Braves are a perfect example of a tea that got too old and had to restart everything after years of dominating the division and being the only team worthwhile in the East. They were a team with plenty of stars but then those stars began to slow down and the Braves had to move on. So they went back to the drawing board and things got ugly for a few years where they needed to rebuild their franchise in order to get back. They were atlbraveson that path in 2017 with a promising roster of young stars from the league’s best farm system and veteran signings. Things did not work out though as the young prospects struggled and the veterans did not work out the way they had hoped. They only got 72 wins on the season and then things got worse when it was revealed that GM John Coppolella had been breaking the international signing rules. For that, the Braves lost 12 prospects and were restricted in their ability to sign international talent through 2020. With those restrictions, the Braves are playing from behind but are not in for an entirely listless season. Their farm system remains one of the best even without the prospects that they lost and some new signings should help things. One of those additions is an attempt to settle their rotation that went through a lot of changes. Last year the Braves brought in R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to help Julio Tehran in the rotation. The plan didn’t work and Colon was shipped off midway through the season while Dickey wasn’t signed back. Instead, they brought in Scott Kazmir in the hopes that he can find his touch and be a good #2 to Tehran, who will try to adjust to his new ballpark in his second year there. There are some prospects coming up that could boost the rotation including Luiz Gohara but for the most part, the excitement is on the offensive side of the ball. Freddie Freeman leads the way as one of the best hitters in the game and around him will be a number of prospects that will be the difference for this team. Players like Austin Riley, Mike Soroka and the #3 prospect in the MLB, Ronald Acuna could all make an appearance this year and bring a boost to their offence. The Braves are still rebuilding and with their sanctions, it might take them a little longer to return to being great. There is still reason to be excited though as they still have some great prospects and although it might not translate to a good year this year things could be looking up for the future.

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The Miami Marlins have had a complicated relationship with the city of Miami stemming from the ownership of Jeffrey Loria. He was the man who convinced the city to fork over billions to build a brand new state-of-the-art stadium with the promise that the Marlins could be a great team and needed a great home. When the park opened it only lasted a year until a team with a lot of promise began shipping out their best players and sunk to miamarlinsthe bottom. It has left the Marlins as a pariah in South Florida and things did not get better this year. This year was when a new ownership group took over with Derek Jeter as the face of the group and when they took over the divide between city and team only grew. The new management group began firing staff and trading away the best players in what was clearly a firesale to bring them right to the bottom. It didn’t sit well with fans but for a teams struggling for years, it was the move they needed to make in order to find their way back. The biggest hit came against the offence when the Marlins traded away the best home run hitter in the league in Giancarlo Stanton as well as Dee Gordon while they let Christian Yellich walk away. That was the core of the entire team all leaving meaning that there was going to be some massive change for the team. They did bring back Cameron Maybin who will act as a leader while Starlin Castro is now likely the centre of this offence. Prospects like Lewis Brinson and J.T. Realmuto look very promising and could be the future of the team. That is where they will need to start as the group made up of Castro, Brinson and Realmuto will be the start of the rebuild for the Marlins. Things look a little less promising in the rotation as there are very few pitchers that inspire much excitement. Dan Straily will be the one that the Marlins look to in order to carry the load after receiving a big contract in the off-season. He was not necessarily their best pitcher though as Jose Urena put up better numbers. Together they form a good but not great one and two at the top of the rotation. Beyond that, there isn’t much else and that is not leaving a lot of hope for the Marlins this year. The rebuild is truly on and despite the criticism, they have faced this new management group is taking the right steps. It won’t mean much this year but staying on this path can help them in the very long run.

