2014 Preview- NL East
FINALLY! This is the last piece of my 2014 MLB Division Previews. Just in time! OPENING DAY is 2 DAYS AWAY! Before looking at my favorite MLB Division, take a look back at the other posts I wrote if you missed any of them:
A few years ago, the NL East was the most competitive division in all of baseball. Now, not so much. And even though they’re my favorite team, I’m not picking the Nationals to win the Division just because of that fact. The Division is a lot weaker than it once was and even may be one of the weaker divisions in all of baseball. The only competition in the Division comes down to the Nats and the Braves. Let’s take a look at the teams.
The NL East is home to teams representing the US Presidents, the Big Apple, an ugly fish statue, the Liberty Bell, battery throwers, Waffle House, and waffle throwers. Here’s my run-down.
#5. Miami Marlins
Miami is not expected to be very good at baseball, after trading away most of their star players to Toronto and Los Angeles. But with NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez and a healthier Giancarlo Stanton leading the squad, Marlins fans should feel a little more comfortable with the year. I referred to the Marlins last year as the Triple-A Miami Marlins, but now that the fish have some support, I take that back. They have some talent in the pipeline too. People were saying a lot of the bad things after the huge 2013 offseason trades, but the Marlins will start getting better and better each year. One thing I am really looking forward to is seeing the Nationals take on the Marlins at the Fishbowl (Marlins Park) in April. We have awesome seats, and 10 tickets for me and all my cousins cost about the same as just 2 of the best seats at Nationals Park!
#4. New York Mets
The Mets lost Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery, and if they hadn’t, I would have picked the Mets to be in 3rd. Bartolo Colon will fill Harvey’s spot. They added a premiere outfielder in Curtis Granderson, but lost Johan Santana to the Orioles. The Mets have some good spots, like Lucas Duda. The Mets, though, just aren’t a wonderful team. Hopefully that means the Nationals get on the board with some Curly Ws in the Opening Series in Flushing.
#3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies start the season on the road, in inter-league play, Deep In The Heart Of Northern Texas against the Rangers. Roy Halladay retires this season, so he will not be playing for the Phils. But he did sign a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, the team he started his career with. Will he be the Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays? I think it is just ceremonial. Anyway, the thing about the Phillies is that their team is just old. They have 9 players who are 34 years old or older. The Phillies have lots of players everyone knows, like Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, but they are all past their peaks. I don’t think this is a team that will contend.
#2. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are the Nationals biggest foes, and my prediction is that the Braves will again give Washington a hard time this year. However, two of their starting pitchers, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, are out for the season to have Tommy Johns surgery. They lost Tim Hudson to the SF Giants in free agency, so that makes Julio Teheran their Opening Day starter. They just signed Ervin Santana out of the need for a starting pitcher. They also lost Brian McCann to the Yanks, making Evan Gattis their new starting catcher. The other big news for the Braves from this winter is that they signed most of their young players like Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons to long contracts. If they were healthy, this is a very, very hard team to beat. Even so, they have lots of very tough players to face, like the best reliever in baseball, Craig Kimbrel. I am predicting the Braves to be tough, but not hard enough that the Nationals don’t make another postseason appearance. I am predicting Atlanta gets a Wild Card spot.
#1. Washington Nationals
The Nats will be challenged by the Braves but they will manage to win the Division if the keep up where they left off in September last year. New manager Matt Williams will help provide more aggressiveness in their game. Stephen Strasburg tops a rotation of starting pitchers that some say is the best in all of baseball. That includes Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and another to be named soon. The infield features Gold Glove winners at almost every position: Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. I am hoping for a healthy season for slugger Wilson Ramos behind the plate, which will give the Nats the power of his bat, which they have not had for a full season. The outfield features Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, and the #SPANNING talents of Denard Span. The Nationals also have absolutely one of the best bullpens, highlighted by Ross Detwiler, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. Without jinxing anything (I am trying to type this with my fingers crossed), there is really no question that Washington will make it to the post-season, possibly to the World Series, if everyone stays healthy.