New York Mets: The defending NL champs are theoretically stronger heading into 2016 than they were at the same point last season. The rotation, which easily ranks among the top three in the game, will – hopefully – get full, healthy (again, hopefully) seasons the Dark Knight Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. And that’s not including the return of Zack Wheeler, another high-end caliber starting pitcher. It wouldn’t be overly shocking to see Harvey, Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom all finish in the Top 20 in fWAR among all pitchers. The ageless wonder Bartolo Colon has showed zero signs of slowing down as he’s averaged nearly 3.0 wins in each of his last five seasons.
The bullpen’s good, not great. Jeurys Familia really shined in the closer’s role last season, saving 43 games while posting an 86-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Addison Reed continues to pump 92 mph fastballs as a solid eighth inning guy. And newly signed Antonio Bastardo good for more than a half-win above replacement as well.
Offensively speaking, the Mets are as steady as they come around the entire diamond with league average or better starters at every spot – sans the shortstop position, where Asdrubal Cabrera is serving as a place holder for Gavin Cecchini.
Backstop Travis d’Arnaud has borderline All-Star potential, if he can stay healthy. Lucas Duda’s developed into a legitimate middle of the lineup thumper the past two seasons. Neil Walker’s always good for 2.5 wins. David Wright’s not far off either – when he can stay on the field. And the Michael Conforto/Yoenis Cespedes/Curtis Granderson outfielder offers up a trio of 20-HR potential.
Cespedes has been a historically poor defender in center field, but the club has Juan Lagares as a late-inning option.
Bottom Line Record: 93-69
Washington Nationals: Their overall win total from last season, 83, was six games fewer than their expected total. So with no major losses or unrepeatable seasons from their core players, it’s easy to reason that the club will likely approach – and perhaps exceed – the 90-win mark in 2016.
Surprisingly, though, the strength of the ball club – outside of some guy named Bryce Harper – is in their
pitching, particularly their rotation.
Max Scherzer is coming off of four consecutive seasons in which he’s fanned more than 10 batters every nine innings with a sub-3.0 walk rate. Stephen Strasburg, while he’s never lived up to his incredible amateur hype, has posted a 408-to-74 strikeout-to-walk over his previous 356.0 innings. Gio Gonzalez is always good for 3.5 wins above replacement. Tanner Roark is a decent backend starter, though he’s likely not going to duplicate his 2.85 ERA from two years ago. And Joe Ross is sporting a 3.28 FIP over his first 91.1 career innings.
The bullpen is decent, chock full of aging veterans.
Offensively speaking, of course, the conversation begins with reigning MVP Bryce Harper. While it remains to be seen if he can repeat his nearly 10-win season, Harper’s floor still rests in MVP territory. Anthony Rendon has the potential to become one of the better third baseman. As he’s entering his age-26 season, he could be primed for a big breakout. Ryan Zimmerman, Ben Revere, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, Daniel Murphy, and Danny Espinosa are all solid complementary players.
Bottom Line Record: 92-70
Miami Marlins: Good News: The Marlins finished trailed only the Nationals and Mets in the NL East last season. The Bad News: Miami won a whopping 71 games. The franchise has always seemed to cobble together some high-end talent, something that’s quite evident in 2016.
Giancarlo Stanton is obviously among the game’s most lethal bats and his pitching counterpart, Jose Fernandez, is a bonafide ace. Dee Gordon, who won the NL batting title last season, has batted .311/.342/.398 over his previous two seasons. Christian Yelich is dripping with 20/20 potential. And Marcell Ozuna is two seasons removed from nearly tallying 4.0 wins in a season.
But the club has more than a few holes as well.
With that being said, though, expect the Marlins to win a few more games in 2016 as they (hopefully) get more playing time from Stanton, Fernandez, and Co.
Bottom Line Record: 78-84
Philadelphia Phillies: As bad as it will be in 2016 – and trust me, it’s going to be bad – the Phillies have a couple cornerstones already in place for their quick turnaround. Maikel Franco has 30-HR power potential, though his lackadaisical defense will chew into some of his overall value. Odubel Herrera, who’s likely headed for a large step backward from his 3.9-win campaign last season as his .387 BABIP regresses, is a solid league average starter in center field with tremendous go-get-‘em ability. Aaron Nola has a chance to be a very good #2-type arm. And Darin Ruf is going to continue to prove his value as a cheap platoon option.
Other than that, though, there isn’t too much to write about until the first wave of prospects starting getting called up.
Bottom Line Record: 64-98
Atlanta Braves: It’s pretty much a given that (A) the Braves are going to be terrible for the next year or two and (B) better days are clearly on the horizon. But as it stands now, though, there’s very little building blocks in piece at the big league level.
Freddie Freeman, of course, isn’t going anywhere. He’s not the typical power-hitting first baseman, but he’s topped the league average offensive production by at least 33% in each of his previous three seasons. Newly acquired Ender Inciarte has ridden a wave of defensive ability to more than six wins since 2014. And Mallex Smith, his eventual replacement (assuming Inciarte is eventually dealt, again), just made his big league debut. And then there’s Julio Teheran, a solid mid-rotation arm who’s likely going to be at his peak when the club’s ready to contend again.
Other than that, the cupboard’s pretty bare.
Bottom Line Record: 65-97