PTBN’s 2014 National League East Preview

This is Part Four of Place to Be Nation’s Major League Baseball division previews, focused on the National League East.

To read Part One, the A.L. East, click here. For the A.L. Central, click here. For the A.L. West, click here.

Just as before, teams are listed in predicted order of finish.

Bryce looks to lead Washington to the postseason.
Bryce looks to lead Washington to the postseason.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

2013: 86-76, 2nd in N.L. East

Key additions: SP Doug Fister, RP Jerry Blevins, C Jose Lobaton, OF Nate McLouth, IF Kevin Frandsen

Key losses: RP Ian Krol, IF Steve Lombardozzi

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [1]

Rotation [1]

Bullpen [2]

CF Denard Span (L)

Stephen Strasburg (R)

Rafael Soriano (R)

3B Ryan Zimmerman (R)

Gio Gonzalez (L)

Tyler Clippard (R)

LF Bryce Harper (L)

Jordan Zimmermann (R)

Craig Stammen (R)

RF Jayson Werth (R)

Doug Fister (R)

will begin season on DL

Jerry Blevins (L)

SS Ian Desmond (R)

Taylor Jordan (R)

Drew Storen (R)

1B Adam LaRoche (L)

C Wilson Ramos (R)

2B Anthony Rendon (R)

Strengths: Lineup depth, starting rotation, bullpen

Weakness: So-so defense, possible bullpen regression, injury concerns

Best case scenario: The lineup stays healthy; both Span (.279/.329/.380) and LaRoche (.246/.332/.403) post stronger numbers; Harper doesn’t run into any walls; the starting rotation dominates as Strasburg (191 K in 183 IP), Gonzalez (192 K in 195 IP), Zimmermann (19-9, 3.25 ERA) continue to mature and Fister gets healthy after a rough, injury-riddled spring; the team wins its division handily with a double-digit lead.

Worst case scenario: LaRoche regresses; Harper gets hurt again (worse); the bullpen backslides and blows too many leads establishes by the starters; Fister never throws a pitch for the Nats in 2014; the team fails to respond to new manager Matt Williams and fails to make the postseason. No joy in Washington.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Harper win the N.L. MVP and Strasburg wins the Cy Young, and Williams is Manager of the Year.

The Upton brothers are crucial to the Braves' 2014 success.
The Upton brothers are crucial to the Braves’ 2014 success.

ATLANTA BRAVES

2013: 96-66, 1st in N.L. East

Key additions: C Ryan Doumit, SP Ervin Santana, SP Aaron Harang

Key losses: C Brian McCann, SP Tim Hudson

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [2]

Rotation [3]

Bullpen [1]

CF B.J. Upton (R)

Mike Minor (L)

Craig Kimbrel (R)

3B Chris Johnson (R)

Julio Teheran (R)

Jonny Venters (L)

1B Freddie Freeman (L)

Ervin Santana (R)

David Carpenter (R)

LF Justin Upton (R)

Alex Wood (R)

Luis Avilan (L)

RF Jason Heyward (L)

Aaron Harang (R)

Jordan Walden (R)

C Evan Gattis (R)

2B Dan Uggla (R)

SS Andrelton Simmons (R)

Strengths: Outfield defense, closer, offensive potential

Weakness: Injuries, lack of pitching depth, infield defense beyond Simmons (Gold Glove winner)

Best case scenario: B.J. Upton (.184/.268/.289) rebounds; Dan Uggla (.171/.179/.309) does too; the starting pitches injuries stop (both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen are out for 2014 with Tommy John Surgery, while Minor is still coming back from offseason *ouch* surgery); the bullpen stays amazing (ML-best 2.46 ERA); Freeman repeats his stellar 2013 (.319, 23 HR, 109 RBI); Jason Heyward stays healthy and gets consistent (.227 first half BA, .305 second half); the team contends for the division all year and manages a playoff berth.

Worst case scenario: Both Upton and Uggla continue to be terrible; Freeman regresses; Heyward cannot maintain his post All-Star performance; the starting pitching cannot hold up over the season; the bullpen crumbles under the strain; the team spends more time fending off the Mets for second/third place than it does fighting for the top spot in the East.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Jason Heyward is a top 5 MVP finisher.

David Wright hopes to have plenty to smile about with the Mets in 2014.
David Wright hopes to have plenty to smile about with the Mets in 2014.

NEW YORK METS

2013: 74-88, 3rd in N.L. East

Key additions: CF Curtis Granderson, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Jose Valverde

Key losses: SP Jeremy Hefner, SS Omar Quintanilla

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [3]

Rotation [5]

Bullpen [5]

CF Juan Lagares (R)

Bartolo Colon (R)

Bobby Parnell (R)

2B Daniel Murphy (L)

Zack Wheeler (R)

Josh Edgin (L)

3B David Wright (R)

Jon Niese (L)

Jose Valverde (R)

LF Curtis Granderson (L)

Dillon Gee (R)

Scott Rice (L)

1B Lucas Duda (L)/Ike Davis (L)

Jenrry Mejia (R)

Carlos Torres (R)

RF Chris Young (R)

C Travis d’Arnaud (R)

SS Ruben Tejada (R)

Strengths: Second base, third base, outfield defense, top portion of lineup

Weakness: Bottom portion of lineup, starting pitching depth, bullpen

Best case scenario: Granderson (.229 in 61 games) rebounds and hits 25+ home runs; Wright has more runners on base to drive home (just 58 RBI in 2013); Murphy has another stellar year (38 2B, 13 HR, 23 SB); young players d’Arnaud, Lagares, and Tejada develop well; the bullpen surprises, as does the bottom of the rotation. The team battles into September for a Wild Card spot, finishing over .500 for the first time since 2008.

