First up in our predictions of the 2018 Major League Baseball season might be the easiest one of all to predict first place.
Yet perhaps more than the team at the top, this division will play a hand in the eventual World Series Champion for 2018 in some way. The Miami Marlins, you may have heard are under new ownership, and they passed out All-Star caliber players (and the 2017 MVP winner) like candy to teams this winter. While that only adds to their fast deteriorating status as “team on the rise” in the NL East, certainly their former players will play a big role in the NL Central and AL East among others. Without further ado, on to the predictions!
1. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals had 5 players in the Top 20 for NL MVP Voting, the Cy Young Winner (1 of the 5 MVP votes), and the #3 and #6 in Cy Young voting as well. Safe to say this team is stacked…and yet they once again failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs as they lost to the Cubs in a great series in its own right. This season, though 2017 big acquisition prize Adam Eaton will be healthy – and the bullpen appears to finally have been righted at the trade deadline last season. They have (another) new manager in Dave Martinez. Biggest of all though is this: Bryce Harper will be a free agent at the end of 2018. Though this year’s market was tepid at best – next year Manny Machado AND Bryce Harper will both be free agents. They will be motivated to do whatever it takes to bring a Championship to Washington while they have Bryce Harper guaranteed in a Nationals uniform.
2. Atlanta Braves
While the Phillies made a late splash in the off-season, the Braves have been building a team of youth over the last several seasons, epitomized by 20-year-old phenom Ronald Acuna. He will likely spend the first few weeks in the minor leagues to delay his player clock, but he will be here soon. Until then they have a multi-Gold Glove-winning center fielder already in Ender Inciarte who signed a 5-year extension himself. The key here is the young starting pitching. Anchored by Julio Teheran who needs to continue his see-saw career pitching line of the past 3 years – they are hoping “the kids” like Sean Newcomb, Matt Wisler, Luis Gohara, and Max Fried are ready to make impacts in the majors and propel them towards a playoff spot.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies were the surprising winners in the Jake Arrieta sweepstakes – but this is all about the future. Consider that they only have about $58M committed to payroll in 2019 and $55M in 2020: most of that to either Arrieta ($25M and $20M) and Carlos Santana ($20M and $20M) giving them flexibility. Whether it is enough for the aforementioned outfielder and shortstop/third baseman who will be on the market next off-season remains to be seen. They won’t be following their city brethren Eagles in commissioning a parade in 2018 – but another World Series win might not be too far in the future.
4. The New York Mets
The New York Mets were very recently in Game 6 of the World Series…remember? That was when Matt Harvey was still the Dark Knight though – not the dark pit of misery (dilly dilly)…and this team actually MIGHT make a charge this season in the NL East. They took advantage of a slow market to bring back Jay Bruce, still have Cespedes, and even picked up Adrian Gonzalez looking for one more healthy season. If Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, and Matz can all finally fulfill the great potential they carry inside of themselves, watch out. I’m just betting they won’t.
5. Miami Marlins
Had an in-depth preview here but Derek Jeter cut it out of the budget.
1. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals are the clear, certain, and definite pick to win the National League East division, and it is not even going to be close.
Washington will be better than it has ever been in 2018 with Bryce Harper at the top of his game and look for a huge contract in the 2018-19 offseason when he becomes a free agent. The Nationals have one year left of Harper before he inevitably signs a massive contract elsewhere and their championship window is closing fast. The Nationals are going to use their seemingly unstoppable pitching rotation headed by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez, and a lineup that will strike fear in the hearts of any pitcher daring to stand in its way. The Nationals’ lineup consists of stars such as Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon among others, and will be a nightmare for the NL East…and the entire MLB.
2. New York Mets
The New York Mets won just 70 games in 2017 and finished 4th in the NL East, but after having the outstanding 2017-18 offseason they had, it is impossible for me to see them stuck at the bottom of their division again.
What is going to make or break the Mets in 2018 is going to be whether they can stay healthy or not. In 2018, the Mets suffered a slew of injuries, mainly to their pitching staff, and were absolutely awful 2018. After their massively disappointing 2017 season, New York went out and signed Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Vargas, and Todd Frazier. The Mets also have power in Yoenis Cespedes and a star-studded pitching rotation including Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Matz, and Jason Vargas. With a new and remodeled roster, the Mets will be far better than they were in 2018 and could even pull off a Wild Card run.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to once again be one of the worst teams in the MLB but after some great free agent signings this offseason, I believe that the Phillies will not be as bad as we think they will be. The Phillies only won 66 games in 2017 and finished 31.0 games behind the first place Washington Nationals. Despite this, there is promise.
The Nationals hit the free agent market hard this offseason by signing Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek, and Jake Arrieta to deals to both bolster their lineup, and to prove to Phillies fans that they are indeed committed to getting better. The Phillies saw a breakout year from rookie Rhys Hoskins in which he hit 18 home runs in just 170 at-bats (an average of one in every 9.44 at-bats) and even if Hoskins does not hit at the insane pace he did in 2017, the Phillies will have a power bat to accompany Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana. Philadelphia’s pitching staff also looks sharp, now being headed by veteran Jake Arrieta, and youngster Aaron Nola.
While the Phillies are not going to be a playoff team, they will see a big improvement from last year and will be good enough to take third place in the NL East.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves are the team of the future.
Atlanta has a young core that will be led by veterans Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis as well as stud center fielder Ender Inciarte. Dansby Swanson is expected to be better than ever in 2018, and the 20-year-old phenom Ronald Acuna is going to inevitably get his call to the Bigs in 2018. They have a young pitching staff headed by Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewitz, Brandon McCarthy, and Sean Newbomb. Unfortunately, I do not see the Braves doing very well in 2018, especially with the Nationals better than ever, and the revamped Braves and Mets. The Atlanta Braves have way too many questions and not enough answers for my taste, and while they are the team of the future, they are not the team of the present.
5. Miami Marlins
When Derek Jeter was finally approved to purchase the Miami Marlins for a whopping $1.3 Billion, Marlins fans rejoiced in knowing that they would never have to see the face of Jeffery Loria again, but alas, what Jeter had in store for the Miami faithful was worse than anything Loria could have ever dreamed of, and now Marlins fans (and even the players) are begging for a way out.
The Marlins had a good team in 2017, with one of the best outfields in baseball consisting of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. Miami had a nice infield and a speed demon at second base in Dee Gordon. All they would have had to do in 2018 was put together a decent pitching staff, and a Wild Card would be a true possibility.
Derek Jeter was a Yankee, he wants to win at any cost and would stop at nothing to add another ring to his collection…right? WRONG!
In the 2017-18 offseason, the Marlins traded National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton (who hit 59 home runs in 2017) to the New York Yankees (coincidence, I think not) for virtually nothing, sent Dee Gordon to the Mariners where he will now play center field, traded Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals for spare change, and sent Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. After sending away every single player that had any value at all in order to “cut costs,” the Marlins will be sent to the basement and be banished there until Jeter decides that he wants to win, which at this point, seems like it will be a while.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Daryll and Giuseppe’s predictions for the National League Central.