2019 NL East Picks: Major Power Shift with Bryce Harper in Philly
It was one of the slowest Major League Baseball offseasons in recent memory. Everywhere except in the National League East.
Bryce Harper leaving Washington and signing with division rival Philadelphia could produce a significant shift in the balance of power of the division. That was the biggest move, but not the only one that could a major impact on the East race in 2019. Atlanta signed a former American League MVP, the Mets traded for a guy that finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting four times, and the Nationals added a left-handed pitcher that finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young Award voting last season.
Everyone in this division is loaded up. Now it is off to the races.
Here is Doc's Sports 2019 National League East preview:
2018 Record: 80-82 (-780)
2019 Wins Over/Under: 89.5
Odds To Win 2019 NL East: +200
Odds To Win 2019 NL Pennant: +450
2019 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: +1000
Outlook: Two years ago the Phillies threatened to lose 100 games. Last year they looked poised to win their first division title since 2011. Now the Phillies had the biggest offseason in the Majors and they are going all-in on this team, at this time, in an attempt to get back to the postseason.
The addition of Bryce Harper was the most significant move of the offseason. It wasn't the only move. The Phillies also nabbed Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. The four newcomers will gear up with holdover former prospects Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco to hopefully form a more consistent offense than the one that had the worst batting average in baseball last year.
Lost in all of the buzz about Philadelphia's new look lineup is the fact that the Phillies rotation has a chance to be really good. Aaron Nola had a breakout season and looks like a legit ace. If Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin can take a similar step forward, then this group could be dominating. Jake Arrieta's decline continues, though, but he is still a relatively stable option.
You don't need me to tell you that Philadelphia is going to be good. Everyone thinks this team is legit and they will be. Perhaps the biggest question is unorthodox manager Gabe Kapler. He had a checkered rookie season on the bench, to put it mildly. There are a lot of new faces and personalities and the level of expectation for this group has certainly been raised. How Kapler handles everything will be critical.
2018 Record : 82-80 (-2490)
2019 Wins Over/Under: 88.5
Odds To Win 2019 NL East: +250
Odds To Win 2019 NL Pennant: +800
2019 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series: +1850
Outlook: Is it possible for a team to lose one of the best players in baseball and get better? That's what we will find out with the Nationals in 2019. And, oddly enough, I think it may be true. Bryce Harper has been one of the best players in baseball. But Washington didn't really accomplish all that much with him as a clubhouse leader. And with the massive distraction of Harper's free agency gone from this franchise, I think the Nationals enter this season a little freer and a little easier.
Washington's lineup will have a hole in it with Harper gone. However, Harper did hit below .250 twice in the last three years, hit over 30 home runs just twice in his career and drove in 100 runs just one time. In fact, outside of his dominant 2015 season, he has not been a dominant offensive force.
The Nationals lineup this year is still full of pros. They desperately need Adam Eaton to stay healthy and give them a productive season. And if Juan Soto can build on his outstanding rookie season, then the Nationals could actually improve on last year's Top 10 offense.
And Washington still has one of the best rotations in baseball. Max Scherzer and Steve Strasburg are stars. They snagged boom-or-bust lefty Patrick Corbin and then are hoping for a resurgence from either Anibal Sanchez or Jeremy Hellickson. I'm not holding my breath for the latter. Though Washington's bullpen is good enough to prop up the back end of the rotation.
Washington isn't going to crumble without Harper. In fact, they may thrive without him. I think that this team will play with a chip on its shoulder and has something to prove. Oh yeah, and they still have all kinds of talent and experience all over the field. Don't write these guys off.
New York Mets
2018 Record: 77-85 (-590)
2019 Wins Over/Under: 85.5
Odds To Win 2019 NL East: +350
Odds To Win 2019 NL Pennant: +1400
2019 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: +3000
Outlook: This remains one of the worst organizations in professional sports, and I think that any optimism about this team heading into the season is completely misplaced. Last year New York got off to an all-time great start (11-1), and they still won just 77 games. In fact, the Mets have finished above .500 just twice in the last 10 years.
Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are the best one-two pitching punch in baseball. Zack Wheeler and Steve Matz are improving, giving the Mets the foundation of a potentially excellent bullpen. New York also made a big move for flamethrower closer Edwin Diaz and resigned former closer Jeurys Familia. That dynamic, as well as the morale around star arms deGrom and Syndergaard, are worth watching.
New York made a typical Mets move in trading for an overpaid, overrated, way-past-his-prime former star when they got Robinson Cano. I think any expectations of an All-Star effort from Cano are woefully misguided. Jed Lowrie, Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes are all hurt, a constant problem for New York. So the Mets will head into the season leaning on unproven bats like Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith.
Were this any other franchise, I might be a little optimistic about the Mets chances. But I've seen this too many times. Judging by the preseason odds, the Mets are overrated coming into the season. They still have a lot of moving parts, and there are more questions than answers with this group. When it doesn't work out and this team slinks to a .500 record, I'll be one of the least surprised bettors in the business.
2018 Record: 90-72 (+1800)
2019 Wins Over/Under: 86.5
Odds To Win 2019 NL East : +390
Odds To Win 2019 NL Pennant: +1200
2019 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: +2800
Outlook: The Braves were one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball last year, snapping a streak of four straight losing seasons with a 90-win campaign and division title. Everyone agrees that the rebuilding Braves arrived a year earlier than expected. However, rather than making offseason moves to build on their momentum, the Braves chose to stand pat with a relatively low-key winter.
Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman are both special players. Atlanta is hoping that free agent signee Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis can provide enough cover for these two potential MVP candidates. Atlanta also needs steps forward from youngsters Ozzie Albies, Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson. The bench is solid, with Johan Camargo and Charlie Culberson giving the team some options.
Problems are starting to arise concerning the Braves rotation, though. Hard-throwing Mike Foltynewicz is having ominous elbow issues. Julio Teheran's velocity is continuing to drop. Sean Newcomb is having control issues. Atlanta is not worried because they have a wealth of young pitching prospects. But I don't know if they can compete for another division title if they are trotting out unproven, overmatched youngsters every fifth day.
I think that the Braves made a big mistake by not doing more to improve their roster this offseason. They actually cut their payroll by over $25 million while the Phillies were breaking the bank for Bryce Harper and the Mets and Nationals were making targeted free agent signings. Atlanta had a lot of good fortune in 2018, a lot of comeback victories, and they were 23-12 in one-run games. I don't think that will carry over, and I think that this team could back slide a bit in 2019.
2018 Record: 63-98 (-440)
2019 Wins Over/Under: 63.5
Odds To Win 2019 NL East: +35500
Odds To Win 2019 NL Pennant: +50000
2019 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: +200000
Outlook: The Marlins lost 98 games last year, and I still feel like they massively overachieved. Not only that, the Marlins actually got worse this offseason, allowing J.T. Realmuto to sign with a division rival. The Marlins have not hit rock bottom in their rebuilding phase yet, and I will be stunned if they avoid 100 losses again this season.
Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Martin Prado are all pros. They are also all on the downside of their careers. Starlin Castro is perpetually underrated. He isn't good enough to carry a team, though. The hope is that Brian Anderson can build on his surprising rookie season and develop into an All-Star-caliber third baseman. Miami hit just .237 as a team and scored the fewest runs in the Majors. I don't see anything that makes me expect improvement this season.
About the best thing that I can say about the Marlins pitching staff is that they do, in fact, have pitchers. Lots of them, in fact. Whether any of them can be consistent or productive is a whole other issue. I actually think Miami's starting rotation can be perfectly adequate if Jose Urena can reign his stuff in and if Dan Straily can find his 2016 form. Those are long shots. Though there are no sure things with this weak crop of arms.
Miami actually overachieved by nearly six games last season. That is significant. But then they actually got worse in the offseason. The rest of the East improved by varying degrees this offseason, and I don't see any way that this team is going to be able to compete beyond the occasional series upset.
2019 National League East Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Washington Nationals
3. Atlanta Braves
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
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 four of five baseball seasons (and six of his last eight). Robert exploded for an incredible +$6,100 profit run last year during the first three weeks of the season and he plans on doing it again this year. Robert has posted four of five winning years on the diamond and is looking for another big season. Click here for more information on his MLB picks .
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