by Chris Camello (@chris_camello)
NEW YORK, NY– If you are looking for a division with a small margin of error, it’s the NL East. There are at least three teams that could win this division title and it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
The Atlanta Braves won the competitive NL East last season and will be looked at as the favorite again this year. The Braves are hoping young stars Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson will take another step forward. Atlanta still has an MVP-caliber player in Freddie Freeman to anchor their lineup.
“It’s a fun lineup to be a part of,” Swanson said after the Braves’ rout over the Mets. “It’s deep, and it’s consistent.”
Their young pitching staff saw an ace in Mike Soroka emerge in 2019 and hope lefties Max Fried and Sean Newcomb will follow suit. Atlanta’s bullpen is loaded with great arms like Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, and Will Smith allowing them to protect late leads.
The Braves are predicted to win the NL East but aren’t considered a hands-down favorite.
The Washington Nationals are the defending World Series champions that have to be dealt with despite losing Anthony Rendon. They still have one of the best rotations in baseball led by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.
The Nats are hoping Juan Soto will return healthy after testing positive for COVID-19 and have the majority of their squad intact led by Trea Turner and Victor Robles.
The New York Mets are an intriguing team with a powerful lineup. Pete Alonso set a rookie home run record last year with 53 dingers and Ahmed Rosario, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto have all improved. The Mets also have Yoenis Cespedes finally back healthy to add even more power in their lineup.
Jacob deGrom is their ace but beyond him, their staff is questionable especially in their bullpen.
The Philadelphia Phillies had a solid offseason hiring manager Joe Girardi and signing Didi Gregorious and Zack Wheeler. The Phillies have many veteran hitters surrounding All-Star Bryce Harper like Jean Segura, JT Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen. The rotation is better with Wheeler joining Aaron Nola, but the bullpen remains a gas can.
The Miami Marlins will hopefully recover from their COVID outbreak that has infected their team, as they have suspended play until Thursday. They will likely finish last in this division despite some promising youngsters like Isan Diaz, Brian Anderson, and Garrett Cooper who will hopefully develop.
The NL East will be fun to watch and while the Braves are the most complete team, they will have their work cut out for them against the Nats, Mets, and Phillies.