The NL East has a chance to be one of the more competitive division races in MLB this season, with the Washington Nationals and New York Mets battling it out for the title. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies may also have their own battle on the opposite end of the standings. Who will come out on top in those respective duels? Read on below for a breakdown of all five teams in the NL East.
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The Washington Nationals ran away in the NL East last season, and there’s a good chance that happens again this year. The Nats are just loaded in seemingly every part of their team. Their pitching remains top-notch, with NL Cy Young contender Max Scherzer (+500) anchoring a stacked rotation. The closer role is still a bit of a question mark, but their lineup, led by NL MVP favorite Bryce Harper (+350), is more than capable of basically making that role irrelevant by putting enough runs on the board.
If any team does realistically challenge the Nats’ superiority in the East, though, it’s obviously going to be the Mets. However, a lot will have to depend on whether the excellent (when healthy) Mets rotation can hold up. As good as their two legit Cy Young candidates in Noah Syndergaard (+800) and Jacob deGrom (+1,500) are, they will still need Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to provide some solid starts for them to remain in contention.
Second-Tier: Miami Marlins (+1,400)
The Marlins suffered a significant blow with the tragic passing of young ace Jose Fernandez. Not only was Fernandez an immensely talented pitcher, he was by all accounts the heartbeat of this team and will be hard to replace – on and off the field.
Edinson Volquez is a solid veteran who will eat up innings, but he and Wei-Yin Chen are hardly the most encouraging 1-2 starting combo in the league. The Marlins will need Giancarlo Stanton (the +600 favorite to lead the majors in home runs) and the rest of their lineup to have big years to compensate for their iffy pitching, but counting on Stanton to be healthy is never a good idea.
Just like last year, the Phillies and Braves will be battling it out for the right to not finish last in the division. The slight edge should go to the Phils due to their intriguing rotation, with its blend of experience (Jeremy Hellickson, Clay Buccholz) and youth (Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Jared Eickhoff). They also have promising young pieces in the lineup, with Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Cesar Hernandez all coming off a strong 2016.
But the Braves also have some fine young pieces themselves in Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and future superstar Dansby Swanson. Meanwhile, they added some veteran help during the offseason with the likes of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and Brandon Phillips to avoid too many losses during the first year of their new stadium. However, Colon and Dickey have to be very close to their expiration date by now, and might not be very reliable sources of quality starts.
The Nats (-160) have the arms and the bats to swat away the Mets’ challenge and win the NL East.
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