NL East Preview: How the Phillies Match Up Against the Rest
As we inch closer and closer (less than 2 weeks, but who’s counting?) to pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater, FL, excitement about the Phillies ensues. The National League East is going to be one of the most competitive divisions in the MLB this season. Let’s dive in and look at the teams and my rankings.
- Altlanta Braves
The Braves are the reigning NL East champions, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be giving that title up anytime soon. Some of their best players are their youngest players, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. As if having two young stars wasn’t enough, the Braves first basemen, Freddie Freeman, is coming off of a monster MVP season. The reigning NL MVP posted a career high .341 BA, 13 HRs, and 53 RBIs on his way to the playoffs and another Silver Slugger award. Freeman proved that after his 11th season, he’s not done yet.
While the Braves high powered offense was what carried them through the playoffs, their pitching staff kept them in games close enough for the offense to take over and win those games. Veterans Julio Tehran and Dallas Keuchel will be a big parts of their starting rotation, along with Max Fried coming off of a decent rookie year. The biggest signing for the Braves this year was former Rays stud, Charlie Morton. Morton is coming off of an impressive World Series run, posting a 3.81 ERA. Not as dominant as the previous year with the Rays and a World Series with Houston, but still a reliable starter to add to the Braves rotation.
2. Washington Nationals
As much as it pains me to say, the Nationals got much better this off season and did not give up much in the process. Along with their young talent, the Nats added two high-profile veterans this offseason: LHP Jon Lester, OF Kyle Schwarber, and 1B Josh Bell. Lester will add depth to an already deep starting rotation with Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin.
In my opinion, this is the best staff in the division, and it’s really not close. Schwarber will bring some great experience to a young and talented lineup already stacked with Trea Turner and Juan Soto. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nationals win this division, but Atlanta edges them out with a little more playoff experience. Look for this team to make the expanded playoffs outright or in a Wild Card game.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies all the way down at number three pains me more than anyone, especially after a really good offseason from President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski had a clear goal for this off-season: Fix the dumpster fire that was the Phillies’ bullpen last season. He’s not done yet, but the fans should be excited about the additions and re-signings.
Of course, the big addition to the bullpen is Archie Bradley. It’s not yet clear whether or not he will be a set-up guy or the shut-down closer, but he is the definitely the kind of guy that will make an impact right away. In his six innings with the Reds last year he posted a 1.17 ERA with one save. Not only is he the savior of the bullpen, but he’s also a confirmed Philly guy already, as he has been very active on social media with fans. He is embracing the city, and the city is embracing him back.
Speaking of Philly embracing their players, JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius are both back this year for the heart of the lineup. In order for the Phillies to have a prayer of making the playoffs or winning the division, the lineup has to work in unison with the pitching staff. The biggest problem last year was the bullpen blowing games up that the offense played very well in. Not to mention, rookie sensation Alec Bohm is going to be up full time in the heart of the lineup.
That being said, Bryce Harper needs to have an MVP caliber season. He played much better last season than the one before, with a .270 BA, .420 OBP, and 33 RBIs in a short season. If Bryce Harper shines this season, everyone else around him will thrive as well. That’s the essence of having a star player in the MLB. The Phillies have a shot at making an expanded playoff, and a speck of hope to win the division
4. New York Mets
The Mets should be towards the top of the league in terms of their offseason signings. But since their organization is so pathetic, there’s no way they can get it together enough to even make an expanded playoff scenario. Yes, The Francisco Lindor trade is very good for an up and down lineup, and they are bringing back the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob DeGrom but they have fired their GM and their manager over the span of a year because of SEPARATE scandals. The Mets have a lot to figure out organizationally before they even sniff the playoffs.
5. Miami Marlins
The Marlins are coming off of a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Let’s get one thing straight: Their playoff appearance in 2020 was a fluke. One of the biggest flukes in sports history, and yet for some reason, they had the Phillies’ number the entire season. The fish have one bright spot in their rotation, and that would be former Phillies top prospect, S*xto Sanchez (we no longer acknowledge the number six The Liberty Line). He was a part of the trade deal to bring in Realmuto. With the strength of this division this year, the Marlins are going to have a rough time with a weak lineup, and one decent starting pitcher. But who knows, the Phillies always seem to choke against the Marlins, maybe they’ll be generous like last year and give the fish a playoff berth on a silver platter.
Of course, predicting what goes on for an entire baseball season is impossible. Maybe the Phillies finally have it figured out with Dave Dombrowski leading the way. Maybe Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate this year and carries the squad to a division title. Regardless, Philadelphia will always be behind this crew, even through a pandemic as we saw last year with the Phandemic Krew. Less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, let’s play ball!
Mandatory Credit: Denis Kennedy (@dk__create)