Covering The Bases: NL East

Covering The Bases: NL East

Opening Day is almost here so let’s take a quick look at what each team looks like heading into the 2021 season. We keep things moving with the NL East previews. 





ATLANTA BRAVES

PROJECTION 1ST NL East 

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Drew Smyly SP

Charlie Morton SP

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

None

 

LINEUP

1 Acuna OF

2 Albies 2B

3 Freeman 1B

4 Ozuna OF

5 d'Arnaud C

6 Swanson SS

7 Riley 3B

8 Pache OF

 

ROTATION

Fried

Morton

Ian Anderson

Smyly

Soroka

Kyle Wright

 

CLOSER - Will Smith

 

OUTLOOK

The Braves have won 3 consecutive NL East titles and fell just short of a World Series berth in 2020, falling to the eventual champion LA Dodgers in the NL championship series. While it may project to be a tougher division this year, with an improved Mets team and the Nationals and Phillies also in the hunt, the Braves have to be the favorite until someone unseats them. It starts at the top of the batting order, with Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman setting the table for cleanup hitter Marcel Ozuna. Albies is among the best 2nd baseman in the league, and although he struggled in the 11 games last season prior to going on the DL with a wrist injury, he hit a solid 333 upon returning. Acuna is MVP caliber good. Freeman finally got the credit he deserves as one of the best pure hitters in the game winning the NL MVP last season. Ozuna is a prototypical clean up hitter who also hits for average. Then there is Dansby Swanson, who seems to get better every year, and he's starting to live up to the lofty expectations placed on him, following an illustrious college career at Vanderbilt. He hit. 274 last season, well above his career average (.249). The acquisition of Charlie Morton is a big boost to the pitching staff. Ace Max Fried quietly had one of the better seasons of any starter in the league last year. Ian Anderson quickly established himself as an elite talent after making his debut in 2020 and could be a candidate for rookie of the year in the National League. He's that good. The Braves are in full "reload" mode for another playoff run and possible matchup with the Dodgers once again in what is a deep and talented National League across the board.

 

 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

PROJECTION 2ND NL EAST

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Josh Bell 1B

Kyle Schwarber OF

Taijuan Walker SP

Joey Lucchesi SP

Josh Harrison 2B-3B

Jon Lester SP

Brad Hand Closer

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

Adam Eaton OF

Asdrubal Cabrera INF

Howie Kendrick UT

 

 

LINEUP

1 Robles OF

2 Turner SS

3 Soto OF

4 Bell 1B

5 Schwarber OF

6 Castro 2B

7 Gomes C

8 Josh Harrison 2B-3B

 

ROTATION

Scherzer

Corbin

Strasburg

Lester

Joe Ross

 

CLOSER - Brad Hand

 

OUTLOOK

The Nationals have brought in some key pieces to hopefully improve on their disappointing 4th place finish in the division last season. There is plenty of reason to believe they will be back in the playoffs in 2021. They acquired two premier power hitters in Bell (37 HR, 2019), and Schwarber ( 38 HR, 2019). Turner is one of the league's best all around players, capable of putting up big numbers in every offensive category. He's also one of the fastest players in the league and is a threat to steal his way around the bases when he doesn't hit his way around them. Robles has the ability to do the same, and although he had his struggles last year, he had 28 steals and 17 homers in 2019. He should have a bounce back year and set the table from the leadoff spot once again. Soto is an absolute elite hitter and has only gotten better in the couple years since making his MLB debut

The addition of Harrison has led to the demotion of Spencer Kieboom to the minors to begin the season. Harrison will take over at 3B. This lineup has the potential to be one of the best in baseball. The pitching staff is led once again by Ace Max Scherzer. He seems to just get better with age and is one of the best in baseball. Strasburg has been dominant when healthy, and he's ready to go to start the season. Corbin is capable of being as good a 3rd starter as there is in the majors. Brad Hand gives them a closer that has been one of the most reliable in baseball for Cleveland in recent years. Look for the Nats to get back to their winning ways in the 2021 season.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

PROJECTION 3RD NL EAST

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Chase Anderson SP

Matt Moore SP

 

LINEUP

1 McCuthen OF

2  Realmuto 1B

3 Harper OF

4 Hoskins 1B-OF

5 Bohm 3B - 1B

6 Gregorius SS

7 Segura 2B - 3B

8 Haseley/Quinn OF

 

ROTATION

Zach Wheeler

Aaron Nola

Zach Eflin

Chase Anderson

Matt Moore

 

