NL East Should Be Easy for the Nationals

This division should be a walk in the park for the Nationals, who have the most talent by a country mile. In baseball, though, surprises often occur.

The Nationals supplement a pretty good everyday lineup (Ryan Zimmerman, Rendón, Ramos, Werth, Desmond, Harper….) with a pitching staff thought to be among the very best in all of MLB. You know it’s good when Gio González is slated number 5 behind Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stasburg, and Fister. Storen is an elite closer, though his stats may be diminished by not needing to save games. Lots of people are picking the Nats to go to the World Series.
            How it could go wrong: Experts have loved the Nationals for the past five years and they’ve won doodley-squat. The flipside of the hype is that the Nats might be less the juggernaut and more the Detroit of the NL: paper tigers. Fantasy gamers love him, but a poll of MLB players rated Bryce Harper as baseball’s most-overrated player. Likewise, Strasburg is just 43-30 lifetime, having spent most of his career thus far on the DL.  Spann doesn’t impress me and Werth is an oxymoron–a decent player pulling down superstar money. But no matter how you parse it, the NL East is the Nats’ to win or lose.

It’s easy to hate the Marlins.  They should be in Montreal, not Miami, and they have MLB’s most loathsome owner, Jeff Loria. Still–as they do every five or six years–the Fish are quietly assembling a very nice team. They tied up youthful stars Stanton and Yelich to long-term contracts and the staff has several live arms (Latos, Fernández, Alvárez, Cosart…) There’s also a nice sprinkling of vets such as Prado, Morse, Ichiro, and Saltalamacchia. I don’t think there’s enough experienced pitching to take the Marlins to the Promised Land, but a Wild Card might be in the deck. 

Poor Mets–just when hope was on the horizon they lost two rising stud pitchers to Tommy John surgery: Harvey (2014), now Wheeler. Another hope, a kid named de Grom, will toss the home opener. Might as well reserve a surgeon now. The most proven arms might be 41-year-old Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese (he of a 52-51 career won/loss record). Too bad, because there’s nothing shabby of a lineup that includes Wright, Murphy, Duda, and Cuddyer (injured). Granderson is a fraud though, and it’s put-up-or-pack-up time for d’Arnaud. Misfortune is such, though, that the Mets may have to settle for a 2015 slogan of “Better than the Yankees,” which isn’t saying much.

Kudos to the Braves for recognizing that the team they fielded the past few years just wasn’t good enough. They did a near complete makeover and added a few pieces (like spark plug Nick Markakis), but when your projected starting outfield is Almonte (a Yankees cast-off), Gomes (Red Sox detritus), and Eury Peréz, all one can say is, “Oh dear!” Was 2014 a down year for Chris Johnson, or were those his true colors? Freeman remains solid and Simmons is poised to become an elite shortstop, but make-overs are not always upgrades and this could be a very tough year in Atlanta. 

The only thing I can say about the Phillies is that Hamels is the kind of guy around which you rebuild, not a pitcher you can trade unless you get a lot of assets in return. Everyone else is expendable. I-told-you-so time: if you were dumb enough to pick Domonic Brown for your fantasy team last year, you were forewarned.


1. Nationals: They can lose the division, but they’ll have to work at it.
2. Marlins: Good enough to make it to the post-season, but not deep enough to go far.
3. Mets: Could have been contenders. Life isn’t fair.
4. Braves: A work in progress–slow progress.
5. Phillies: Howard, Utley, Sizemore, Ruiz, Cliff Lee…. What is this, a Social Security All-Star squad?

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