In my opinion, the National League East is the epitome of what we should expect to see this season across MLB. The East has two powerhouse, well-constructed teams that are looking to compete for the pennant. Then there is a massive gulf and then three other teams that are in the throes of massive rebuilding stages, and those organizations won't be the least bit competitive.
The New York Mets were a few late-inning collapses away from a World Series title last season. And Washington, despite woefully underperforming, still finished last year over .500 and enters the season as one of the N.L. favorites thanks to some key offseason additions.
Then there is a Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon-sized chasm.
And then there's Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Marlins are the best of that pathetic trio - and they lost 91 games last year. Atlanta and Philadelphia have traded, dumped and otherwise jettisoned a load of talent over the past two seasons. They are trying to get younger and cheaper and are worried more about stocking their minor league systems than winning games at the Big League level. As a result, the Braves and Phillies will be two of the worst teams in baseball in a division that is easily the sport's worst.
Here is Doc's Sports 2016 National League East preview (with odds courtesy of Bookmaker.eu):
New York Mets
2015 Record: 90-72 (+590)
2016 Wins Over/Under: 89.5
Odds To Win 2016 NL East: -110
Odds To Win 2016 NL Pennant: +550
2016 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: +1200
Outlook: A seemingly endless geyser of top-flight starting pitching spearheaded New York's surprising run to the N.L. title last season and serves as the foundation of this rejuvenated franchise. But New York will have to find some offense if they want to prove that they can post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Mets have pitching to burn. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are four legitimate aces. The Mets should also get promising young hurler Zach Wheeler back this season, and they have ageless wonder Bartolo Colon holding down the back end of the rotation. No other team in the Majors has more depth on the mound, and that helps take the pressure off a very good, but not great, bullpen.
However, the Mets still need to be able to score runs. And the loss of last fall's postseason hero Daniel Murphy was a crippling blow to a lineup that posted the second-worst batting average in baseball last year. Retaining stud center fielder Yoenis Cespedes was critical. And the Mets hope that overhauling their middle infield with Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, two proven veterans, will make up for Murphy's absence.
Unlike its in-city rivals, the Yankees, the Mets have long had major problems handling success. They fell back to just 82-80 in 2001 just one season after their last World Series appearance. And they suffered through a horrific late-season collapse to miss the postseason in 2007, just one year after coming one hit short of the N.L. pennant. Can New York avoid a similar letdown this season? The bats and the bullpen will tell the tale.
Record : 83-79 (-1880)
2016 Wins Over/Under: 89.5
Odds To Win 2016 NL East: -110
Odds To Win 2016 NL Pennant: +600
2016 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series: + 1800
Outlook: The Nationals entered last season as the overwhelming favorites to win the N.L. East and seemingly had the inside track to representing the Senior Circuit in the World Series. But their hilarious collapse, punctuated by a dugout brawl between Bryce Harper and Jon Papelbon, ignited an offseason shakeup that Washington hopes will led to the Nats meeting their potential this season.
Bryce Harper is one of the best players in baseball and the face of this franchise. He singlehandedly carried this offense at times last year and could be even better this season if he gets any help. The Nats nabbed Murphy from New York and he should stabilize the middle of the order. But the key is keeping little China dolls Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth healthy, something that has been impossible the past few seasons.
The Nationals entered last season with delusions of grandeur regarding their starting rotation, which some prognosticators comically called one of the best of all time. It didn't work out that way, and workhorse Jordan Zimmerman departed in the offseason. But the Nationals still have three high-end arms in Max Scherzer, Steve Strasburg, and (assuming he bounces back) Gio Gonzalez. Washington also has a very good bullpen, although way-past-his-prime Jonathan Papelbon is obviously a weak link as a closer and somewhat of a pariah in the locker room. So that's not good.
Dusty Baker was brought in to give this clubhouse a new feel. And they needed a new vibe after last season's collapse culminated in Papelbon choking Harper in the dugout late in the season. Hopefully last season humbled the Nationals and they come back with more focus this season. But their biggest problem is staying healthy. If they do that then they could resemble the 2014 and 2012 teams that won 96 and 98 games, respectively.
2015 Record: 71-91 (-1410)
2016 Wins Over/Under: 79.0
Odds To Win 2016 NL East: +1000
Odds To Win 2016 NL Pennant: +3000
2016 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: +5000
Outlook: The perpetually mediocre Marlins haven't finished over .500 since 2009. And heading into this season they don't appear to be markedly improved from the 71-win team that they brought to the table last year. But Miami should have a better record in the standings simply due to the fact that they aren't as bad as the Phillies or Braves.
