The Nationals are the biggest 2015 division favorites in baseball at -300 to capture the NL East for the second straight year. Is that smart value? We breakdown the East teams by their order of 2014 finish and with their 2015 win totals on MLB odds.
Washington Nationals (96-66)
2015 win total: 93.5, with 'under' a -125 favorite at sportsbooks
The Nationals won their division by 17 games, the most in baseball, and were the No. 1 overall seed in the National League playoffs. However, the Nats were upset as sizable betting favorites in the NLDS in four games by the San Francisco Giants. It wasn't even the Madison Bumgarner effect, either, as the Giants lost the one game their ace started. The turning point in that series was clearly the 2-1 18-inning win in Washington by the Giants in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. The Nationals had the best starting rotation in MLB last year yet decided to spend $215 million on former AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the top free agent available this offseason. Now the Nats have an embarrassment of starting pitching and perhaps could trade Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister, both of whom will be free agents next offseason. Or Washington just keeps everyone and goes for it. The other main addition was former Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar, who will play second for now. The team's bullpen did take a hit with the losses of Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard. The club let slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche leave in free agency but is moving third baseman Ryan Zimmerman there.
MLB Projection: Washington has the highest wins total in the majors at sportsbooks, for good reason. There don't appear to be any holes here. Go 'over' the wins as the Nats should easily take the NL East again. This is also my World Series team for now.
New York Mets (79-83)
2015 win total: 81.5, with 'over' a -130 betting favorite
New York had its sixth straight losing season in 2014 and eighth consecutive missing the playoffs since losing the 2006 NLCS in seven games. However, it appears things are close to turning around in Queens as many believe the Mets can challenge for a wild-card spot because they have so much good young pitching. The only big offseason addition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer. He can hit, but his stats also were inflated playing at Colorado and he's injury-prone. The Mets didn't lose anyone of note. But really, the true No. 1 addition is starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who was brilliant in 2013 before having to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of last season. The Mets also have 2014 NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom in the rotation to go with Harvey. This team will pitch, but the offense still looks weak.
MLB Projection: 'Under' the wins because of the lineup.
Atlanta Braves (79-83)
2015 win total: 73.5, with both at -115
Atlanta was either in the NL East lead or near to it most of last season before the team collapsed in the final month to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2008. That cost GM Frank Wren his job, although Manager Fredi Gonzalez was spared -- for now. The Braves have begun a rebuilding job aimed toward contention when the team moves to a new ballpark in two seasons. The team traded away three of its best hitters in outfielder Justin Upton (led Braves in homers and RBIs), Jason Heyward and catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis. It was shocking how much the team is tearing things down. It still would love to deal outfielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson as well, but no team wants them. The main additions were former Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis as a free agent and starting pitcher Shelby Miller, acquired in the Heyward deal. Other new additions like Jonny Gomes (left field) and Alberto Callaspo (second base) also should start but aren't difference-makers when making your MLB picks.
MLB Projection: This might be the least-improved team in the NL, but the Braves still have some good pitching and franchise cornerstones in Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons. Go 'over' that low wins total.
Miami Marlins (77-85)
2015 win total: 81.5, with both at -115
The Marlins missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season in 2014 and had their fifth consecutive campaign under .500. Yet it was largely a success because the team hung around the wild-card race into September despite losing ace pitcher Jose Fernandez, the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, in May to season-ending surgery. Giancarlo Stanton led the NL with 37 homers despite missing the final three weeks or so after getting scarily hit in the face with a pitch. He's fine for spring training, while the team hopes Fernandez will be ready around midseason. Miami acted like it expects to contend this season, adding starting pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren (who might be traded because he wants to pitch on West Coast), first baseman Michael Morse, All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon, third baseman Martin Prado and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. The team gave up mostly prospects in those deals but did lose third baseman Casey McGehee, first baseman Garrett Jones and pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
MLB Projection: The Marlins won't win the NL East, not with the powerhouse Nationals in the division. They should finish second and challenge for a wild-card spot. Go 'over' the wins.
Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)
2015 win total: 68.5, with both at-115 on MLB betting
After winning the NL East five straight seasons and also taking one World Series title from 2007-11, the Phillies had their third straight non-winning season in 2014 and finally have decided to tear it all down and start from scratch. The Phils are the only team on MLB odds with a win total not in the 70s for the coming season. Philadelphia already has traded two of its best players from last year, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Marlon Byrd. It said goodbye to starting pitchers A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick in free agency. The only addition of note was middling pitcher Aaron Harang. What's hanging over this team is whether it deals ace Cole Hamels during spring training.
MLB Projection: Slightly 'over' if Hamels stays all season. 'Under' if he's dealt this spring or early in the season.