2017 NL East Picks and Expert MLB Betting Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 3/30/2017
It's hard not to think of the National League East as a division full of losers.
Sure, that's a bit misleading. The East has been one of the deepest and most consistently competitive divisions in baseball for the past two decades. But there is also no denying that the East has also been home to some of MLB's biggest postseason underachievers during that same stretch. From the old Braves teams that you just knew weren't going to win in October, to the loveable loser Mets, to the current Nationals, who are still waiting for their first postseason series win, the East has become a breeding ground for playoff futility.
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In fact, the five teams from the East have combined for just five National League pennants over the last 20 years, the fewest of any division in the Senior Circuit.
This year's East doesn't look particularly different from last year's version. Washington is the clear-cut favorite. The Mets have the power pitching to be a major factor. Miami is better than everyone thinks. And the Braves and Phillies, in various stages of rebuilding, will be thorns in the sides of the top teams all summer long.
Here is Doc's Sports 2017 National League East preview ( with odds courtesy of Bookmaker ):
Record : 95-67 (+100)
2017 Wins Over/Under: 91.5
Odds To Win 2017 NL East: -155
Odds To Win 2017 NL Pennant: +500
2017 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series : +1200
Outlook: It's eerie how much Washington's baseball team parallels the city's hockey team. Both the Nationals and the Capitals have been among the best teams in their respective sports each of the last five years. But both have been perennial playoff duds. It is to the point now where the regular season means next to nothing for the Nationals, as this group knows it will be judged based on what it can accomplish when the stakes are highest.
Max Scherzer, Steve Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez give the Nationals a stacked rotation. And that quartet was a main contributor to a staff that finished in the Top 5 in the Majors in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and quality starts. Washington's bullpen is versatile and experienced. But the Nationals whiffed on signing a top-tier closer this offseason, and that is something they have to address before October.
Another key subplot will be how new catch Matt Wieters holds up handling the pitching staff.
Dan Murphy and Bryce Harper are two of the top left-handed sticks in the league. Washington brought in two more solid lefty bats, Adam Eaton and Adam Lind, to bolster the top half of the lineup. But I think Washington's offense is at its best when veteran righties Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth are healthy and hitting. That hasn't happened often over the last four years. But when it does these guys are unstoppable.
Washington is rock solid. They don't have a clear weakness and they are the most complete team in this division. The longer this group goes without a postseason win the more of a mental hurdle it will become. But if the Nationals starters and veterans stay healthy, they find a closer, and if they can just get that first playoff series win then this is a team that could absolutely compete for a World Series title.
New York Mets
2016 Record: 87-75 (-760)
2017 Wins Over/Under: 87.5
Odds To Win 2017 NL East: +160
Odds To Win 2017 NL Pennant: +600
2017 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: +1300
Outlook: Two years ago the Mets were a couple blown saves away from a World Series title. Then last year they made back-to-back postseason appearances for just the second time in franchise history. Now we will see if New York is capable of taking the next step with virtually the same group of players or if they will remain good, but not good enough, to win their first title in over 30 years.
It all starts with New York's pitching. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are three of the best young hurlers in the sport. New York is hoping that prospects Steve Matz and Zack Wheeler can elevate their games as well and give the Mets the top rotation in baseball. New York's hard-throwing starters take a lot of pressure off their bullpen. But New York will once again have to try to overcome their closer curse, as Jeurys Familia (who is serving a suspension for hitting a woman) will try to overcome several high-profile meltdowns the past two years.
The Mets were able to resign Yoenis Cespedes, one of the most clutch players in the N.L. He is the linchpin for a lineup that relies on stable, though not explosive, veterans like Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. The Mets need to figure out how to get production from their corner infield and corner outfield positions, though. Those are premium power positions, but the Mets have been woefully short on pop from those spots for over a decade.
Injuries took a serious toll on this team last year. But the Mets were still good enough to claw their way to 87 wins despite seemingly never having more than two-thirds of their starters on the field at one time. If the Mets can catch some good fortune this season, they have enough talent to take down Washington.
2016 Record: 79-82 (-600)
2017 Wins Over/Under: 76.5
Odds To Win 2017 NL East: +1000
Odds To Win 2017 NL Pennant: +5000
2017 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: +12500
Outlook: I don't know if there has been a more hard-luck team in the Majors over the past three years. In 2014 Miami was in the thick of the Wild-Card race before Giancarlo Stanton broke his face and the Marlins stumbled down the stretch. In 2016 Miami was again making a serious move toward a Wild-Card berth before, tragically, young ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident.
