Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball and he is backed by an array of solid arms in the bullpen. The offensive lineup is filled with talent as Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman patrol the middle. The bench has solid veterans who will be able to step in as needed.
However, injuries are killing this pitching rotation. Kris Medlen may be done for the season after needing another Tommy John surgery. Brandon Beachy is banged up as well. The team signed Ervin Santana in an effort to add depth to the rotation. Four players in the regular lineup had an on-base percentage below .310 last year, so this offense does struggle at times.
Season wins prediction: Under 87.5
There are not many reasons to back this struggling team, although they do have some young talent that might surprise. Giancarlo Stanton is walking more and getting on base. Jose Fernandez was NL Rookie of the Year, while Nathan Eovaldi has a fastball that is right up there with the best in the league. Steve Cishek converted 29 straight save opportunities at one point last year.
This would have been a good team 10 years ago with Rafael Furcal, Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and Juan Pierre on the roster. The bottom of the pitching rotation is weak, while getting the ball to Cishek will be an issue since the Marlins will be losing most games and they have poor middle relief.
Season wins prediction: Under 69.5
New York Mets
David Wright is an excellent hitter and he will now have Curtis Granderson in the lineup with him. Granderson hit 84 home runs in 2011 and 2012 combined, before battling injuries last year. Bartolo Colon becomes the ace of the starting rotation after posting a career best 2.65 ERA with Oakland last year. Zack Wheeler showed promise in his 17 starts as a rookie, while Bobby Parnell had a career best 2.16 ERA last season and will be a solid closer this year.
Jon Niese is hurt already and he was supposed to be the No. 2 starter in the rotation. The rest of the group is questionable with Colon turning 41 in May. Can he hold up? The lineup features a lot of mediocrity with Chris Young being the only other big free agent addition in the lineup besides Granderson. Young is just a .235 career hitter and he batted a career worse .200 last season with Oakland. The bullpen is filled with unproven youth, and other than Parnell, has a lot of uncertainty.
Season wins prediction: Under 74
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are back to patrol the middle of the lineup and they both appear healthy right now. Domonic Brown hit 27 home runs last year, while Marlon Byrd had the fifth best slugging percentage in the National League. Cliff Lee, AJ Burnett and Cole Hamels (when healthy) are a very good top 3 in the pitching rotation. The back end of the bullpen is stabilized with Jonathan Papelbon.
However, there are still some concerns about this team. How will this older and aging team hold up in August and September? Utley and Howard are healthy now, but will they make it thru the entire season? Howard has struck out in 32% of his plate appearances the past two seasons. Cole Hamels is already injured and he will not be ready for the start of the season. Mike Adams is coming off an injury and the bullpen was weak last year.
Season wins prediction: Over 76
The best rotation in the division has gotten even better with the addition of Doug Fister. The Nationals also have a deep offensive lineup anchored by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. The bullpen is solid with Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard. This team is strong in all aspects of the game.
While this looks like the best team in the division, there are still some concerns. Will Adam LaRoche improve from last year? He struggled against left-handed pitching. Stephen Strasburg has yet to be the workhorse of the pitching rotation, so we'll see if he can handle more innings this year. Clippard appeared in 72 games last season as he was a bit overused backing up Soriano. Matt Williams is a new manager, so it is unknown how the team will respond to his leadership.
Season wins prediction: Over 89.5
MLB Betting: National League East Preview