Preview: The Braves are coming off of a 90-win season in which they won the NL East. With the return of All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman and young studs Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, as well as the addition of Josh Donaldson, the Braves have the opportunity to repeat. However, it won’t be easy as the Phillies and Mets have both improved this offseason and the Nationals still have one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball. The Braves lineup returns basically everybody, it only improved with Josh Donaldson. Donaldson only played in 52 games last season, but he has proved over the years to be a threat at the plate. He will takeover third base this year in Atlanta and likely be hitting somewhere in the middle of the order. Also in the middle of the order for the Braves will be Freddie Freeman who put together an MVP-caliber season in 2018 with a .309 BA, 23 HRs, and 98 RBIs. Maybe the most exciting player returning to the Braves lineup is reigning NL ROY, Ronald Acuna Jr. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HRs and posted a .917 OPS in his rookie season, establishing himself as one of, if not the most exciting young player in baseball. Starting pitching isn’t Atlanta’s biggest strength, but they are an underrated group in my opinion. All four returning starters had an ERA of less than 4.00 last season. One of those four is Mike Foltynewicz who had a breakout season in 2018 posting a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. Atlanta will be eager to see how former first round pick Touki Toussaint pitches this season. The 22 year old right-hander posted a 4.03 ERA last year in 29 IP. Toussaint could help solidify the starting rotation on a contending team. A fully healthy Arodys Vizcaino returns to the Braves bullpen on a one year deal. Vizcaino is the favorite to be the closer, but LHP A.J. Minter is also a closer candidate after a solid 2018 season in which he had 15 saves. Relievers Johnny Venters, Jesse Biddle, and Danny Winkler also return to the Braves bullpen after impressive 2018 seasons along with veteran Darren O’Day. The Braves may not be the NL East favorites anymore after the Phillies’ Bryce Harper acquisition, but they very well could crash the Philly bandwagon party and take the NL East pennant again.
Preview: The Marlins finished the 2018 season in last place in the NL East with the worst record in the National League. They are likely to finish the 2019 season in similar fashion. After a complete roster overhaul by team executive Derek Jeter, the Marlins quickly became a laughing stock in the league. More than anything, the Marlins should be hoping for a huge turn-around season from former first round pick, Lewis Brinson. To say the least, Brinson has come up short of expectations after a total of 130 games in the major leagues. Jose Urena has been one of the very few bright spots for the Marlins. Urena will be expected to build on his success from the past two seasons. It will be interesting to see how 23 year old Sandy Alcantara pitches this season. He started six games last season posting a 3.44 ERA with a 2-3 record. Not that it would make much of a difference, but the Marlins bullpen is also a noticeable weakness. There doesn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for Miami. They are nowhere to be found on mlb.com’s list of MLB’s top 10 farm systems. Another painful season for the Marlins is in the works.
New York Mets
Preview: Mets fans, unfamiliarly, come into the 2019 season with excitement. After finishing in fourth place last season, the Mets decided to be buyers this offseason. Doing so, they improved a roster that desperately needed the improvement. They added future Hall of Famer, 2B Robinson Cano, infielder, Jed Lowrie, all-star C Wilson Ramos, and closer Edwin Diaz who had an incredible 2018 season with a 1.96 ERA and 57 saves. New York seems to have a solid lineup with Lowrie, Cano, Conforto, Frazier, and Ramos filling out the middle part of the order. The Mets are also eager to see how well 23 year old SS Amed Rosario performs in his second full major league season. The strongest part of this Mets team is most likely the pitching. The starting rotation features the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom. deGrom finished his extremely impressive 2018 season with a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts in 217 IP. Noah Syndergaard and Zach Wheeler also return to the Mets rotation after solid 2018 seasons. There is plenty of confidence from the Mets organization with those three returning starters. They will be depending on Steven Matz and Jason Vargas to fill out the rest of the rotation. Corey Oswalt could also get some starts on the mound. The offseason signing of Edwin Diaz helped the Mets form what looks to be one of the better bullpens in the league. Jeurys Familia will likely be given most setup opportunities in seventh and eighth innings. Other notable names in the bullpen are Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, and Robert Gsellman. With the help of New York’s offseason additions, the Mets will be looking to make their way into the postseason for only the third time in the last ten years.
Preview: The Phillies went from 66 wins in 2017 to 80 wins in 2018. They are looking for another big improvement this upcoming season. This offseason, the Phillies went all in, signing RP David Robertson, C J.T. Realmuto, SS Jean Segura, and outfielders, Andrew McCutchen & Bryce Harper. Harper was perhaps the biggest name in free agency this winter and Philly went out and won him over with a 13-year, $330M contract. The addition of Harper solidifies this solid lineup, providing them with unparalleled power in the middle of the order alongside Rhys Hoskins. Segura also has a lot to offer at the plate as he will likely bat at the top of the order, giving Harper and Hoskins plenty of RBI opportunities. Segura batted .304 last season with 20 stolen bases and only 69 strikeouts. The starting rotation is top-heavy. With two ‘Ace’s,’ in the rotation, Philly is guaranteed a quality start two to three days a week. It’s the other days that bring up questions. We could see a multitude of pitchers getting opportunities to start games on the mound on days not scheduled to Nola or Arrieta. These pitchers include Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and even Enyel De Los Santos or Ranger Suarez. Look for Philly to improve their starting rotation at the trade deadline. The Phillies look to have a trustworthy bullpen heading into 2019. David Robertson will likely be given the closing role; however, Seranthony Dominguez or Hector Neris could be given opportunities as well. The Phillies bullpen also features former all-star, Pat Neshek. The Phillies are likely the NL East favorites, and they seem to be World Series contenders.
Preview: After the loss of superstar Bryce Harper, people are overlooking the Nats. What a lot of people don’t realize is the Nationals are still contenders; not just NL East contenders but World Series contenders. The Nats lineup contains a mix of talented youth and veteran leadership. Washington is looking for big years from Juan Soto (.292 BA and 22 HRs in 2018 as a rookie) and rookie, Victor Robles. Soto, Robles, and veteran Adam Eaton look to make up one of the better outfields in the league. Also returning to the Nats lineup is first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, third baseman Anthony Rendon, and shortstop Trea Turner. Additions to the lineup include veterans Brian Dozier (2B) and Yan Gomes (C). This lineup could be as good as any in this loaded division. It’s the pitching rotation, though, that will scare the likes of Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, and Miami. Joining two of the league’s most feared starters, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, is LHP Patrick Corbin who pitched a 3.15 ERA in 200 innings last season for the Diamondbacks. Joe Ross and Eric Fedde are expected to fill out the rest of the Nationals rotation. With the help of newly acquired reliever, Kyle Barraclough, the Nats bullpen looks improved from last season. The Nationals aren’t necessarily World Series contenders this year, but they could surprise a lot of people. They will be looking to make a run at the division, or more realistically, a NL wild card spot.