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Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018 MLB Previews/Predictions: NL East

We're getting towards the end of spring training, with under two weeks left until the regular season gets underway. And while the Giants have improved their roster this winter and will be expected to return to their winning ways after losing 98 ball games last summer, their most likely path to the playoffs will be via the Wild Card route.

Of course, Major League Baseball is not the NBA, so although the Dodgers (barring some catastrophic injuries or under-performances) seem to have a strangle hold on the NL West heading into 2018, anything can happen in baseball. So, over the next few posts, we'll be breaking down each division in the National League and identifying the Giants biggest competition for those wild cards spots in-case they aren't able to dethrone LA from their pedestal atop their division.

We'll start by taking a look at the NL East, picking how we think the division will break down come October, providing each teams projected lineups and rotations as well as their primary relief pitchers. We'll also do that for the Central in the next post and finish off with a much more in-depth look at the NL West. If we have time, we'll delve a bit into the American League but I definitely want to focus on the NL to start with. So with that being said, let's jump right into it.

1st Place, Washington Nationals

LF Adam Eaton (L)
SS Trea Turner (R)
RF Bryce Harper (L)
3B Anthony Rendon (R)
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman (R)
2B Daniel Murphy (L)
CF Michael Taylor (R)
C Matt Wieters (L)

Key Reserves:
UT Howie Kendrick (R)
1B Matt Adams (L)

RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Stephen Strasburg
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Tanner Roark
RHP Jeremy Hellickson

Key Relievers:
CL Sean Doolittle LHP
SU Ryan Madson RHP

In one of the weaker divisions in the league, the Nationals should cruise to a relatively easy division tittle in 2018. They have some questions in the bottom half of their lineup, but their top-6 are up there with pretty much any team in the NL as Daniel Murphy has re-invented himself in Washington. As far as their rotation is concerned, they essentially have two aces in Scherzer and Strasburg and a solid number 3 in Gonzalez, but Roark and Hellickson, presumably in the 4th and 5th spots, aren't lights out, but they could be a lot worse. Their bullpen is probably my biggest concern with them. Sean Doolittle is a steady arm in the closers spot, but hardly a shut-down guy like a Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman, and their set-up man, Ryan Madson, is 37 years old and he's going to run out of steam eventually (although he's been nails the last couple of seasons). So long as their bullpen does their job, and like with any contender, they keep their core guys healthy, they've pretty much got their playoff tickets printed already.

And just to give you a hint as to how much high-end talent this team has, I just had my fantasy draft and 4 of their players were taken within the top-30 picks, those being Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer, each taken in top-10, then Steven Strasburg who I ended up drafting with the 26th pick.

2nd Place, New York Mets

CF Juan Lagares/Michael Conforto* (R)
2B Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
LF Yoenis Cespedes (R)
RF Jay Bruce (L)
3B Todd Frazier (R)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (L)\
C Travis d'Arnaud
SS Amed Rosario

Key Reserves:
IF Jose Reyes (S)
*OF Michael Comforto (R) -expected back in May
IF David Wright (R) -out until June

Ace Noah Syndergaard

RHP Noah Syndergaard
RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Matt Harvey
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Zach Wheeler/LHP Steven Matz

Key Relievers:
CL Jeurys Familia RHP
SU AJ Ramos
RHP Anthony Swarzak
LHP Jerry Blevins

The Mets have one thing that a lot of other teams don't have and that positional depth and that depth grows even more when Conforto and Wright return. Much like the Nats, the Mets have a great 1-2 punch atop their rotation, but things get a little unclear after that. The potential is there, with guys like Harvey, Wheeler and Matz, to be very good if healthy, but all three have huge health question marks. Their lineup has gotten much better as well, with the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier, two veteran bats who should help give them a formidable middle of the order. I like Conforto a lot, and they'll make a spot for him upon his return, most likely in center and probably leading off. Their bullpen should be a strength after adding Anthony Swarzak and also getting their closer, Familia back as well. I'll be curious to see if Familia returns to form after his injury-riddled and down 2017 season. If not though, AJ Ramos has shown to be a proven closer in the past, although his 1.68 WHIP after arriving in the big apple last season left plenty to be desired. Essentially, if they can avoid all the injuries that have plagued them the last couple of seasons, and get a strong year from Matt Harvey or another pitcher steps up to help their duo of aces at the top, then they could sneak into the Wild Card race. As you can see though, a lot that they've had trouble doing, mainly the health thing, has to go right.