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The Mets follow a very specific pattern that seems to be close to the other teams in their situation, that being the second team in the biggest market in North America. The Mets are like those other big teams as they consistently break the hearts of their fans despite always showing some kind of promise. Last year things were looking up for the team that was widely seen as having the best rotation in the MLB. Then that rotation fell apart with nymetsthe top pitchers in the game all getting injured and devastating the rotation sinking their season before it even began. That was a tough thing to go through but for Mets fans, it was just par for the course as another season of promise ended with no success. The only real issue was the fact that the Mets suffered too many injuries. The skill is there and they have a great team if everyone can stay healthy throughout the full season they can be a great team. Whether or not that can happen is a question that nobody can answer but because they have the talent on the roster the Mets are heading into a new season essentially the same as last year. They didn’t lose anyone and signed a few pieces that could add to their veteran presence and their depth. The rotation remains the strength of this team as Noah Syndergaard is one of the best pitchers in the game but only pitched seven games last year. Along with Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz the rotation is great and if new addition Jason Vargas can recover from a Spring Training injury there won’t be many days off. In the bullpen, the question mark is around closer Jeurys Familia who had an amazing 2016 but took a big step back in 2017 struggling the entire year. On offence, the team will welcome some new blood in Adrian Gonzalez who looks to show he still has plenty left in the tank while they also welcome back Jay Bruce. Todd Frazier is another solid addition to the team that will be led by the power of Yoenis Cespedes who like most of the roster is trying to recover from an injury-plagued season. The Mets have a lot of talent and the additions they made will help to provide more depth should injuries creep in again. That will be the thing that they will watch closely and although they have tried to prepare for that there is no guarantee as a healthy team makes a run but a banged up team misses the postseason.

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It has been some dark days in Philadelphia baseball as the Phillies are in the midst of a rebuild that has put them to the bottom of the league. That is what a true rebuild will do as any team with a true rebuild has to go through some bad years and the Phillies are there. They will continue to look towards the building part of the rebuild as this team will be looking to try to turn the corner and begin to show some promise. It seemed like phiphilliesit was on its way in 2016 when the Phillies finished the season at .500 but they took a step back last year giving the fans a little pause. In order to help the rebuild along the Phillies did something that has been a rare sight in recent years. They actually went out and signed a big name to add to an impressive list of young talent in what seemed like a commitment to improving. The Phillies have clearly reached a point in their progress that they believe they can take a step but whether it will be enough for them to contend is another question altogether. The biggest signing came late in Spring Training as they were the team to land former Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta. That signing is an immediate boost to their rotation as Arrieta is still one of the best in the league even if he couldn’t keep up the pace of his Cy Young season. That addition is a massive boost to the rotation as he comes in to be the ace right away. It will take the pressure off of Aaron Nola who will settle into the second spot as a young pitcher looking to establish himself. The youth movement continues in the bullpen and like many other places the Phillies are hoping some veterans can help them along the way. Philadelphia added Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter to do just that in what was developing into a philosophy. The Phillies also added a solid bat in the signing of Carlos Santana at first base to help guide their young talent in the field and at the plate. Young talent like Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford, who will take over from veteran Freddy Galvis, one of the top batters from last year. It is clear that the Phillies are looking to turn the corner this year as they added some key veterans to a young group. It won’t make them a postseason contender but improvements could be seen this year and some hope could return to a fanbase used to losing and losing badly.

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Things looked very similar in Washington last year as they were the easy favourites to win the east and they did just that but when it came to the postseason they couldn’t manage the pressure. It has been that way for years in Washington as the Nationals have consistently been a team that many favoured to win the World Series and yet they have never been able to win one. The team is constantly full of talent and yet every time they wshnationalsget to the postseason things fall apart and the team comes up short on their expectations. It has now become a consistent thing for the team as they are now labelled as that team that can’t win the big one. Time might be running out for this group too as the talent that they have is not going to stick around forever with some of them likely to move on if they continue to struggle in the postseason. So they head into another season looking to break the pattern as there is no success for this team without winning a title. They didn’t make a lot of moves to improve the team but they never really need to as the talent is throughout the roster. Their rotation is among the best in the league led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg there aren’t many spots that provide any type of relief. Although Scherzer and Strasburg are the clear leaders, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and A.J. Cole are all good pitchers that can make it difficult for other teams. That pitching prowess is their greatest strength but they can put up runs as well with Bryce Harper as one of the best hitters in the game. The development of Trae Turner will be important to their success along with the continued resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. They will hope to get more out of Matt Wieters who has seemingly lost his power in recent years and if he can find it their offence will get better. No big additions will only add to the question about whether or not they can actually get to the top this year.

Prediction:
The National League East has been in a sad state recently with so many teams sinking to the bottom of the league. There is talent in this division though and the stranglehold that the Nationals have could be about to end. It will still be some time before they drop the lead in this division though as they will remain the best team in the division. No other team is ready for that battle but the Mets could make it a challenge. The Braves might finally have a fun team to watch while the Phillies could turn a corner. The Marlins are just beginning their descent and might be the only team that won’t make things difficult for the Nationals. This division is not quite ready to be great but the Nationals will be back on top while the Mets could find the postseason as the rest show improvement but not enough.

nleastpredictions

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