2020 National League East Wide Open

Might win the East, but a repeat is unlikely

The Washington Nationals won the World Series last year over the now-hated Houston Astros, but they are by no means a shoo-in even to win their division in 2020. It’s not that they are weaker; their opponents are stronger. This is a pitching-dominant division and it could boil down to which staff catches lightning in a jar. Everyone by Miami is a dark horse.

The Nationals don the favorites role by virtue of being the reigning champs and who would not want a bevy of pitchers such as Corbin, Strasburg, Sánchez, Strickland, (Daniel) Hudson, Ross, and Scherzer, the latter a perennial candidate for the best in baseball. Doolittle saves whatever is left unfinished. Nor is there anything shabby about infield talent like Castro, Thames, (Asdrùbal) Cabrera, (Trea) Turner, (Howie) Kendricks, and (Ryan) Zimmerman. Robles sure made people forget about Harper in a hurry and he mans the outfield with Eaton, and the wonderful Juan Soto. One potential pitfall lies with the historical fragility of Strasburg and the recent health woes of Scherzer. Another stumbling block is that Robles might regress.

The team that made the biggest stride forward is the Philadelphia Phillies, who jettisoned head-scratching manager Gabe Kapler and hired no-nonsense Joe Girardi. This is a team that plays in a tough town and needs a kick in the ass. The boo birds were out in force and the Phils have some disappointing guys who will be headed elsewhere unless they ratchet up: Elfin, (Adam) Morgan, Valasquez, Kingery, and Hoskins among them. The biggest bust of all is Harper; he had a decent season in ’19 but not one that justifies his astronomical contract. The good news is that Arrieta is the real deal, Nola seems to be coming into his own, (Tommy) Hunter is solid, as are everyday players such as Realmuto, Bruce, and Segura. The health of McCutcheon, Gregorious, and Wheeler is of great concern. This is a put-up or ship-out team, but somehow, I think Girardi will whip it into shape.

The Atlanta Braves always do well, though their pitching staff is not one that strikes fear: Foltynewicz, Soroka, (Cole)Hamels, and then open competition. (Freddie) Freeman is a gem, Acuña will be a monster, and Ozuna, Markakis, Albies, Swanson, Carmago, and Flowers are good players. All this said, I still don’t see how this team does as well as it does. I would not be surprised to see it take a dip in 2020.

The New York Mets are my dark horse. The pitching (if healthy) is awesome: Lugo, Porcello, Matz (if not traded), Wacha, Stroman, and then two of the best in the biz: deGrom and Syndergaard, either of whom could be this year’s Cy Young winner. Alonzo had an amazing year in ’19, Ramos was quite good, and McNeil, Lowrie, Nimmo, Rosario and Conforto are capable. Look for Céspedes to be his usual disappointing self. Betances and Wilson–Yankee cast-offs–will help the bullpen. If the deck falls right, the Mets might be holding a wild card. As it has been for the past few years, the question is whether the Mets will score enough runs.

Are the Miami Marlins ready to look like a major league team instead of a AAA interloper? No one in Miami knows, because no one there actually goes to a game.  The Fish should be better, but it’s going to take some time and they have to stop selling off their best assets. The final roster is anyone’s guess as most of the names are unfamiliar. Seriously. Google them and there are only a handful of names you’ll recognize: (Caleb) Smith, Steckenrider, Villar, Cervelli, Joyce, Dickerson, and Joyce. None of them will take you as far north as Jacksonville.    

Predicted Order of Finish:
1.    Washington
2.    New York
3.    Philadelphia
4.    Atlanta
5.    Miami

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