3rd Place, Philadelphia Phillies

2B Cesar Hernandez (S)
CF Odubel Herrera (L)
1B Carlos Santana\(S)
LF Rhys Hoskins (R)
3B Maikel Franco (R)
RF Nick Williams (L)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
SS J.P. Crawford (L)

Key Reserves:
OF Aaron Altherr (R)
C Andrew Knapp (S)

RHP Jake Arrieta
RHP Aaron Nola
Ace Jake Arrieta
RHP Vince Velasquez
RHP Nick Pivetta
RHP Ben Lively

Key Relievers:
CL Hector Neris RHP
SU Pat Neshek RHP
RHP Luis Garcia

After roughly a half decade of turmoil and rebuilding, the Phillies look to at least finally have a foundation in place to build off of. The addition of Arrieta was huge, and is one of the reasons I have them ahead of Atlanta. The Phills have some bright young power bats in that batting order as I could definitely see Hoskins being a 40-HR guy and Nick Williams as well as young catcher Jorge Alfaro each look like cornerstones themselves. Michael Franco and Odubel Herrera have yet to reach their full potential and they also brought in veteran Carlos Santana which gives these young sluggers a veteran they can go to. They're still a year or two away from really being contenders, but I like what they're doing and the direction they're headed. At the very least this year, they should be an exciting team for their fans to watch.

Aside from a lineup full of potential, I do like the back-end of their bullpen, and their front-2 starters but they don't have enough pitching depth after those guys yet to really keep up with the Mets and Nats. If there's a breakout team in the NL in 2018 though, the Phillies have as good a shot as any to be that squad. More likely, they're looking at 2019 and beyond to be serious contenders but they have some pieces that may allow them to surprise some people.

4th Place, Atlanta Braves

RF Ender Inciarte (L)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
1B Freddie Freeman
RF Nick Markakis (L)
1B Freddie Freeman (L)
C Tyler Flowers (R)
LF Preston Tucker (L)
SS Dansby Swanson (R)
3B Johan Carmargo (S)

Key Reserves:
OF Lane Adams (R)
C Kurt Suzuki (R)

RHP Julio Teheran
RHP Mike Foltynewicz
LHP Sean Newcomb
RHP Brandon McCarthy
LHP Scott Kazmir

Key Relievers:
CL Arodys Vizcaino RHP
SU Jose Ramirez RHP
LHP A.J. Minter

Much like the Phillies, the Braves are in rebuild mode and will be depending on a lot of guys who made their Major League debuts in 2017. I think the Phills have a little more talent than Atlanta heading in though. Freddie Freeman is still one of the best, most underrated first basemen in the game and I'd really like to see what he could do in a smaller yard surrounded with more proven, talented bats. Outside of Freeman and Inciarte though, the Braves have nobody who's going to keep opposing pitchers up at night prior to facing them, although they do have some guys in that lineup that could breakout in 2018. Ozzie Albies and Preston Tucker have really hit the ball well this spring and both could in in line for nice 2018 campaigns. And although their rotation is not the most intimidating on paper, they have some guys like Foltynewicz and Newcomb who could also establish themselves in 2018. As of now though, they haven't proven it yet and are at least another couple of years away from contending.

5th Place, Miami Marlins

LF Derek Dietrich (L)
CF Lewis Brinson (R)
2B Starlin Castro (R)
1B Justin Bour (L)
C J.T. Realmuto (R)
3B Brian Anderson (R)
RF Cameron Maybin (R)
SS Migeul Rojas (R)

Key Reserves:
Ace Jose Urena
IF Martin Prado (R) -will start year on DL
OF Magneuris Sierra (L)

RHP Jose Urena
RHP Dan Straily
LHP Justin Nicolino
RHP Sandy Alcantara
LHP Wei-Yin Chen

Key Relievers:
CL Brad Zieglar RHP
SU Kyle Barraclough RHP

The Marlins dealt away pretty much everyone of value this offseason, including Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Christian Yellich and Marcel Ozuna. All of which are All-Star caliber players and one being the reigning NL MVP. Even if they kept those 4 players though, they still wouldn't have had the pitching to overtake either the Mets or Nats, but they at least would have been interesting and would have clearly been above the Phillies and Braves. Justin Bour really broke out in 2017 and look for him to grow off that, but outside of him, Castro and Realmuto, that lineup has no proven big league hitters... Perhaps my favorite player on this team is their ace Jose Urena, who should get the ball over Dan Straily in the opener despite a rough spring. As far as their pen, they have a lot of young lively arms yet will start the year with the ancient, slow tossing, side-arm slinger, Brad Zieglar lined up to close games. If he gets off to a nice start though, I'd imagine his days in Miami would be numbered as I'm sure the Marlins would like to see if Barraclough is up to the task of getting the final 3 outs of their victories. 
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Mets got so lucky by getting Frazeir and Gonzalez for pretty much nothing. I kinda wanted the Giants to get Frazier because of his power but I think LOngoria's better so I'm happy with what they have, but I wonder if they woulda waited for Fraizier if they knew they could get him for $8 million for 1 season rather than being tied to Longoria for the next 5 seasons. I think the Mets are gonnna be in the wild card hunt, they have great pitching and they could even challenge Washington I think.

