Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 NL East Preview

Strasburg and the Nats are poised to run away with the division
1st Place Washington Nationals
2013 Record: 86-76
2013 Pythagorean: 84-78
2014 Projected: 96-66
The Nats are the clear frontrunners in the NL East this year. Their rotation, comprised of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister, is the best in baseball. Washington's lineup is equally formidable, with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, Adam LaRoche at first, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond up the middle, Ryan Zimmerman manning the hot corner, and an outfield of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth. Love this team.

2nd Place Atlanta Braves
2013 Record: 96-66
2013 Pythagorean: 98-64
2014 Projected: 90-72
Even with several injuries to their starting rotation, the Braves still have enough pitching and talent to gut out 90 wins in a weak division. The lineup is going to be really good. Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward all have the potential to get better, and I don't think Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton are going to be as bad as they were last season. Evan Gattis will have to prove his strong rookie season was legit, though. And don't forget Justin Upton, possibly the most talented position player on the team. Even without Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Tim Hudson, the rotation of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Ervin Santana should be solid. The Braves boasted baseball's best bullpen and top closer (Craig Kimbrel) last year, and that unit will need to step up in 2014 to help the rotation along until it gets healthier.

3rd Place Philadelphia Phillies
2013 Record: 73-89
2013 Pythagorean: 66-96
2014 Projected: 75-87
The once-proud Phillies have deteriorated into an aging, bloated team that won't be much better than .500 if everything goes their way. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett form a strong top of the rotation, so starting pitching isn't the problem (when Hamels returns from the DL). The lineup, however, is way too old. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd,  and Carlos Ruiz are all past their primes, and Ben Revere simply isn't very good. The only player in that lineup who's young and can hit worth a damn is Domonic Brown. Philadelphia's young talent is on the way but won't be ready to contribute much in 2014 when the aging stars invariably get hurt. The bullpen isn't make or break, especially with Jonathan Papelbon losing velocity and effectiveness as he moves deeper into his 30s. Put it all together and it's going to be another losing season for the Phils.

4th Place New York Mets
2013 Record: 74-88
2013 Pythagorean: 74-88
2014 Projected: 72-90
Losing Matt Harvey for the year is a crippling blow to the rotation, though thankfully it looks as though Zack Wheeler is ready to step up in his absence. I say this is the year Bartolo Colon finally falls apart. Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese are just merely okay. The lineup looks stronger with Curtis Granderson and Chris Young providing upgrades in the outfield, but it remains to be seen how their power will play in Citi Field. Ike Davis could really use a bounce back, but my money's on catcher Travis d'Arnaud taking a big step forward. Eric Young Jr. and Ruben Tejada provide speed, but not much else. Like Philly, New York could get to .500 if things go their way but will probably settle in the 70-75 win range.

5th Place Miami Marlins
2013 Record: 62-100
2013 Pythagorean: 64-98
2014 Projected: 69-93
Miami got better over the offseason, bringing in Jarrod Saltalamacchia  and Garrett Jones to stretch out the lineup behind Giancarlo Stanton. Christian Yelich also seems poised for a breakout, but I wouldn't bank on much from Rafael Furcal or Casey McGehee. Overall the offense still projects to be a weak one, but not as bad as last year's. Jose Fernandez fronts an intriguing but also probably not very good pitching staff, unless Jacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez break out. The Marlins won't be the laughingstocks they were last year, but a winning season is still out of the question.

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