BC-BBN--NL East Preview Capsules
Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2018: 90-72, first place, lost to Dodgers in Division Series.
Manager: Brian Snitker (fourth season).
He’s Here: 3B Josh Donaldson, C Brian McCann, C Raffy Lopez, RHP Josh Tomlin, pitching coach Rick Kranitz.
He’s Outta Here: C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Brad Brach, 3B Ryan Flaherty, RHP Peter Moylan, 1B Lucas Duda, C Rene Rivera, OF Lane Adams, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.
Projected Lineup: CF Ender Inciarte (.265, 10 HRs, 61 RBIs, 28 SBs), 3B Josh Donaldson (.246, 8, 23 with Toronto and Cleveland), 1B Freddie Freeman (.309, 23, 98), LF Ronald Acuna Jr. (.293, 26, 64, 16 SBs), RF Nick Markakis (.297, 14, 93), C Tyler Flowers (.227, 8, 30) or Brian McCann (.212, 7, 23 with Houston), 2B Ozzie Albies (.261, 24, 72, 14 SBs), SS Dansby Swanson (.238, 14, 59).
Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (9-3, 3.94 ERA, .196 opponents’ batting average), LH Sean Newcomb (12-9, 3.90), RH Kevin Gausman (10-11, 3.92 with Braves and Orioles; 5-3, 2.87 in 10 starts for Atlanta), RH Mike Foltynewicz (13-10, 2.85, 202 Ks), RH Touki Toussaint (2-1, 4.03, 7 games) or RH Kyle Wright (0-0, 4.50, 4 games, 6 IP).
Key Relievers: RH Arodys Vizcaino (2-2, 2.11, 16/18 saves), LH A.J. Minter (4-3, 3.23, 15/17 saves), LH Jesse Biddle (6-1, 3.11, 60 games), RH Shane Carle (4-1, 2.86, 53 games), RH Dan Winkler (4-0, 3.43, 2 saves, 69 games), LH Jonny Venters (4-1, 3.54, 2 saves), RH Chad Sobotka (1-0, 1.88, 21 Ks in 14 1/3 IP; 0.00 ERA in 8 September games), LH Sam Freeman (3-5, 4.29 in 63 games), RH Luke Jackson (1-2, 4.43 in 35 games).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Teheran will make his sixth straight opening day start for Atlanta on March 28 at Philadelphia. This was not the plan before Foltynewicz, who enjoyed a breakout 2018 season when he was an All-Star, developed a sore elbow this spring. Foltynewicz is expected to miss at least two weeks. Mike Soroka also had shoulder problems that prevented him from contending for a rotation spot. Gausman (shoulder) and Newcomb (control) also had difficulties this spring, causing concerns about the status of the rotation entering the season.
Outlook: Acuna gives Atlanta an exciting new face of the franchise, joining Freeman, who remains in his prime after placing fourth in NL MVP voting last season. A healthy Donaldson would give Snitker a powerful right-handed bat to add depth to the lineup. It appears Snitker plans to hit Acuna fourth, behind Donaldson and Freeman, against right-handers. Acuna also was effective as a leadoff hitter and could return to the top of the lineup if Inciarte or Albies struggle. The Braves need Markakis, who is 35, to repeat his 2018 first-half showing, when he hit .323 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs before the All-Star break. He batted only .258 with four homers after the break. For Atlanta to again contend in the division, Foltynewicz probably must bounce back from his sore elbow and deliver as the leader of the rotation. Otherwise, the Braves might have to depend on such young pitchers as Toussaint, Wright and Soroka, placing too much stress on the bullpen.
2018: 82-80, second place.
Manager: Dave Martinez (second season).
He’s Here: LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Anibal Sanchez, C Yan Gomes, 2B Brian Dozier, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, C Kurt Suzuki, 1B Matt Adams, LHP Tony Sipp.
He’s Outta Here: OF Bryce Harper, C Matt Wieters, RHP Tanner Roark, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jefry Rodriguez, LHP Tim Collins.