The Marlins are embracing a fresh start here in 2017. But their biggest question coming into the season is how they handle the mental scars they've acquired over the last 20 months thanks to misfortune both on and off the diamond.
The Marlins staff won't be the same without Fernandez, one of the best young pitchers in the game. But Miami will try to cobble together a decent rotation from retreads like Edinson Volquez, Wei Chen and Dan Straily. Miami always seems to field one of the top bullpens in baseball, and last year was no exception. Miami has several closer options and a lot of power arms to choose from. But they will need at least some help from the starters, who were No. 26 in the Majors in quality starts last year, to prevent the relievers from wearing down.
Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna give Miami one of the three best outfields in baseball. All three are just entering their prime. But keeping the trio healthy is imperative and has proven tricky in recent seasons. A full season of Dee Gordon, who was lost to a PED suspension for most of 2016, and Martin Prado will be huge for this group. If they can get absolutely any production from first base this lineup should make a major leap forward. They were No. 27 in runs and No. 29 in homers last year despite finishing No. 4 in team batting.
Miami just doesn't seem to have the depth to stay competitive for 162 games. They were seven games above .500 and in the Wild Card driver's seat in mid-August last year. So they aren't that far off the pace. But they will need a lot of things to go right and to break their way - the types of things that haven't the past three years - for the Marlins to get over the hump.
2016 Record: 68-93 (-1640)
2017 Wins Over/Under: 67.5
Odds To Win 2017 NL East : +3300
Odds To Win 2017 NL Pennant: +6000
2017 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: +16500
Outlook: The Braves are following the How To Scam Your Fan Base playbook step-by-step. And while they will certainly be a little more competitive than last year's pathetic excuse for a team (which was outscored by 130 runs on the year), this Braves team still isn't anywhere close to competing in the National League.
The big story around the Braves this year is their shiny new ballpark, which they scammed out of local taxpayers. Atlanta made some cosmetic moves to give the appearance of trying to compete this year - bringing in 40-somethings R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, for example. But Atlanta is just trying to buy time as they wait for their prospects to develop.
There are some guys to watch on this roster. Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Brandon Phillips and Matt Kemp are three professional hitters, although Kemp and Phillips have health concerns. Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte up-and-comers. And you should expect to see plenty of call-ups as the season wears on as the Braves test their minor leaguers.
On paper the Braves appear to have an actual MLB rotation. But at some point Colon and Dickey are going to fall apart. Atlanta wrested Jamie Garcia away from the Cardinals. But St. Louis isn't known for giving up on guys in their prime, so you have to wonder what he will give this team.
Atlanta is a Potemkin village right now. They are putting on a good face - similar to what Miami did a few years ago when they opened their new stadium in 2012. But much like that Marlins team, which collapsed into a 69-93 heap, I don't expect the Braves to be competitive. Sure, a fast start isn't out of the question. But age and a lack of depth is going to come back to haunt these guys, and I'm sure the novelty will have worn off by the time they starting trading guys for more prospects in July.
2016 Record: 71-91 (-840)
2017 Wins Over/Under: 72.5
Odds To Win 2017 NL East: +3300
Odds To Win 2017 NL Pennant: +6500
2017 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: +18500
Outlook: The Phillies and their fans are hoping that the worst of their rebuilding is over and that there are blue skies on the horizons. It has been five years since the last time the Phils hit .500. And even though they aren't going to clear that bar this season, there is a sense of optimism, for the first time in years, that this organization is at least headed in the right direction.
The first sign of optimism is in some of the live young arms that Philadelphia will be backing this year. Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola are all age 26 or younger and highly-touted prospects. Even pseudo-ace Jeremy Hellickson is just 29. Keeping that group healthy is imperative as the Phillies have one of the weaker bullpens in baseball.
Youth is the theme in the lineup as well. Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, Tommy Joseph and Maikel Franco are each 25 or younger. And the Phils are hoping that they can develop into a core similar to what Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard became for this team last decade. Like the pitchers, all four of those guys have shown flashes of big-time potential. But they are still a long ways from being consistent enough to threaten the top teams in this division.
Philadelphia's minus-189 run differential was the worst in baseball last year. So these guys have a lot of ground to make up. I think that this team is going to be a little better than people realize and I think that they will be competitive all summer long. They might not win a ton of games. But I think they will top last year's total and position themselves as a sleeper team in 2018.
2017 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 $12,045 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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