Giancarlo Stanton is one of the best hitters in baseball and the leader of one of the better young outfields in baseball. He is looking forward to a full season back after losing the second half of last year to a broken face. Christian Yelich has shown flashes of excellence and Marcell Ozuna has been up and down. The Marlins will support that trio with a blend of prospects (Justin Bour) and low-cost veterans (Dee Gordon, Martin Prado).
Jose Fernandez should be completely recovered from Tommy John surgery and ready to build on his performance at the end of last season. The Cuban is one of the best young arms in baseball and a pure staff ace. Miami's only hope of getting to .500, though, is that the rest of the rotation can coalesce. Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler are adequate arms and Wei-Yin Chen, who came over from Baltimore, could be the key to the season. After that it is a crapshoot.
Miami isn't terrible. They are young and talented. And, as I mentioned, they will see a bump in their win total because they are better than the reclamation projects going on in Philly and Atlanta. If Miami can catch a couple breaks they could be in the mix late in the summer. And this is the type of team that can be dangerous if it gets some momentum behind its back.
2015 Record: 67-95 (-1640)
2016 Wins Over/Under: 67.5
Odds To Win 2016 NL East : +8000
Odds To Win 2016 NL Pennant: +12000
2016 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: +16000
Outlook: Atlanta has made no effort to hide the fact that everything they are doing is building toward 2017. That is the year when they move into their shiny new stadium, which itself was the result of some good ol' fashioned local government corruption and blatant thievery. And in order to hide the fact that they scammed people out of hundreds of millions of dollars, the Braves organization is hoping that the roster and farm system will be completely rebuilt and ready to compete by this time next year.
However, in the present that means that the Braves are going to pathetic once again. Last season they won just 67 games and posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1989-90. They won't be any better this season because they really only have about 10 guys on their 25-man roster that are actual, legitimate Major League players that would contribute on a good team. And, as they showed this past winter when they traded stud arm Shelby Miller, just about anyone that can play is on the trading block.
Freddie Freeman is outstanding and Nick Markakis is a professional hitter. Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Erick Aybar are there to make it look like Atlanta is fielding an actual MLB team. The rotation is hoping for a bounce back from Julio Teheran. Beyond that, the Braves are just a bunch of kids that the front office is going to give a trial by fire in order to see if they can play.
Atlanta isn't even attempting to be competitive this season. Coach Fredi Gonzalez will once again be in charge of trying to get as much out of this roster as he can. But the odds are that he will get fired after another losing season, in part so that the front office can hype up the "fresh, new attitude" that the 2017 Braves will have heading into their new ballpark. These guys deserve every hardship they encounter this season.
2015 Record: 63-99 (-840)
2016 Wins Over/Under: 65.5
Odds To Win 2016 NL East: +8000
Odds To Win 2016 NL Pennant: +18000
2016 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: +35000
Outlook: The Phillies are still trying to dig their way out of financial and roster messes that they made for themselves during their five-year playoff and championship run from 2007-2011. Philadelphia made a lot of mistakes during that time that they are still paying for, literally, and last season they bottomed out in the hopes of building a solid foundation for the futures.
In the meantime, Philadelphia will once again be one of the worst teams in baseball. They were able to avoid 100 losses last season - barely - but they should threaten that mark once again this season.
The Phillies are still trotting out broken down, past-his-prime former star Ryan Howard in the middle of a lineup that has a lot more questions than answers. Third baseman Maikel Franko looks like a nice young piece. But the rest of the roster is just random prospects that the Phillies are hoping can develop with plenty of patience and at-bats. They had 10 guys make their MLB debut last season, and they could see just as many call-ups get a shot this year.
If there is a reason to watch Philadelphia this year it will be to scope their young pitching. Aaron Nola, Jerald Eickhoff, Adam Morgan and Vince Velasquez are all critical to the future of this organization. How - and if - they develop will be the major storyline of another lost season in Philadelphia.
2016 National League East Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Washington Nationals
2. New York Mets
3. Miami Marlins
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
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Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in three consecutive baseball seasons (and six of his last eight). Robert closed 2015 with an amazing $11,400 in earnings over the last four months and this summer will try for four straight profitable years. He is looking forward to a great upcoming season against the MLB odds. Click here for more information on his MLB picks.
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