The offseason is winding down, which means it’s time to evaluate which teams made the right moves and which ones got caught sleeping. Although there are still some big names out there that could help some teams whose rosters are lacking, let’s take a look at which NL East teams will improve upon their 2013 final positions.
2014 NL East Rankings & Projections
5. Miami Marlins
I’d consider the Marlins the Astros of the National League. Last winter was a fire sale, and the squad that remained was barely MLB-caliber. This year they won’t be quite so bad, but they sure aren’t going to be good. The Marlins overhauled their infield, signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee, all of whom will start and comprise the potatoes of the offense—Giancarlo Stanton, of course, is the meat. However, Furcal is coming off of Tommy John surgery and McGehee spent 2013 in Japan, so take those additions with a grain of salt.
Saltalamacchia will be essential in piloting the Marlins extremely young but extremely talented rotation. Jose Fernandez will of course be the ace, and I expect him to be backed up by Nate Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner. The fifth starter slot is completely up for grabs, and going into Spring Training the two top contenders are probably Tom Koehler and Brian Flynn. I can’t say who has the upper hand; Spring Training will likely be a tryout.
The bullpen isn’t terrific, but it has the potential to get the job done on most days. Steve Cishek solidified his role as the closer last year, and they acquired Carter Capps in a trade with Seattle to help out a bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if they added another bullpen arm, but if I were a betting man I’d say they’re set for Opening Day.
Like I said, the Astros of the National League. A very young team with plenty of talent, but not anywhere near polished enough to compete yet. Better than last year, but still not good.
Projected Finish: 70-92
4. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies simply don’t have the firepower anymore. Their team is comprised mostly of veterans, all of whom have seen their peaks come and go. The only real addition they made to the offense this year was Marlon Byrd, and despite his performance last year I think he’s still just an average veteran. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz are all on the wrong side of 30, and outside of Domonic Brown, none of the young talent they do have in the lineup is exceptional. I wouldn’t consider this offense anemic, but it certainly won’t be breaking any records in 2014.
The starting rotation isn’t going to be much better. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are quality pitchers, but again on the wrong side of 30. After them the Phillies have Miguel Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick, and Jonathan Pettibone, none of whom have been anything above ordinary thus far. Pettibone has potential, but don’t hold your breath. The newly acquired Roberto Hernandez could break into the rotation at some point as well.
The bullpen isn’t really a cause for concern, but it’s not going to wow anyone either. They added Brad Lincoln and Chad Gaudin via a trade and free agency, respectively, but, you know…meh. Jonathan Papelbon still has a chokehold on the closing job, but he’s not at the pinnacle of his career either. Personally I think he’s going to blow 25 games this season. What? No, it’s not because I’m a Yankees fan and old grudges die hard.
Phillies need to be in rebuilding mode, but unfortunately they haven’t seen the light yet. After this year, I think they’re going to demolish and start from scratch, but for now they’re just going to duke it out with the Marlins for the downstairs bedroom.
Projected Finish: 73-89
3. New York Mets
I tell you what, the Mets are going to keep things interesting this year. The big additions to the offense this winter were Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, a vast improvement over last year’s outfielders. Talented young catcher Travis d’Arnaud is going to see a full season, and I have faith that he’s going to be a quality hitting catcher, a .270/15/75-type guy. David Wright is still there doing his thing, along with Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy. Ruben Tejada is their best option at shortstop, which is rather unfortunate since he is not a solid option. For that reason, I think the Mets are the favorite to land Stephen Drew this offseason. You just watch.
Unfortunately for the Metropolitans, Matt Harvey was lost for the 2014 season to Tommy John surgery. However, they signed the resurgent and rotund Bartolo Colon, which should help seal the wound a bit. Jon Niese will be the other veteran presence in the rotation, followed by the young guns Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, and most likely Jennry Mejia, although Carlos Torres could challenge Mejia.
The bullpen looks far more shaky than the rotation. Bobby Parnell is inexperienced as a closer, and the rest of the arms are either unproven or average at best. I think the Mets will go after at least one more bullpen arm this winter—they need to if they want to win many ballgames.
The loss of Harvey hurts, but the Mets are trending upwards. This isn’t quite their year, but watch out come 2016.
Projected Finish: 80-82
2. Washington Nationals
The Nats got a major steal when they traded for Doug Fister, and he’s going to be the final piece in the “Fearsome Foursome”, joining Strasburg, Gio, and Zimmerman. Good gracious that’s deadly. I don’t really need to expand on how difficult it’s going to be to win a series against the Nationals this year. The only question is who to put in the fifth spot—Tanner Roark, Ross Detwiler, or Taylor Jordan. My money’s on Detwiler, but no matter who it ends up being, the other two will keep him honest all year long.
There are plenty of quality arms in the bullpen, and the addition of Jerry Blevins from the Athletics makes it even more solid. Rafael Soriano is going to get 40 saves this year, one way or another, so there’s that too.
The offense isn’t quite as good as the pitching, but it isn’t bad. Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper will provide some youth and vitality to the lineup, and veterans like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche can still bop when they need to. Although they lost Stephen Lombardozzi in the Fister trade, Danny Espinosa should slide into the utility spot nicely. Newly-signed Nate McLouth will make an excellent fourth outfielder, particularly since he can be a starter if called upon.
The Nationals aren’t going to beat the Braves this year, but they are going to make it close. I want to say they have a wildcard spot locked up, but the NL Central is still strong enough to possibly steal their spot.
Projected Finish: 90-72
1. Atlanta Braves
The Braves have been pretty quiet this winter, and rightfully so. 96 wins put them atop the NL East, and despite the departure of Brian McCann the Bravos look poised to have another excellent season. It looks like Evan Gattis will become the full-time catcher after an impressive 2013 campaign, and the Braves acquired Ryan Doumit from the Twins to back him up. The offense looks just as good as it did last year, with a very solid core of young players, led by Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, the J-Hey Kid and the Upton brothers.
Speaking of young players, the Braves’ starting rotation is full of them. The Atlanta farm system has been churning out studs of late, and their patience with the young talent has paid off. My prediction for an Opening Day rotation is Medlen, Beachy, Minor, Teheran and Wood, in that order. Beachy was exceptional before the surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2013 season, and now that he’s fully healthy I expect him to live up to his potential. The rest of them are all solid options who are only going to get better with experience.
The Atlanta bullpen has been solid the last few years, and it should remain so in 2014. Kimbrel is hands down the best closer in baseball, and there are plenty of great arms for the late innings before him. Jonny Venters should be back from Tommy John surgery, which solidifies the ‘pen even more.
The Braves are no better or worse this year, and I expect they’ll spend much of 2014 trying to lock up their young players as opposed to signing free agents and making trades. They NL East will put up more of a fight this year, but I don’t see how anybody can dethrone the Braves.
Projected Finish: 94-68
Agree? Disagree? I wanna know. Tweet me @Roto_Dubs or leave a comment here.