MLB 2017: National League East Rankings
We continue our MLB 2017 divisional rankings with a look at the National League East.
We finished our American League divisional rankings as a part of the MLB 2017 preview and today we are beginning with the National League, starting with what should be a very competitive division in the National League East.
The Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies are continuing their rebuilding processes. For the Braves, they are moving into a brand new ballpark and made some veteran additions to their rotation to give their stockpile of arms a little more time to develop. They played much better in the second half of last season and will have Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson for the duration.
The Phillies have officially made the transition away from the Chase Utley/Ryan Howard core with both of them unsigned as of this posting. Like the Braves, the Phillies added some veteran pieces on one-year deals like Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit.
The Marlins have made some deals to upgrade their pitching, and may have new ownership in the near future.
That leads us to the two playoff teams in the Washington Nationals and New York Mets. The Mets are banking on better health for a team that was in the World Series two years ago. In looking at their team, only Curtis Granderson didn’t miss any time last year. It has to change, right?
So who’s the top dog in the division? Let’s take a look.
5. Phillies – Jeremy Hellickson accepted the qualifying offer instead of testing the free agent market. They swung a deal for Clay Buchholz after the Red Sox got Chris Sale. Both are on the last year of their deals and can be used as trade chips later on. They have impressive young arms like Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jake Thompson to round out the rotation.
4. Marlins – They lack an ace after the tragic death of Jose Fernandez last September. Wei-Yin Chen is the number-one by default at this point. They traded for Dan Straily and added Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke in free agency to go with Tom Koehler and Adam Conley who could take the next step in his development this year.
3. Braves – Julio Teheran looked last year like an ace and someone the Braves are very happy they didn’t trade. They brought in Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey via free agency and Jaime Garcia in a trade to eat innings and give their young pitchers some leadership. All three will also be trade chips at the deadline for contenders looking for starters. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair will compete for the last spot.
2. Nationals – Max Scherzer may be the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw. Stephen Strasburg was great, except he can’t stay healthy. Gio Gonzalez will look to rebound after an uneven year. Tanner Roark looked much better with a role in the rotation.
1. Mets – Will this be the year the fab five stay healthy? If they do, look out. Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler all have injury questions. If any of them falter, spin rate master Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman can step in.
5. Nationals – They’ve gone through the whole offseason at this point without addressing the closer role, and as of right now it’s Shawn Kelley. If it is Kelley, it’s going to be hard to get the ball to him. Blake Treinen was pretty good last season, but can he handle an eighth inning role? They are going to need Oliver Perez, Trevor Gott and Koda Glover to step up. They did add guys like Joe Nathan, Tim Collins and Matt Albers on minor league deals.
2. Marlins – They dabbled in the big fish free agent market for Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, but came away with solid pieces in Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to help David Phelps and strikeout master Kyle Barraclough in front of A.J. Ramos
1. Mets – The Jeurys Familia situation complicates things, but even if he’s suspended for 30 days for his domestic violence incident, they should be okay. They have Addison Reed and kept Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins along with Hansel Robles.
5. Braves – Freddie Freeman is one of the best in the game. Dansby Swanson will be in his first full season. Adonis Garcia had a nice second half. Second base will be a platoon of Sean Rodriguez and Jace Peterson until Ozzie Albies is ready.
4. Phillies – Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph provide some pop at the corner positions. Freddy Galvis broke out in the home run department with 20, but the job should be J.P. Crawford‘s at some point this season. Cesar Hernandez was excellent in the second half and is really underrated.
3. Marlins – Adeiny Hechavarria really regressed offensively last year. Dee Gordon did as well, but was also suspended for 50 games for PEDs. Justin Bour is a big-time power threat against righties, and Martin Prado continues to be a steady producer.
2. Mets – Every single infield spot has injury questions. How much will David Wright actually play? How are the backs of Lucas Duda and Neil Walker? Can Asdrubal Cabrera‘s knee hold up? Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores may see a good amount of time this year.
1. Nationals – If Ryan Zimmerman can elevate the ball, he’ll have better success this year. Daniel Murphy was an MVP finalist; can he produce the same kind of numbers this year? Anthony Rendon looked much better and healthier at third base. Trea Turner will be in his first full season. Can he avoid a sophomore jinx? Will Derek Norris be their catcher?
5. Phillies – Odubel Herrera got himself an nice extension and should be a building block moving forward. Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick are stop gaps and may not be with the team after the trade deadline.
3. Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton really struggled last season with injury. Can he get back to being the monster he was? Marcell Ozuna looked better last season and Christian Yelich is excellent, but I’m not sure about the switch of Ozuna to left and Yelich to center.
2. Nationals – What Bryce Harper will we get in 2017? The MVP from 2015 or the player who struggled in 2016? Which Adam Eaton will play center? The 2015 version or the right fielder from the White Sox in 2016 who was excellent? Jayson Werth was much more productive in 2016.
1. Mets – The Mets made a huge move in keeping Yoenis Cespedes. He is the straw that stirs the drink. They have to hope they get the Jay Bruce from the final couple weeks of the season and not the one from right after the trade. Can Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto hold down center?
So here are the final ranks. Remember, the lower the number, the better.
5. Phillies (17)
4. Braves (16)
3. Marlins (12)
2. Nationals (10)
1. Mets (5)
I think in another year the gap will close between the Phillies, Braves and the rest of the division as their prospects continue to develop. The Nationals have to figure out the bullpen. It’s really going to hold them back. Maybe David Robertson or someone of that ilk can be the answer, but they always seem to have something holding them back.
The Marlins ownership situation will be interesting. If they are indeed sold, will the new owner spend money? Miami is an attractive destination with no state income tax.
If the Mets’ rotation can stay healthy, they should win the division, but their health is a giant question mark.
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So are the Mets the class or will the Nationals or another team take the crown? It should be a fun race to watch all year long.