Worst case scenario: Granderson struggles to regain his power stroke after a pair of arm injuries last year; Wright has no one to drive in; Duda, Young, and Davis all struggle; the bullpen is lousy; Colon (41 in May) shows his age, while Wheeler (24 in May) shows his too; the team flails around the bottom of the division and ends up closer to last place than first.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Matt Harvey pitches for the team in September.

Second-year pitcher Jose Fernandez looks to build in his promising 2013.
Second-year pitcher Jose Fernandez looks to build in his promising 2013.

MIAMI MARLINS

2013: 62-100, 5th in N.L. East

Key additions: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B Garrett Jones, SS Rafael Furcal, OF Brian Bogusevic, 3B Casey McGehee, RP Carter Capps

Key losses: OF Justin Ruggiano, RP Ryan Webb, 1B Logan Morrison

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [5]

Rotation [2]

Bullpen [3]

LF Christian Yelich (L)

Jose Fernandez (R)

Steve Cishek (R)

CF Marcell Ozuna (R)

Nathan Eovaldi (R)

Mike Dunn (L)

RF Giancarlo Stanton (R)

Henderson Alvarez (R)

Carter Capps (R)

1B Garrett Jones (L)

Jacob Turner (R)

Brad Hand (L)

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (L)

Tom Koehler (R)

A.J. Ramos (R)

3B Casey McGehee (R)

2B Donovan Solano (R)/Derek Dietrich (L)

SS Adeiny Hechavarria (R)

Strengths: Stanton’s offense, Hechavarria’s defense, starting rotation, some good young talent

Weakness: Defense, offense outside of Stanton, inexperience

Best case scenario: Stanton (116 games in 2013) plays a full season and hits 40 homers; Yelich (.288, 12 2B, 10 SB in 62 games) develops into a solid player; Saltalamacchia helps guide the young pitching staff and hits enough to justify his 3-year/$21 million deal; the rotation improves on its 2013 performance (3.87 ERA); the team goes from 100 losses to .500.

Worst case scenario: Stanton gets hurt again; Yelich backslides into a sophomore slump; the team continues to have one of the worst offenses in baseball (29th with a .237 BA, 29th with a .366 slugging percentage, and 25th with a .306 on-base percentage); the promising young pitchers regress and the bullpen pieces that are good get traded; the team challenges the 1962 Mets for the all-time MLB loss record (40-120).

Bold, but unlikely prediction: Fernandez wins the Cy Young award.

Can Cliff Lee pitch the Phillies back to the playoffs?
Can Cliff Lee pitch the Phillies back to the playoffs?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2013: 73-89, 4th in N.L. East

Key additions: OF Marlon Byrd, SP Roberto Hernandez, C Wil Nieves

Key losses: C Erik Kratz, SP Roy Halladay (retired)

Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen  — Division Rank in [brackets]

Lineup [4]

Rotation [4]

Bullpen [4]

CF Ben Revere (L)

Cliff Lee (L)

Jonathan Papelbon (R)

SS Jimmy Rollins (S)

Cole Hamels (L)

will begin season on DL

Mike Adams (R)

2B Chase Utley (L)

Miguel A. Gonzalez (R)

did not pitch in MLB in 2013

Antonio Bastardo (L)

1B Ryan Howard (L)

Kyle Kendrick (R)

Jake Diekman (L)

RF Marlon Byrd (R)

Roberto Hernandez (R)/Jonathan Pettibone(L)

Justin De Fratus (R)

LF Dominic Brown (L)

C Carlos Ruiz (R)

3B Cody Asche (L)

Strengths: Top two starting pitchers, bullpen

Weakness: Aging offense, subpar defense at nearly every position, the bottom of the rotation

Best case scenario: Ryan Howard has one more big season left; Chase Utley continues his comeback; Jimmy Rollins and new manager Ryne Sandberg put their spring training issues behind them; Cody Asche holds down the hot corner well; Cuban pitcher Gonzalez is a great addition in the No.3 spot; Byrd (24 HR) and Brown (27 HR) power the middle of the order; the team competes for a Wild Card all year.

Worst case scenario: Howard continues to fall apart; Rollins and/or Sandberg cannot let it go and bicker until they divide the team in half; Brown and Byrd tail off; Asche flops at third; the team shows its age and the wheels completely fly off; the team challenges Miami for last place, losing 100 for the first time since 1961.

Bold, but unlikely prediction: The team slogs through the first half, then unloads Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to desperate contenders.

Stay tuned for the N.L. Central, followed by the N.L. West!

Author: Joel Barnhart

A big-time baseball nerd, Joel is currently teaching English as a Second Language in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to his MLB passion, he enjoys good whiskey, good music, good movies, and good friends. He is currently engaged in an ongoing 12-year online debate over the merits of bubble wrap.