It seems like yesterday that the Braves were one of the best teams in baseball. With the likes of Chipper Jones, Andres Galarraga, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez, Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine they were unstoppable. Shortly after, it was the Mets, followed by the Marlins and Phillies. It’s safe to say the Nationals have never been contenders in years past, even while playing in Montreal as the Expos. They were more of a farm team for other Major League organizations. Today, it’s a different story. The Phillies are ready to start “rebuilding” while the Braves try to redevelop their Major League team. Then, there are the Marlins, they are underachieving the most. With the talent they have, there’s no reason as to why they aren’t winning more ball games and making a push for the division. They’ve seen a managerial change, but I highly doubt it will make a difference. The only two teams making a serious push are the Mets and Nationals. With all the injuries the Mets have suffered, it’s amazing how they’ve been able to persevere and win ball games. I attribute their success to their pitching staff. They’ve been nothing short of superb and it should carry the team as the season rolls along. If an injury were to occur to one of their key contributors, it would be devastating. They always have room to make a deal as the trade deadline approaches. One of the most interesting teams in this division are the Nationals. They have the power and pitching, but are 2-8 in their last ten ball games. They are a prototypical all-or-nothing power team. They live and die by the home run, and this will hinder them as the season progresses. A contending team has to be able to manufacture runs with small ball. The Nationals struggle when it comes to manufacturing runs, they are dead last in the MLB with 14 stolen bases. Last week they produced 18 runs in seven games.
What will it take to win the National League East? Pitching and timely hitting late in ball games. A quarter into the season, the Mets have the best pitching staff in the division. They have a collective ERA of 3.39 while the Nationals are a half-run worse at 3.86. The Marlins, Phillies, and Braves trail with 4.05, 4.15, and 4.27 ERAs respectively. I like Washington winning the division as I can’t see the Mets being able to score runs consistently over the season. The biggest factor would be Washington getting back a healthy Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. There’s no denying Strasburg’s stuff, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t get over the bump in the road. More than likely, once healthy, it will be a confidence factor to get Strasburg back to his dominating ways. Rendon coming of the DL is close to an acquisition. His presence has been missed, and this will give the team another bat. Assuming the Nationals’ stellar offense continues to hit the ball out of the park, they have what it takes to hit for the course of the season. One of the most noticeable factors of late, is the way Bryce Harper is getting pitched. Teams are careful when dealing with Harper, not letting him hurt them. They’d much rather pitch around him than have him change the outcome of the game with one swing of the bat. On the other hand, the Mets’ lineup doesn’t instill fear in anyone. They have power from a few guys, but nowhere near the potency of Washington. I want to continue by looking at what all five teams can do to win the division.
I know it’s early in the season, but this team has zero chance at making a push for a Wild Card spot, let alone the division. Ruben Amaro, Jr. is feeling the heat, and it’s time to stat rebuilding this team. This week’s draft will be key to getting some young talent into the organization. The main players to be moved are Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. Chase Utley could’ve been in the mix, but he’s struggled all season and I don’t know how many teams would want to take a shot on Utley.He will most likely finish his career in Philly. The Cardinals could use another first baseman after Matt Adams went down. Mark Reynolds is capable of manning first base, but I’m sure they’d like a left-handed power hitter. If the Phillies would eat a chunk of Howard’s remaining salary, they could potentially get some decent prospects in return. I’m sure Howard would love to play in his hometown and for a team with high-hopes of October baseball. What about Cole Hamels? Hamels will bring back the best prospects. That being said, Amaro will wait it out until he can land exactly what he wants to get back. There’s no need to make a move just for the sake of trading Hamels. With many teams needing a solid number one starter, someone will pay a hefty price come July 31 to land the lefty’s services. It could possibly be St. Louis. They have the potential to land both Hamels and Howard, and allow the Phillies to get back a bundle of top prospects.
Their pitching is hindering the team. The only starters with ERAs south of 4.00 are Dan Haren (3.18) and Tom Koehler (3.72). It’s safe to say the Mat Latos acquisition has backfired. I don’t like the demeanor he had entering Spring Training. He was still sore about how it ended in Cincinnati. He’s battling knee inflammation, and the Marlins need him to produce when he returns. Another pitcher who is having a horrendous season is closer Steve Cishek. He’s been hit hard and batters are hitting .321 against him. Luckily, A.J. Ramos has filled in admirably and looks to have a lock on the closer’s role as the season moves forward. Their offense hasn’t been too bad, but they need Christian Yelich to get hot. If the Marlins are serious about making strides, they need to start looking for pitching immediately. They have a lot of work to do to solidify their starting rotation and get help in their bullpen. Luckily, Jose Fernandez will be returning soon from Tommy John surgery. He’ll be on an innings restriction, but he looked good in his first rehab appearance, hitting 99 MPH on the radar gun. They’re only 6.5 games back of the division leading Mets, but they don’t want to fall too far behind before they are playing catch up.
