Here we go! It’s time to jump from the American League and begin breaking down the burning questions for each National League team. Our tour through the senior circuit will start in the National League East.
Most divisions in baseball are up for grabs. The NL East is not. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Washington Nationals will have this division wrapped up by the end of August. They are too strong, and the rest of the division will be facing an uphill battle to even finish .500.
The Nationals won the division by 17 games last season, and were the only team in the division to post a winning record. They pulled off the ultimate coup this offseason by signing Max Scherzer to a seven-year contract that reminded me of the Phillies eleventh hour signing of Cliff Lee in 2011. No one expected the Nationals to be players for Scherzer given their already deep starting rotation, but when you have a chance to sign arguably the game’s second best pitcher the past two seasons, you pull the trigger every time. The Nationals have actually reached the point where anything short of winning the last game of the season will be a disappointment.
After the Nationals, the division falls off the steepest of cliffs. The Marlins may be the team capable of giving the Nationals the most trouble. By that, I mean they may finish the season within single digits of the DC boys, but probably not. The Marlins have enough young talent, as they always do between bouts of foolish spending by management, to get over the hump to 85 wins. Winning 85 games would be a step in the right direction for the Marlins after they won 77 last year without phenom Jose Fernandez.
The rest of the division could get ugly quickly. The Phillies will be a dumpster fire. Ok, that’s harsh. They will merely be a fire sale. Ruben Amaro went all in after the team went to consecutive World Series, mortgaging the future of the franchise on a fleeting window of contention. Now, he is paying the price with a roster devoid of young talent. The Mets may have a top-10 rotation in the league, based on potential alone. If their young aces can pitch to their potential, they could also post a winning record, if their offense doesn’t hold them back too much. They had a breakout season from Lucas Duda in 2014, but the rest of the lineup was downright putrid. The Braves are the division’s final team. All they did this offseason was trade away two All-Star outfielders and a catcher with All-Star potential. The Braves scored the second fewest runs in the National League last year. Without Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis, will they descend the final rung of the ladder and claim the title of league’s worst offense?
I could tell you I think the National League East has the potential to be one of the most exciting playoff races, but I would be lying. The NL East will be the dog baby division for the league this year. The Nationals should wrap this one up and coast into the playoffs. All that being said, there are still some very interesting questions to consider for each team.
Read on as I take a stab at answering them.