  • At 3:27 PM, Blogger SFGiants Blogger said…

    I don't think the Giants necessarily wanted Frazier. He's got pop, but he hits .220 and he's not the greatest with the glove. Longoria may not hit as many jacks, but will hit about 60-80 points higher than Frazier, drive in as many or more runs and provide gold glove defense at third base.

    I would have liked to see the Giants bring more competition in for that fifth starter spot though, and Jeremy Hellickson wouldn't have been a bad addition on minor league deal like he signed with Washington. Although Hellickson may have picked Washinton anyway as he's likely going to be their fifth man without much competition and the Nats have a higher probability of reaching the postseason than SF. There still are some guys in free agency looking for jobs, including Alex Cobb, who would probably be the teams third best starter if they signed him. I thought they may go after R.A. Dickey, as he'd likely sign a minor league deal to join a contender, but Blach's thrown well enough to earn himself the spot and if he doesn't last then Derek Holland has looked good enough to be next in line.

  • At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Giants Fan in NY said…

    The Mets might surprise some people this year I think. They got some good young talent on the rise too and they could be something this year if that damn Harvey and Wheeler and even Thor can stay healthy... But i digress, I'm a longtime Giants fan living in New York and follow the Mets a little cause I been here 20 years. Can't wait for The Giants opener in LA though. That would be awesome if the GIants ant da Mets somehow play each other in the playoff at some point, I'd be so excited to go to those game! Cant wait till the Giants come our way in om Ausgust 20, I will hopefully be at all 4 games! G0 GIANTS...EVEN YEAR MAGIC 2018!!!

    -Tanner from New York

  • At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    If we traded Moore and did sign Frazier, or actually Moustakas who signed for cheaper though, I think we would have had a lot more money left over and maybe we could have signed Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. I know Longoria is better all around, but He's making a lot of dough, and if we coulda got another starter and filled 3B With Moustakas, I think I would have been more comfortable with that team. Moustakas is basically a younger left-handed version of Longoria, but I don't think they knew Moustakas would still be on the marker in March when he signed back with KC.

    I know it's all hindsight and I'm totally cool with what they did, I still will keep my season tickets cuz I know we're trying to win, but we could have done a little better and gotten the rotation rounded out. Maybe I'm just dreaming?


  • At 11:57 PM, Blogger SFGiants Blogger said…

    Whats up Jason?! BEen a minute since I seen you comment over here! Welcome back playa!

    Yeah, in hindsight Mous' would have been the best option of the three if your talking a contender who wasn't drafting high, already has a deep system and play in a neutral offensive ballpark. However there were two things working against him in terms of what the Giants were looking for.

    First off, and the reason why he stuck around the market for so long was because he was offered the qualifying offer from KC, which would have cost the Giants some high draft choices and this is not the year they wanted to give up those picks, with them being in the top-5 in every round (I forget exactly what pick they have but I wanna say #3?) Had Moustakas not been offered the 'QO' though, like I said, he probably would have been priced out of the Giants range and would have signed with the Mets or Yankees or some big marker club for a much larger deal than the 1 year/$6.5M he signed to return to KC. In hindsight, he would have taken the $17.3M QO though had he known that owners were not shelling out big, long contracts to free agents this winter.

    Another factor that wouldn't have boded well for him in SF, although I'm sure it wouldn't have held up a deal had the Giants been able to get him without giving up the picks, is the fact he hits left-handed. Left-handed power bats not named Bonds have failed to hit more than 20-25 jacks/year when playing at AT&T Park and the NL West. I mean, you ask scouts and front baseball people all around the league about Brandon Belt and they'll tell you, if that guy were playing in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Millwauke, Arizona or even evenly fair parks such as Citi Field or Marlins Park. this guy's a 30-40 HR/year guy.

    So I know Mouse broke out with 38 big fly's last year, but you could probably cut that number in half had he joined SF. Longoria has a better chance to put up better offensive numbers in the short term, but yes, in 3-4 years from now, Moustakas will be 32-33 and Longo will be in his late 30's, so that's something Moustakas would have had in his favor.

    I'm pretty content with the combo of Longo and Cutch to help bolster the middle of the order though, although, as I've said before, I really wish they could have pulled off the Longo deal without parting with Arroyo because I think he's gonna be a good player for the Rays and very soon. That's where a signing of Fraier for a year or so would have made some sense
    to take the pressure off Arroyo and let him come up on his own terms and not out of necessity.

    Anyway, as I stated before, either on twitter or here, I'm more concerned with their pitching staff, both rotation and bullpen than I am their offense at this point. I know it's only spring but the bullpen guys have looked downright bad, while their closer has thrown in 3 ball games and reported some issues after each one. The offense now at least has some depth, where they can have a couple of guys struggling and still put up some runs. Last year, if Pence was struggling or out (which was about 80% of the time) and one other guy like Buster or Belt weren't hitting, then the offense was literally a AAA-level offense.

    Now, if Cueto/Shark struggle, Melancon isn't ready, and the bullpen looks like it has this spring, then they basically would have a AAA-level pitching staff.


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