They officially win the off-season move of trading Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller. Miller has gone 5-2 through 11 starts with a 1.89 ERA. His WHIP has been impressive sitting at 1.00 and he owns a [51:24] K:BB. Yes, the walks are a bit high, but he’s giving the team a chance to win when he pitches. However, their production needs to be better from their other starters. Alex Wood has been solid while Julio Teheran has been getting hit hard while walking his fair share of batters. If Teheran can get back to last season’s form, it will give Atlanta a boost. Atlanta’s offense is ranked 12th in team average, but 29th in home runs. I’d like to see Atlanta make a move for a power hitter if they are serious about contending. I believe it would’ve been a great addition if they were the team to land Mark Trumbo. They could use power from the outfield position, and he’d be perfect to bat cleanup behind Freddie Freeman. Let’s face it, Nick Markakis is not the answer at cleanup. Overall, I don’t see this club finishing higher than third in the division.
The Nationals have a solid ball club in terms of their lineup and pitching staff. A healthy Anthony Rendon solidifies their lineup and the second base position. They’re half a game behind the Mets, and they have more talent than the Mets. Bryce Harper has made an early case for the NL MVP and a career year is in the making. Jayson Werth has struggled all season and is now battling a wrist injury. For a guy that has made a living with power, this is not an injury that will go away any time soon. It’s something that will linger all season, and there is no way the Nationals can count on Werth producing upon returning from the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman has struggled early on in the season and Ian Desmond is still striking out too much. Max Scherzer has been worth the money, but they haven’t gotten the needed production from Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister. Their bullpen has been solid, but there is always room for improvement. A key factor moving forward will be the ability to run. By run, I don’t only mean stealing bases, but hit and runs. This team has lived by the home run, but they will have to find other ways to manufacture runs as the season rolls forward. Getting a healthy Stephen Strasburg will help their starting rotation as well as Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister producing.
New York Mets
It’s amazing what they’ve been able to do despite all of the injuries. They lost Zack Wheeler before the season began and have seen Travis d’Arnaud, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright go down during the season. Matt Harvey has been sensational coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the 42-year-old Bartolo Colon has solidified the rotation. He owns a fantastic 61:6 K:BB, but has given up 12 home runs leading to his 4.52 ERA. Yet, he still owns an 8-4 record. With a team that ranks 21st in offense, it still amazes me how they’ve been able to stay atop the NL East. I contribute this to their stellar pitching staff that is ranked 5th in the MLB. Their bullpen alone is ranked 4th. To keep this trend going, I truly believe they need to make an offensive acquisition. They need to score more runs if they want to keep up with the Nationals. David Wright’s back is anyone’s guess, and they cannot count on him regardless if he says he expects to be back sooner rather than later. I’ve read reports that suggest the Mets could go after the likes of Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Jean Segura, among others; trying to fill voids left by the injuries to Wright and Daniel Murphy. Honestly, I think they need to go for a power hitter. They need to score runs and they need to be able to count on someone to drive the runs in. They could make a blockbuster deal to reacquire Carlos Gomez. This is very unlikely, but he would allow the Mets to move Juan Lagares to left and have Michael Cuddyer platoon with Curtis Granderson. Another possibility could be Josh Reddick. He’s not the sexiest target, but he has the ability to hit 20+ home runs. If I’m the Mets, I’d much rather rely on the 28-year-old Reddick than 36-year-old Michael Cuddyer. Call me crazy, but if they want power and aren’t worried about strikeouts I’d look into acquiring Jay Bruce. A change of scenery may be what he needs. Not to mention he brings power from the left-hand side of the plate. Bruce’s contract isn’t that bad either, if you don’t mind paying him $12.5 million next season. All in all, the Mets can’t rely on the services of David Wright. I’d make a move now rather than shuffle as the trade deadline approaches.
Fantasy Studs Week 9
C – A.J. Pierzynski (ATL)
1B – Freddie Freeman (ATL)
2B – Daniel Murphy (NYM) (Placed on DL June 5)
3B – Maikel Franco (PHI)
SS – Adeiny Hechavarria (MIA)
LF – Ben Revere (PHI)
CF – Juan Lagares (NYM)
RF – Bryce Harper (WAS)
SP – Jacob deGrom (NYM)
CL – A.J. Ramos (MIA) & Jeurys Familia (NYM)
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday June 14th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will be the MLB draft and which players need to be monitored by fantasy owners as well as the N.L. East and N.L. Central divisions and everything fantasy relevant within.