It is a two-horse race in the National League East this season. The reigning National League champion New York Mets and the Washington Nationals are really the only teams that have a chance in the division and the odds certainly reflect that. A tale of two seasons for the Mets in 2015 energized a fan base that needed something to celebrate. Another injury-riddled year in the nation’s capital left Washington fans with a bad Natitude heading into the offseason.
Unlike the American League, where all 15 teams have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs, four teams in the National League are very clearly, very painstakingly rebuilding and two others should probably look to do the same. Realistically, only nine teams really have a shot at the playoffs in the Senior Circuit, but it will make the wild card and division races extremely interesting. When you think about it, there are some that believe that only six, seven at the most, teams have a shot at the playoffs. With five spots for six or seven teams, the regular season is really magnified this season. The NL East division race could be all kinds of fun.
In terms of division winner odds, here are the prices from BetDSI Sportsbook (click the team name for Adam Burke’s MLB season win total analysis):
New York Mets -110
Washington Nationals +105
Miami Marlins +685
Atlanta Braves +6500
Philadelphia Phillies +9945
Jacob deGrom. Matt Harvey. Noah Syndergaard. Steven Matz. It doesn’t matter which order you put them in because there is no better top four in Major League Baseball than what the Mets can trot out there. The three right-handers all worked a ton last season, so the biggest concern for the Mets has to be the workload of the previous season on these prized possessions. With Yoenis Cespedes back in the mix and a solid trade to fill the Daniel Murphy hole, the Mets offense looks to be just fine. Neil Walker was added for spare part Jon Niese and the Mets are primed for another postseason run.
Injuries certainly hurt the Washington Nationals last season. This year, their starting pitching depth will be tested. Tanner Roark and Joe Ross are expected to lock down rotation spots and some really consistent innings from Jordan Zimmermann need to be replaced. If the Nationals can stay healthy, Bryce Harper will have some help in the lineup following his 2015 breakout season. Harper effectively carried the Nationals to a league average offense in a season in which Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and others missed significant time. New skipper Dusty Baker should change what seemed to be a toxic culture under Matt Williams.
The Miami Marlins would have been a dark horse, but the injury to projected closer Carter Capps leaves the team with a bullpen as thin as the rotation. Jose Fernandez and Wei-Yin Chen are excellent at the top, but there’s not a ton to work with beyond that. The lineup is really good, with a lot of skill sets that complement each other nicely and this is also a very solid defensive ballclub. There’s so much to like about Miami, but depth is a huge issue within the pitching staff and it seems like far too much to overlook. New manager Don Mattingly and a new coaching staff that includes Barry Bonds are welcomed changes, but they are merely a drop in the bucket with two heavy favorites to look up at all season long.
The Atlanta Braves are in a massive rebuild, acquiring anybody that throws hard for anything that people want. This could very well be the worst rotation in Major League Baseball and the position players, outside of Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte, aren’t going to move the needle very much. The Braves are rebuilding at the right time, however, since the Mets will face some tough financial decisions with their starting pitchers and the Nationals will be turning over the core of their ballclub when the Braves are ready to compete in their new stadium.
The Philadelphia Phillies weren’t an exciting team for division purposes, but prior to the Aaron Altherr injury, they had some pieces and parts to really pay close attention to, but one has now gone down to injury. Still, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel are all worthy of your time this season. Unfortunately, the rebuilding Phillies are in a developmental year, so they will not be a factor for the postseason in any way, shape, or form.
Pick: New York Mets
As a sucker for starting pitching, there’s no team better equipped to get to October than the New York Mets. These are three elite-level arms, with a plus arm in Matz, and a plus arm in Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery in July or August. The offense is definitely good enough to by, as is the bullpen, but it’s this starting staff that is a major separator for the Mets against the rest of the field.
Best Value Pick: Washington Nationals
As the plus money team, this almost goes to the Nationals by default. They are definitely worthy of consideration here in the NL East, with a tremendous rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, and Tanner Roark. Health is the big concern with this team, because they need to be able to hit, but they’re a more-than-formidable foe here and could very well overtake the Mets for the division crown.