I don't know about you guys, but I'm really excited for baseball to start again. There's a lot to look forward to this year. Specifically, how quickly will the Houston Astros break the record for most hit by pitches in a season? I'm setting the total number of games at 79.5 and I'm absolutely hammering the under. All jokes aside, it's going to be a fun year.
MLB will also be testing out a few new rule changes. Most notably, they will be making relief pitchers face a minimum of three batters before being lifted from the game. This basically eliminates matchups and potentially the need for lefty specialists. Furthermore, managers will strategically pick their offensive lineups so they have a mix of both right-handed and left-handed hitters.
In this six-part series, I'll be diving into each league, predicting the division standings, starting off with the National League East. I will be doing one a week until the start of the season for the N.L. and my boy Dylan Fadden will be doing one a week for the American League.
National League East Standings
1. Atlanta Braves 94-68
The Atlanta Braves have won the division the past two seasons and I think they make it a three-peat this season. They needed to add a couple more arms to make themselves a legit contender and that's exactly what they did. Atlanta snagged the best reliever on the market in Will Smith and another veteran lefty in Cole Hamels to fill the role that Dallas Keuchel did for the Braves last year.
Despite losing Josh Donaldson, their offense is still loaded. They were able to make up for the Donaldson loss by signing former St. Louis Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna, who won't be as good as JD, but was one of the better hitters on the market. They still have Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. Ozzie Albies, etc. For those reasons, I think the Braves will repeat as division champs and also be able to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a challenge in the playoffs.
2. New York Mets 88-74
The New York Mets quietly had a very good year last year, despite not making the playoffs. They shocked the baseball world by adding star pitcher Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays. The 28-year-old former Duke Blue Devil had his best year in the pros last season, making his first career all-star game and posting his lowest full-season ERA. Stroman, along with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob De Grom, makes up one of the most feared pitching staffs in the league. They did lose Zack Wheeler in free agency, but I don't think it will affect them that much.
The Mets lineup does give me some concern, as they're not that deep. Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso will be mainstays, but other than that it could get shaky. They traded for former Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick, but he's known more for his defensive ability in the outfield. The key for this team is going to be Yoenis Cespedes. He missed 124 games last year after injuring himself at his farm. Cespedes will be entering his age 33 season and if he's able to contribute as he has in the past, this Mets team could go far in the playoffs.
3. Washington Nationals 84-78
Yes, the World Series hangover is real. The Washington Nationals shocked the world last year by defeating the cheating scumbags, I mean Houston Astros in seven games. Washington will dearly miss Anthony Rendon, who was the face of their lineup and a major reason why they won it all. They re-signed key veterans in Ryan Zimmerman and Howie Kendrick, but those guys are aging fast.
If you're a Nationals fan looking for an X-factor, look no further than outfielder Victor Robles. Robles finished his first full year last year and performed pretty decently. He slashed .255/.326/.419 with 17 long balls and 65 RBI's. Robles also stole 28 bases and played phenomenal defense in the outfield. If he's able to cut down on strikeouts (He had 140 last year), and help carry the offensive load with Juan Soto, they can fight for the final wild-card spot. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be enough and I think the Nationals miss the playoffs.
4. Philadelphia Phillies 82-80
The expectations were high for the Philadelphia Phillies last year and it's safe to say that they failed. After signing Bryce Harper to a mega-contract and trading for all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto, many thought Philadelphia had the pieces to be a contender. That wasn't the case though. Many guys struggled last year, including Harper and the Phillies had a disappointing fourth-place finish.
The Phillies needed to sign somebody to give them new life and they were able to steal Zack Wheeler from the division-rival Mets. Wheeler gives a big boost to a pitching staff that's been wildly inconsistent since the days of Doc Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. If the Phillies want to have any shot of competing, they're going to need Aaron Nola to have a 2018 esque performance. If Nola can find his groove, he and Wheeler make up a very formidable 1-2 punch. However, I don't think it'll be enough and it's going to be another long, disappointing offseason in Philadelphia.
5. Miami Marlins 66-96
The Miami Marlins have been a mess since the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. They traded away former MVP Giancarlo Stanton, traded a future MVP in Christian Yelich and have been stuck in rebuild mode since 2016. I'm sorry Marlins fans, but it's going to be another tough year.
There's not a lot of people to get excited about on the current roster. Jonathan Villar was a solid pickup though and he immediately becomes the best player on the team. Sixto Sanchez, the big piece in the J.T. Realmuto trade, could debut this season but is likely still a year or two away. Hopefully, the Marlins can get good in a few years, because it's always fun to see the Marlins in the playoffs.