Projected Lineup: RF Adam Eaton (.301, 5 HRs, 33 RBIs in 95 games), SS Trea Turner (.271, 19, 73, 103 runs, 43 SBs), 3B Anthony Rendon (.308, 24, 92, 44 2Bs, .909 OPS), LF Juan Soto (.292, 22, 70, .923 OPS), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.264, 13, 51 in 85 games), 2B Brian Dozier (.215, 21, 72 with Twins and Dodgers), C Yan Gomes (.266, 16, 48 with Indians), CF Victor Robles (.288, 3, 10 in 21 games).
Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (18-7, 2.53 ERA, 300 Ks, 220 2/3 IP), RH Stephen Strasburg (10-7, 3.74), LH Patrick Corbin (11-7, 3.15, 246 Ks, 200 IP with Diamondbacks), RH Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.83 with Braves), RH Jeremy Hellickson (5-3, 3.45).
Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (3-1, 1.60, 25/26 saves), RH Trevor Rosenthal (missed 2018 after Tommy John surgery; 3-4, 3.40, 11 saves in 2017 with Cardinals), RH Kyle Barraclough (1-6, 4.20, 10 saves in 61 appearances with Marlins), LH Tony Sipp (3-1, 1.86 with Astros), LH Matt Grace (1-1, 2.87 in 56 appearances).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. GM Mike Rizzo did as much reconfiguring with his relievers as any group of players on the roster, but questions remain. Is Rosenthal’s command going to be good enough to make his 100-plus mph fastball matter as he returns from Tommy John surgery? Will Barraclough be as effective as he was during a brief stint as a closer — or struggle as he also has done? Can Sipp be the effective lefty the team needs in a division with left-handed sluggers such as ex-teammate Harper, Freddie Freeman and Robinson Cano?
Outlook: A return to the postseason is imperative. Martinez’s first year as a manager hardly went as hoped, with Washington sinking to second place and missing the playoffs after two consecutive NL East titles under Dusty Baker. More than a third of the roster was turned over in the offseason, with two new catchers, a new starting second baseman, two new starting pitchers (including $140 million man Corbin) behind stars Scherzer and Strasburg, and more. If NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Soto continues to progress at age 20, Rendon puts up similar production to what he usually does, and the rotation is as good as advertised — oh, and they can avoid the sorts of injuries that piled up a year ago — the Nationals could matter more than they did in 2018.
2018: 80-82, third place.
Manager: Gabe Kapler (second season).
He’s Here: RF Bryce Harper, C J.T. Realmuto, SS Juan Segura, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP David Robertson, LHP Jose Alvarez, LHP James Pazos, RHP Juan Nicasio.
He’s Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, C Jorge Alfaro, INF J.P. Crawford, C Wilson Ramos, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, LHP Luis Avilan, OF Jose Bautista, 1B Justin Bour, RHP Luis Garcia, LHP Aaron Loup.
Projected Lineup: LF Andrew McCutchen (.255, 20 HRs, 65 RBIs with Giants and Yankees), SS Jean Segura (.304, 10, 63 with Mariners), RF Bryce Harper (.249, 34, 100 with Nationals), 1B Rhys Hoskins (.234, 34, 96), C J.T. Realmuto (.277, 21, 74 with Marlins), CF Odubel Herrera (.255, 22, 71), 3B Maikel Franco (.270 22, 68), 2B Cesar Hernandez (.253, 16, 60, 19 SBs).
Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (17-6, 2.37 ERA, 224 Ks), RH Jake Arrieta (10-11, 3.96, 138 Ks), RH Nick Pivetta (7-14, 4.77), RH Vince Velasquez (9-12, 4.85), RH Zach Eflin (11-8, 4.36).
Key Relievers: RH David Robertson (8-3, 3.23, 5 saves with Yankees), RH Seranthony Dominguez (2-5, 2.95, 16/20 saves), RH Hector Neris (1-3, 5.10, 11/14 saves), RH Pat Neshek (3-2, 2.59, 5 saves), RH Tommy Hunter (5-4, 3.80, 4 saves), LH Adam Morgan (0-2, 3.83, 1 save), LH James Pazos (4-1, 2.88 with Mariners), LH Jose Alvarez (6-4, 2.71 with Angels).
Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Nola emerged as an All-Star and true ace last year but there’s questions after him. Arrieta, the former Cubs ace, signed in mid-March last year and had an up-and-down season. He’s hoping a full spring training and offseason knee surgery will help him revert to his old form. Pivetta, Velasquez and Eflin have showed promise. They gained valuable experience last year, combining for 86 starts. The team has sought a left-handed starter to break up the righties but will enter the season with this starting five, barring injuries or significant moves. Jerad Eickhoff adds depth, if healthy. He’s still recovering from injuries that plagued him the past two seasons.
Outlook: After six straight losing seasons, the Phillies already were expecting to contend for a postseason berth before adding Harper. Now, they should be a serious challenger for a pennant. They led their division with the second-best record in the NL one week into August before collapsing last year and losing 33 of the final 49 games. Close won’t cut it this season. Even though the rotation is iffy, the offense should carry the team and the bullpen is solid. This team is poised to have its first winning season since 2011 and play October baseball.
New York Mets
2018: 77-85, fourth place.
Manager: Mickey Callaway (second season).
He’s Here: GM Brodie Van Wagenen, 2B Robinson Cano, RHP Edwin Diaz, INF Jed Lowrie, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Jeurys Familia, LHP Justin Wilson, OF Keon Broxton, 1B-3B J.D. Davis, LHP Luis Avilan, LHP Hector Santiago, OF Rajai Davis, INF Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Kyle Dowdy, RHP Walker Lockett, OF Gregor Blanco, INF Danny Espinosa.
He’s Outta Here: RF-1B Jay Bruce, INF Wilmer Flores, LHP Jerry Blevins, C Kevin Plawecki, RHP Anthony Swarzak, OF Austin Jackson, RHP A.J. Ramos, INF Jose Reyes, RHP Rafael Montero, C Jose Lobaton, INF-OF Jack Reinheimer, RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Gerson Bautista, RHP Chris Beck, INF T.J. Rivera, 3B David Wright.
Projected Lineup: LF Brandon Nimmo (.263, 17 HRs, 47 RBIs, .404 OBP, .886 OPS), 3B Jed Lowrie (.267, 23, 99 with Oakland; will miss start of season with knee injury) or Jeff McNeil (.329, 3, 19, .852 OPS in 63 games as rookie second baseman), 2B Robinson Cano (.303, 10, 50, .845 OPS in 80 games with Seattle; served 80-game suspension after positive test for Furosemide), C Wilson Ramos (.306, 15, 70, .845 OPS in 111 games with Rays and Phillies), RF Michael Conforto (.243, 28, 82, 159 Ks, .797 OPS), 1B Pete Alonso (.285, 36, 119 at Double-A and Triple-A, led all minor leaguers in HRs and RBIs) or Dominic Smith (.224, 5, 11, 47 Ks, 4 BBs, 143 ABs) or 1B-3B Todd Frazier (.213, 18, 59 in 115 games; expected to miss start of season with strained oblique), SS Amed Rosario (.256, 9, 51, .295 OBP, 24 SBs), CF Juan Lagares (.339, 0, 6 in 59 ABs before season-ending foot injury).
Rotation: RH Jacob deGrom (10-9, MLB-best 1.70 ERA, 269 Ks in 217 IP, won NL Cy Young Award), RH Noah Syndergaard (13-4, 3.03 in 25 starts), RH Zack Wheeler (12-7, 3.31; 9-1, 1.68 in last 11 starts), LH Steven Matz (5-11, 3.97 in 30 starts), LH Jason Vargas (7-9, 5.77 in 20 starts).
Key Relievers: RH Edwin Diaz (0-4, 1.96, MLB-high 57/61 saves, 0.79 WHIP, 124 Ks in 73 games, 73 1/3 IP with Seattle), RH Jeurys Familia (8-6, 3.13, 18/24 saves in 70 games with Mets and Athletics), RH Seth Lugo (3-4, 2.66, 3 saves in 54 games, 5 starts, 101 1/3 IP), LH Justin Wilson (4-5, 3.46, 69 Ks, 33 BBs in 71 games, 54 2/3 IP with Cubs), RH Robert Gsellman (6-3, 4.28, 13 saves in 68 games), LH Luis Avilan (2-1, 3.77, 2 saves in 70 games with White Sox and Phillies).
