With baseball season quickly approaching, perhaps no other conference in Major League Baseball will be as hotly contested as the National League East. Filled with a solid mix of future stars and old guns, the NL East should keep fans across the league on their toes. Here’s an early look at the conference’s frontrunners:
Washington Nationals (Projected: 1st) – Last Season: 90-72 | 1st in NL East
The Washington Nationals have been a favorite in the NL East for the past few years. Over the offseason, the Nats attempted to add Chris Sale to their talented rotation but missed out. Despite that, the Nationals traded top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito and some minor pieces for Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton.
Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez lead one of the best rotations in the majors. The only question for the Nats on the mound would be in the bullpen. With Mark Melancon closing, Shawn Kelley and plenty of unproven talent working out of the pen, the Nats could face some issues if their starters struggle.
On the offensive side of things, the Nationals have plenty of options. A healthy Bryce Harper, newly acquired Adam Eaton and Jayson Werth are all offensive powers in the outfield. The infield gets a makeover this season now that young phenom Trae Turner has moved to his natural shortstop position. Daniel Murphy, who was second in MLB with a .347 batting average last season, Ryan Zimmerman at first and Anthony Rendon at third finish out the infield. Newly acquired Derek Norris will catch this year.
New York Mets (Projected: 2nd) – Last Season: 87-75 | 2nd in the NL East
Just two seasons removed from a World Series appearance, the Mets are ready to make a surge again. While they have one of the best rotations in baseball, health will continue to be a factor. Noah Syndergaard will start on day one for the Mets and looks to make a run at the Cy Young Award.
Jacob deGrom will be the second man in the rotation, followed by Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman. The young arms could prove to be the best in the majors, but they have to stay healthy. Matt Harvey still has not returned to his form after his season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2013.
The Mets’ offense looks to step up and provide some much-needed run support this year as they bring back power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the lineup. Veteran David Wright hopes to provide some much-needed offense late in his career.
Philadelphia Phillies (Projected: 3rd) – Last Season: 71-91 | 4th in the NL East
With newly acquired starter Clay Buchholz leading their rotation, the Phillies can improve on their 2016 record. Their offense will have to prove better than last season, but with Maikel Franco and Howie Kendrick playing on the left side of the field, the Phillies should be able to muster enough runs to win games.
While its success relies a lot on a few “what ifs,” manager Pete Mackanin, entering his second season, looks prepared to lead his squad deep into the playoffs. Its bullpen will rely on some aging arms in Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek, but it has some youth in Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos and Jeanmar Gomez.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the Phillies’ ability to put it all together this year, but, on paper at least, there’s no reason they shouldn’t make a run at a wild card spot.