The National League East was always going to be a highly competitive, enticing division in 2020. Now it has been turned upside down.
The Atlanta Braves have lost Mike Soroka for the year to a torn Achilles; Cole Hamels is going to miss most of the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to a shoulder injury; the Braves have removed Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb from their starting rotation; second baseman Ozzie Albies is on the injured list with a wrist injury.
By the way, the Miami Marlins are in first place in the NL East. Yes, the NL East’s doormat of the last two years is now at the top of the division, putting up a fight against everyone they face.
This division is anyone’s for the taking.
The Miami Marlins are the New Kid on the Block
Despite practically half their roster off the field due to the team’s COVID-19 outbreak, the Marlins are 7-4.
Pitching has been the heart and soul of their hot start. Miami went into Tuesday sixth in MLB in ERA (3.58) and opponent batting average (.215) and 27th in home runs surrendered (14). This all comes with their ace, Sandy Alcantara, making just one start due to the team’s outbreak. Their rotation is accompanied by a lineup with all but three everyday players owning an OPS above .675 (Jesus Aguilar, Brian Anderson, and Francisco Cervelli).
The Marlins are grinding out games on the backs of young starters and bullpen execution. What does this team look like at full force?
The Philadelphia Phillies Stand a Chance
Sure, the Phillies have been disappointing over the last two seasons considering the plethora of high-profile players on their depth chart. At the same time, getting to .500 could be all Philly needs to crack the postseason, as eight teams in each league qualify for the fall activities.
With the likes of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, and Jean Segura in place, the Phillies can give pitchers a handful on any given night — de facto them scoring eight runs while logging just four outs against Sean Newcomb Monday night in Citizens Bank Park. Meanwhile, at their best, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Eflin make for a study rotation.
The Phillies have to play well in their division to stand a chance; they have the talent to do as such.
The World Series Champions are Getting Healthy
A 6-7 start isn’t what the Washington Nationals had in mind. That said, they’re getting healthy. Juan Soto is back and doing Juan Soto things, blasting baseballs all over ballparks; Stephen Strasburg made his first start of the season on Sunday; Max Scherzer didn’t miss a start after his hamstring hiccup last week.
Scherzer, Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin form the best rotation trio in the sport. Meanwhile, they have an offense of line-drive hitters and a slightly improved bullpen. It’s a well-rounded ballclub. The Nationals are coming off a season where they overcame adversity at every leg of the race which includes making the playoffs after starting 19-31 and coming back down multiple runs late in three postseason elimination games.
They have as good a chance as the field to win the NL East.
The Mets Still Have a Competitive Roster
Yes, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman aren’t playing this season. Does that mean the Mets are a cellar-dwelling team that can’t compete? It does not. They still have a respectable roster. It’s a matter of execution.
The Mets went into Tuesday second in MLB in on-base percentage (.342) and 15th in runs (70); they’re getting a lot of runners on base but doing close to nothing with them. Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, Wilson Ramos, and Amed Rosario make for an offense that can wreak havoc on pitching staffs.
Jacob deGrom and David Peterson have been the steady forces of the Mets pitching staff. Then there’s everybody else. Manager Luis Rojas needs left-hander Steven Matz, who owns an 8.20 ERA this season, to right the ship, therefore adding another reliable starter to their rotation. Others stepping up in the rotation will make or break the Mets; their bullpen can’t sustain pitching four innings three every five games.
Can Atlanta Withstand the Extensive Absences?
The Braves still have a high-octane offense without Albies; Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna, and Dansby Swanson, among others are more than capable of posing a formidable offensive attack.
On the other hand, starting pitching gives one reason to click the panic button with the Braves. Taking into account recent injuries/transactions and the free agent departures of Julio Teheran and Dallas Keuchel, just 20 percent of the Braves 2019 starting rotation is active, and its entire 2018 rotation is either gone or inactive. The Braves needed the backend of their rotation to step up this season, and now the front end has been vacated.
If and when the Braves rotation doesn’t consistently get through five-to-six innings, their bullpen will be used to extremes. It’s a 60-game season, and Atlanta is tied for first place in the NL East. Can it last?