Hot Spots: Infield Corners and Center Field. Alonso and a rejuvenated Smith were putting up big numbers at spring training in a spirited competition for the first base job. Both touted prospects could make the opening-day roster following the injuries to Frazier and Lowrie, which have opened a door for McNeil at third base after he was shifted to left field early in camp. J.D. Davis, acquired from Houston in the offseason, could also become a fill-in option at both corner spots. New York hopes the oft-injured Lagares and newcomer Keon Broxton can sufficiently plug a hole in center field, at least against left-handers or until Yoenis Cespedes returns in left. The slugger is recovering from surgery on both heels and isn’t expected back before midseason at the earliest.
Outlook: Coming off consecutive losing seasons, the Mets made an unorthodox move last fall and handed the front-office reins to Van Wagenen, the agent-turned-general manager who used to represent deGrom, Cespedes and several other New York players. During a busy offseason, an aggressive Van Wagenen upgraded nearly every area on the roster, vastly improving the bullpen and overall depth. He acquired former clients Cano and Lowrie and spent about $80 million on free agents, not to mention more big bucks in assuming Cano’s hefty contract. Whether it all winds up being enough to contend in the suddenly rugged NL East remains to be seen, because Philadelphia, Washington and defending champion Atlanta all stocked up this winter as well. Age and injuries remain a concern in New York. But with a strong pitching staff and more punch to the lineup, this team certainly looks much better and there is legitimate reason for optimism.
2018: 63-98, fifth place.
Manager: Don Mattingly (fourth season).
He’s Here: C Jorge Alfaro, INF Neil Walker, OF Curtis Granderson, RH Sergio Romo, 1B Pedro Alvarez, INF Deven Marrero, RHP Austin Brice.
He’s Outta Here: C J.T. Realmuto, INF-OF Derek Dietrich, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Nick Wittgren, LHP Dillon Peters.
Projected Lineup: LF Curtis Granderson (.242, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs with Blue Jays and Brewers), 3B Brian Anderson (.273, 11, 65), 1B Neil Walker (.219, 11, 46 with Yankees), 2B Starlin Castro (.278, 12, 54), RF Garrett Cooper (.212, 0, 2 in 14 games) or Peter O’Brien (.273, 4, 10 in 22 games), CF Lewis Brinson (.199, 11, 42, .577 OPS), C Jorge Alfaro (.262, 10, 37, 138 Ks with Phillies), SS Miguel Rojas (.252, 11, 53, 23 GIDP).
Rotation: RH Jose Urena (9-12, 3.98 ERA, 12 HBP), RH Dan Straily (5-6, 4.12), LH Wei-Yin Chen (6-12, 4.79), RH Trevor Richards (4-9, 4.42, 130 Ks in 126 1/3 IP), RH Pablo Lopez (2-4, 4.14 in 10 starts) or RH Sandy Alcantara (2-3, 3.44 in 6 starts).
Key Relievers: RH Drew Steckenrider (4-4, 3.90, 5 saves, 71 games), RH Sergio Romo (3-4, 4.14, 25/33 saves with Rays), RH Tayron Guerrero (1-3, 5.43, 68 Ks in 58 IP), LH Adam Conley (3-4, 4.09, 3 saves).
Hot Spot: Offense. Scoring will likely be a problem — again. The Marlins averaged 3.7 runs per game in 2018, last in the majors and well below the MLB average of 4.5. Miami also finished last in doubles, home runs, slugging and OPS, and that was with since-departed All-Star Realmuto.
Outlook: In the second year of a reboot under CEO Derek Jeter, Miami may be hard-pressed to match last year’s win total. Even if there’s improvement, the Marlins are likely destined for their 10th consecutive losing season, and their 16th in a row without a playoff appearance. But there’s reason for long-term optimism thanks to such youngsters as Anderson and starting pitchers Richards, Lopez, Alcantara and left-hander Caleb Smith. The farm system is much deeper than when Jeter’s group bought the franchise, and the Marlins will likely audition plenty of prospects before the year is out. That could include 22-year-old outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, a Cuban defector who received a $5.25 million signing bonus last fall.
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