The Mets surprised a lot of people last year, me included. Can they sustain it and make a dent in the Big Apple’s fixation on the Yankees? I think so, but they are another team on whom I’d not bet the farm. I pick them to win the NL East, but mainly because the division is weak.
Predicted order of finish: Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Braves, Phillies
|The Lineup is so-so but the Pitching is Amazin'|
It starts and ends with pitching and 1-5, the New York Mets stand above the pack—Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and the ageless Colon. A lot depends on whether the Mets can score runs. A healthy David Wright would help, Neil Walker was a good pick up, and Luca Duda drives the ball well. They will need help from chronic underachievers Granderson, D’Arnaud, and Cespedes, the latter of whom is a quieter version of Yasiel Puig in his ability to be brilliant or a complete ass. Granderson simply never was as good as the Stat Heads claimed he was. On paper, though, the Mets should repeat.
Most MLB analysts are picking the Washington Nationals. I get it; they do have (depending on who’s talking) either the best or second-best player in baseball, Bryce Harper, and a guy capable of giving Clayton Kershaw a run as best pitcher: Max Scherzer. I’m not a Nats fan, though, because the supporting cast isn’t consistently strong. Ryan Zimmerman, if healthy, can contribute but it’s been a few years since he was. Then it’s last year’s postseason wonder Daniel Murphy (who the Mets wisely let walk) and enigmas and low OBP guys such as Ramos, Espinosa, and Rendon. And I’ll say it—Ben Revere is terrible and Jayson Werth only a paper cut above. I like Gio Gonzalez as a pitcher; I don’t like Stasburg who has enormous talent but is as fragile as crystal in a hammer factory. Then who? Papelbon as closer? Sure—if this were ’06 instead of ’16. The Nats strike me as a club that’s a few injuries or a clubhouse dust-up closer to third than first.
The Miami Marlins are easy to hate but too talented to ignore. If they’re not already, these will soon be household names: Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour. Add them to a lineup with Giancarlo Stanton, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon and the Fish can match any lineup in the NL. Pitching? Is there any team that wouldn’t make room for Jose Fernandez? Wei-Yin Chen should do better in the NL. Others need to improve—Koehler, Cosart—for the Marlins to contend, but if the Marlins surprise people in 2016, I won’t be among the startled.
There’s not much immediate hope for either the rebuilding Atlanta Braves or the can’t-wait-to-dismantle Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves still have a gem in Freddie Freeman but, for the most part the team that will wear Braves uniforms in 2018 are in the minor leagues right now. You can build a staff around Julio Teheran, which they are trying to do.
Teheran is way better than anybody the Phillies will stick on the mound, though Aaron Nola is an arm to watch. Jeremy Hellickson as the ace presumptive? That’s the definition of “dire.” As for the hitters one can only ask, “What?” I like the upside of shortstop Freddy Galvis, but the Phils are going nowhere until they shed Ryan Howard’s albatross contract. At least the Phillies wised up to the idea that Domonic Brown really is the bum I’ve claimed for the past five years and cut him loose. Call it addition by subtraction. The Phils will feature a lot of unproven kids this year, which means they’ll be more fun to watch, but don’t expect a lot of W’s for a few years.