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MLB preview: What to expect in the NL East

This is shaping up to be the most fascinating MLB division in 2019. You could certainly make the case that four of the five teams are positioned to compete for the postseason, especially after the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a free agency monster contract (13 years, $330 million). Like last year, we should get a rollercoaster pennant race. Here’s a look at what lies ahead for each team.

Washington Nationals

This still feels like the NL East’s premier roster, even with Harper moving on. The Nationals can lean on the devastating one-two pitching punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, with Sean Doolittle on hand to close things out.

The batting line-up will miss Harper’s pop but Washington are well placed with the speed of Trea Turner and the hitting of Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Their 2018 win total of 82 was a major underachievement and this is set up to be a big bounce back campaign.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves should be right on the Nationals’ heels after hitting the fast forward button on their rebuild. Freddie Freeman is still an elite hitter, Ronald Acuna Jr. has burst onto the scene as a game plan wrecker and this line-up will not struggle for runs, especially with Josh Donaldson slotting in at third base.

If Atlanta are going to replicate their 2018 run (finishing 90-72), they will need each of their pitchers to take a mini leap. Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb are the two names to keep an eye on.

New York Mets

Last year was a forgettable one for the Mets as injuries struck again. They have rebooted things with the additions of Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz and are a sneaky outside bet for the postseason.

But so much rests on their pitchers’ shoulders. The run support will not always be there with this New York batting line-up, so Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard need to be on point and healthy as their two aces. Anything less will likely sink the Mets below .500.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Harper acquisition grabbed all the headlines but Philadelphia have upgraded in other areas too. Jean Segura is among the league’s best shortstops while Andrew McCutcheon should improve their defense and offense. Without Harper, this offense was probably limping towards a .500 record, but their free agent swoop raises the ceiling considerably.

Their pitching rotation is impressive up front with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta but somewhat unproven on the back end. They still have some things to sort out in terms of bullpen roles too.

Miami Marlins

It would be a major shock if the Marlins do not prop up the division standings. They have needs all over the roster and few foundational pieces. That said, Jose Urena could emerge as an ace in 2019. Miami should learn plenty about their roster this year but are a good bet to lose over 100 games given the strength of the NL East.

About Tom Oldfield

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