The Washington Nationals won just 82 games with Bryce Harper final season. Now it seems inevitable he will become an ex-Nat.
However, the additions of Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough deepened the pitching staff about Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Those of Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki and Matt Adams did the same for the crime.
Meanwhile, top prospect Victor Robles is standing by to fulfill Harper’s shoes. Fellow young outfielder Juan Soto can develop into a celebrity after attaining historic success for a teenager.
The National League East is too heavy for any team to win considerably greater than 90 games. But the Nats have the very best chance of reaching that threshold and therefore the best chance of winning the division.
Playoff opportunities: 60 percent
The Atlanta Braves won the NL East last year just because they use their branch’s weaknesses with a 49-27 record. That will not occur again in 2019.
The Braves boosted their veteran thickness by earning Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and re-signing Nick Markakis, but they could still use a starter (e.g., Dallas Keuchel) and/or tried-and-true relief ace (e.g., Craig Kimbrel).
Rather, they appear content to gamble on their young talent. That is insecure yet not completely unreasonable. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies can be the National League’s response to Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and contained inside the group’s No. 2 farm process is MLB-ready pitching galore.
The wild-card race will not necessarily be there to grab the Braves–or any other NL East group –if they fall short from the branch. However they can handle competing with all the Nats.
Playoff opportunities: 50 percent
New York Mets
Even the New York Mets might have ripped down it after dropping 85 matches last year. Rather, they hired a new general manager and moved all-out to add depth and stars to the roster.
For an offense that scored just 4.2 runs per game in 2018: Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie and Keon Broxton. For a pitching staff which was overly reliant on Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson.
Questions remain about the way the Mets are likely to match all of their offensive pieces together. There is also still lingering doubt about a defense that has been a weakness for ages.
But completely, the Mets must be right there with the Braves in compelling the Nats for the NL East crown.
Playoff chances: 50 percent
Everything will change if the Philadelphia Phillies stop dilly-dallying and bring Harper aboard. Adding the 2015 NL MVP would boost their upside down tremendously.
To their credit, the Phillies have greatly improved a roster which produced 80 wins last season. In particular, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura will enhance both an offense and a defense that fought in 2018. For his part, David Robertson must stabilize the bullpen.
Yet some issues persist. There is a drop-off in the turning following Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Likewise, there’s a drop-off in offensive upside after the new improvements and incumbent slugger Rhys Hoskins.
So at least until Harper is in the fold, the Phillies are the fourth-best team in the NL East.
Playoff chances: 40 percent
And then there are the Miami Marlins, who are going into 2019 as the black sheep of the NL East.
With Realmuto gone, Miami’s ongoing rebuild has left the significant league roster without any stars. But given that the group’s farm system just checks in at No. 25 in MLB, further trimming through the trade market is unavoidable.
It’s hard to go backward by a 98-loss season, but the Marlins should do exactly that in 2019.
Playoff opportunities: 0%