OUTLOOK

The Phillies have a lineup that's relatively the same as it was last year. There is both good and bad in that, since they highly underperformed last year. That said, it's a lineup that scored a ton of runs and were consistently in most games they played. They just didn't finish enough of them to say that it was anything but a disappointment for Phillies fans. This is a lineup filled with proven veterans and they should have something to prove this year. There is also Bohm, who had an impressive start to his major league career, as he slashed .338/.400/.481 as a rookie. As a team they had an impressive .781OPS. Even Segura adjusted his never walk approach and improved his on base percentage. There has never been any question that he can hit. Realmuto is the best hitting catcher in baseball and has been for the last few years. Hoskins will look to improve his average, and get back to the elite level home run hitter he was in his first two seasons. Bryce Harper's name speaks for itself. McCuthen was once an MVP caliber player, and still has enough left in the tank to be highly effective. Grigorius is a streaky hitter, and he will be the everyday shortstop this season, while Segura will play 2nd. Bohm will mainly play 3rd but could also see action at first base. It appears that Adam Haseley has won the center field job. Odubel Herrera was optioned to the teams alternate site this week, leaving Haseley and Roman Quinn to fill the remaining outfield roles. Veteran Matt Joyce also made the opening day roster after hitting .310 in 29 AB this spring.With McCuthen in left and Harper in right. I believe the questions about the 21 season lie in the back end of the rotation. Two veterans in Anderson and Moore were acquired to fill those spots. You can decide if you feel that they will be sufficient to do so. Spencer Howard's name might get called early. By the team and the fans if recent years results from Anderson and Moore are any indication of what they do this year. Brandon Kintzler had a good spring and made the club as a high leverage bullpen option. Same can be said for him. The Phillies have 3 solid arms at the top of the rotation, but it could get ugly after that. Still, the talent they have on the offensive side should keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot, even with the improved Mets and Nats. Along with the reloaded Braves. This could be the toughest divisions in baseball top to bottom.

 

NEW YORK METS

PROJECTION 4TH NL EAST

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Fransisco Lindor SS

Taijuan Walker SP

Joey Lucchesi SP

Carlos Carrasco SP

Marcus Stroman SP

 

LINEUP

1 Nimmo OF

2 Lindor SS

3 Conforto OF

4 Alonso 1B

5 Dominic Smith 1B - OF

6 McNeil 2B

7 JD DAVIS 3B - OF

8 McCann C

 

ROTATION

Jacob Degrom

Marcus Stromen

Walker

Carrasco

Lucchesi

 

CLOSER - Edwin Diaz

 

OUTLOOK

There is no question the Mets made themselves better in the off-season. They acquired one of the best players in baseball in Lindor from the Indians. Along with Carlos Carrasco, although he will begin the season on the DL. Stroman has been hit with injuries but he was highly effective when healthy for Toronto. He's back with his new team and set to go for the season opener. DeGrom is a top 5 starter, and you could argue the top starter in the majors. Dom Smith showed great improvements from his rookie season to last year and could have a breakout year. 30 plus homers should be a lock. Conforto adds power and is coming off a career best .333 avg. Mcneil and Davis are easy to get mixed up, (or is that just me?) but that's okay because they both offer a lot of the same things. And they can both handle the bat. There are high expectations for this team, maybe higher than they should be. Time will tell, but the division is too strong for me to put them in the playoffs this year ahead of the Braves and Nationals.

 

MIAMI MARLINS

PROJECTION LAST NL EAST

 

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

Adam Duvall OF

Anthony Bass Closer

 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES

None

 

LINEUP

1 Corey Dickerson OF

2 Starling Marte OF

3 Aguilar/Cooper 1B

4 Duvall OF

6 Anderson 3B

7 Rojas SS

8 Chisholm 2B

 

ROTATION

Alcantara

Lopez

Hernandez

Rogers

Sanchez

 

CLOSER - Anthony Bass

 

OUTLOOK

The Marlins are a young team that surprisingly made it to the playoffs last season. Much of that success can be attributed to the young pitchers that they have developed and are now just starting to make their mark in the big leagues. They have some of the most electric arms in baseball. Sandy Alcontrera, Pablo Lopez, Sixto Sanchez, and Elisier Hernandez all figure to be a big part of the teams success this year and beyond. Sanchez won't start the season in the rotation but surely he will get to the call soon after posting a 3-1record with a 1.69 ERA in his first 5 big league starts. Cabrera is listed as day to day and has yet to resume throwing activities.I expect we see all four in the rotation at some point during the season. When we do, that's going to keep them in a lot of ball games. All four have elite potential. The offense looks much the same as a year ago, with the exception of Duvall. It's not a lineup that's going to jump off the page when you look at it. There are no real superstars, but they are all capable bats. Duvall will add home run power. Aguilar is just three years removed from hitting 35 homers himself. Marte adds stability and a dependable bat at the top of the lineup. This is a team that finished 23rd in OPS last year, much of that due to prospects Chisholm, Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, and Lewis Diaz who combined to go 24-167 (.144) with 68 Ks. The Marlins success will likely depend on their strong pitching and the development of those prospects.They aren't likely to be among the league leaders in runs scored any time soon, and with the overall improved NL East it's a longshot that they make it back to the playoffs for a 2nd year in a row.

 


Stay tuned for the rest of the National League and as always, stay true.


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