Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Predictions - NL East

     It's almost time for the regular season to start! Now that we have established who our American League Division winners are, Boston, Kansas City and Houston, it's time to dive into the National League. A season ago, the NL East saw a pretty remarkable turn around by the Mets. The team from Flushing went from being a team with no middle of the order and pitching concerns to acquiring Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline and a barrage of young, talented starting pitching that carried them all the way to the World Series. Are we in line for the same set of results as in '15, or, can the Nationals finally get over the hump and get to the Fall Classic?  Let's begin with the biggest  conundrum, who is going to be the worst.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

     This portion of the division was almost more difficult to predict then the top because the bottom teams in this division are some of the worst teams in baseball. Ever since last season, the Phillies have managed to trade away TWO closers, Papelbon and Ken Giles, an ace, Cole Hamels, and a double-play combo, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Their rotation, headed by Matt Harrison, is as uncertain as the stability of their offensive production. The only certainty on this team is that Maikel Franco is an absolute stud. Leading all of baseball in long-balls this spring, the third-baseman is the only glimmering light in a team full of dead or dying bulbs.

4. Atlanta Braves

     It seems like since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Braves have been doing their best to completely dismantle their entire roster in order to field a quality team for the opening of their new ballpark in 2017. Beginning with trading the Jay Hey Kid to St. Louis for Shelby Miller, to moving Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres for Cameron Maybin, Jace Peterson and starting pitching depth.  Even their mainstay shortstop, Andrelton Simmons, has been shipped off to the Angels, in a trade made earlier this off-season. Maybin has since been moved to Motown and Miller was traded to Arizona for a slew of prospects, most notably SS Denzby Swanson. Nick Markakis, A.J. Pierzynski, Freddie Freeman and Jace Peterson are some of the bright spots left in Atlanta's batting order. John Hart and the Braves' ownership would like me to pick them last, as to remain "under the radar". So, I'm picking them fourth.

3. Miami Marlins

     Although there was a lot of noise this off-season in regards to the potential trading of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins biggest acquisitions of the off-season came in their coaching staff. Don Mattingly brings a refreshing approach  to baseball in South Beach. Although, after having a GM as your head coach, anyone would be an upgrade. Then, the Fish decided to take a chance on making Barry Bonds a "Special" Hitting Coach, his first Major League action since his inauspicious retirement. I believe both Mattingly and Bonds could be invaluable to a team that has seemingly been in limbo since their last championship in '03. If his head is in the right place, Bonds could certainly elevate the play of players on the cusp of greatness, such as Marcel Ozuna and Christian Yellich. Dee Gordon is a batting title waiting to happen, and, with Bonds' help, could do just that this season. Jose Fernandez  is one of the top five starting pitchers in all of the game. Even if he cannot help to make the other starters better, the return you could get for him in a trade package would be enough to field a competitive team in any division.

2. New York Mets

     I know I am definitely going to hear it from Mets fans across the country for this one. How does a team with so much young starting pitching and Yoenis Cespedes for an entire season finish in second place? First, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard threw more pitches last year, post season included, then they have in their entire careers. I fully expect some sort of Harvey-esque innings limit to be imposed on at least Syndergaard, and even possibly Steven Matz.  Zack Wheeler has yet to pitch a full season in the majors and would potentially be another candidate for the afore mentioned innings limit. If an injury occurs, they no longer have Jonathan Neise and Dillon Gee to call upon to make spot starts. Big Jon was sent to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker, replacing the hole left by the departed Daniel Murphy, and Gee is now in the Royals organization. Even the Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, hurled more pitches then he has ever thrown in his career. The Yankees employed the same strategy with Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte when they won the World Series in '09. And, you could really see the toll it took on their arms the following season. If they can stay healthy, expect New York to be in the running all season long.

1. Washington Nationals

   For the last few seasons, Washington has been picked to represent the NL in the Fall Classic, and consequently, has failed to live up to those expectations. I believe '16 will be different. Having a three-headed monster at the top of the rotation, in Scherzer, Strasburg and Gonzalez, will only be more effective with the hiring of pitching coach Mike Maddox. Not to mention, Strasburg is a free agent at the end of the season and is looking to prove to everyone that he is a true gamer and worth the high price he is most certainly going to seek. Although the Nats lost Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister to free agency this off-season, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross are poised to prove that they are  ready to take over the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. If that does not work out, Washington has one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, Lucas Giolito, waiting for his shot.  They acquired Daniel Murphy this off-season, which is a major offensive upgrade to the second base position. Oh, and by the way, Bryce Harper won his first NL MVP last year and is only getting better.  Additionally, Dusty Baker is one of the best baseball minds that there is in the game today. His focus on team chemistry and managerial style will help lead this team to achieving their ultimate goal; a trip to the World Series.

*Special Prediction*

Look for Harper to be the first player since Frank Robinson to win the MVP in both leagues when he moves his talents to the Bronx in  The winter of 2018. But, that's for another conversation.


  1. Love your predictions - but sure hope Bryce wins ALL of this MVPs as a National!


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)