The NL East figures to carry a little bit of everything in 2017. From this division, we might see the NL’s best team, as well as the NL’s worst, complemented by three other teams that are at crossroads. With that said, here’s how I see the East playing out this season.
1/ Washington Nationals (Projected Record: 95-67)
It’s been pretty incredible to watch the progressive rise of this franchise over the course of the current decade. Remember 2010, when we were told it would take years for Strasburg and Co. to mature into a winner? Well, it was a little faster than that, but this is the first year where I can really envision the Nats taking their biggest step towards a World Series yet. Bryce Harper has never been better at the plate, and I figure he’ll be motivated to keep his productivity up with that big payday right around the corner. On the mound, D.C. values Max Scherzer’s ability to eat up innings (and probably re-claim the strikeout title in the process). The Nats haven’t won a playoff series since 1981, when they were the Montreal Expos. I expect that to change this season, as the talent level in our nation’s capital is finally over the top.
2/ New York Mets (Projected Record: 88-74)
It’s all about staying healthy for the boys from Flushing. Last year, the Mets were plagued by injuries to key players that helped the franchise reach the World Series in 2015. Losing Daniel Murphy to the rival Nationals also hurt, but the Mets should take comfort in the fact that there is postseason-caliber talent on this roster. David Wright is still capable of hanging around the .300 mark, and Lucas Duda holds a punch behind that lackluster batting average. On the mound, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom will figure to be as dangerous as they’ve ever been, and maybe this will be the year where we finally see Matt Harvey settle into the star we know he can be.
3/ Miami Marlins (Projected Record: 81-81)
The Marlins are going to make things interesting this year; that is to say, they’ll make sure we pay attention to them for at least a little while. The tragic death of Jose Fernandez leaves a major hole in the rotation, but there’s enough pop in this lineup to score enough runs to win some games. I’m looking for Dee Gordon to become one of the better leadoff hitters in baseball, and well, we all know about that Giancarlo Stanton guy.
4/ Philadelphia Phillies (Projected Record: 80-82)
The Phils’ are certainly set to improve in 2017. Their pitching staff continues to improve, and even though Clay Buchholz was essentially booed out of Boston, he’s got a real shot to revitalize his career in South Philly. At the plate, Philadelphia is young and largely inexperienced, but grabbing Howie Kendrick this winter was a good move. The Phillies will likely end up towards the bottom of this division, but there’s a heck of a lot more hope on the horizon than there was a year or two ago.
5/ Atlanta Braves (Projected Record: 72-90)
The Braves are going through a lot of change. On one end of the spectrum, Atlanta’s moving into brand-new SunTrust Park, after 20 seasons at Turner Field. On the other side, the Braves went the veteran route with their pitching help, snagging ageless wonders R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon in free agency. There’s a lot of young talent at the dish in Georgia as well–Freddie Freeman will likely be the strongest hitter out of all of them, as he continues to mature into one of baseball’s better hitters. I see a renaissance era coming along in Atlanta, and the 2017 season might just be practice for a run of postseason appearances to come.