Take it to the Bank- (probably not) …

MLB predictions, Division by Division.

NL East

Braves
Let’s be clear. No one, no one at all, expects the Braves to keep up their current place. This is a young Braves team that’s over performing all over the field. Offensively, the Braves lead the National League in batting average, runs, slugging, RBI, on-base percentage and OPS. Ask one hundred baseball writers if they thought that Atlanta would be the hottest hitting team in the NL in May, and you’d have gotten some very funny looks. Five position players are batting over .300 at present, though most are not what you’d consider offensive juggernauts. Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki. Freddie Freeman. The recent call up of rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. (nickname pending Acuna Matata) has been a smash success, he’s hitting over .380 in eight starts at centerfield. Can they keep up this level of consistency? Time will tell, but I suspect they’ll come back to earth.

Prediction: Acuna Matata catches on and stays with the big club. He becomes a big part of the coming resurgence in Atlanta.

Mets
It’s only been a few years since these Mets were a consistent postseason threat. After a sup-par season last year, they look to be in a better place, but aside from the occasional, admittedly gaudy, homer by Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets lack pop. Collectively, they’re batting just over .230 and are driving runs in like a last place team, not one that sits near the top of the division. They’re better than the woeful Marlins offensively, but not by a lot. The rotation has a clear ace, in Jacob deGrom, who’s 3-0 and has an ERA below two. He’ll have a lot to say in the Mets success, or failure, this season.

Prediction: deGrom won’t be enough. Without some stronger outings by Noah Syndergaard and others, these Mets will fall toward the bottom of the East.

Phillies

The Phillies won only sixty-six games last season and finished in the basement. This year, it’s exceedingly likely that the Marlins will prevent them from falling that far. While the Phillies starters have been near the middle of the pack, they have been exceptional at one thing. They don’t allow many home runs. In fact, they’re tied for the second fewest in the National League, behind only the Cardinals. The offense looks similarly mediocre, with only one position player, centerfielder Odubel Herrera, hitting over .300.

Prediction: I’m not sure that the Phillies have the horses to compete this year. It’s ok. The whole town will still be celebrating the Super Bowl until late September, so no one will notice. Keep those lamp posts greased y’all.

Nationals

This was the only team in the division to finish last year over .500. Unsurprisingly, a lot of folks still have the Nats as the divisional favorite. They aren’t wrong. They sit at 16-16 right now, and it’s the offense that’s carried the load. They rank in the top three in most important offensive categories, and predictably, Bryce Harper sits atop the National League home run leader board. The rotation has struggled with consistency thus far, and while Max Scherzer has been lights out, the rest of the rotation, including Strasburg and Gonzalez have been hittable. I expect those two will gain some form and the Nationals will pull away.

Prediction: Nationals fans will reach a fever pitch come mid-June, as the rotation rounds in to
form and division rivals falter. Still a profoundly mediocre division, so winning the division might
not mean much come playoff time.

Marlins
Perhaps baseball in Florida just shouldn’t be a thing, aside from springtime, of course. Coupled with the Rays, the Sunshine state just doesn’t feel like it’s in the big leagues. The Marlins are obviously in full blown tank mode, having traded away everything they can, including franchise player (and only earthly reason to watch the Marlins) Giancarlo Stanton. Without him, the Marlins have hit a NL-worst twenty-one home runs, and are batting well below the Mendoza line, at .225. The rotation is also among the worst in the National League, only the Cincinnati Reds have a worse team ERA (More on them next week).

Prediction: This is the worst team in the division, and it’s probably not close. I expect to see a few more veterans jump ship, or get traded in the next few months. I’m not sure what the Marlins are really trying to achieve, aside from possibly relegation to the minors.

Image source: SB Nation

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