NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
In projected order of finish
To review: 2018 record (92-72), won NL East, lost in NL Division Series.
What’s new: Additions include 3B Josh Donaldson and C Brian McCann. Gone are C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Brad Brach, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Anibal Sanchez and RHP Peter Moylan.
Cause for concern: Rotation depth only seems to be growing in Atlanta, which is not a bad thing, but success could depend on how deep they have to dip into their young prospect pool. The bullpen lacks an experienced intimidator on the back end, while late-inning options Darren O’Day and A.J. Minter are working their way through injuries.
Projecting 2019: Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. has upside to spare and could be poised to improve on a 2018 season where he hit 26 home runs with a .917 OPS. If Acuna and Donaldson supply the punch at the top of the order that is expected, the Braves can soar. Repeating Acuna’s overall impact will be difficult, but top pitching prospects Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright figure to get a chance to shine this season.
To review: 2018 record (80-82); third in NL East.
What’s new: Additions include RF Bryce Harper, SS Jean Segura, C J.T. Realmuto, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP David Robertson. Gone are C Wilson Ramos, OF Jose Bautista, 1B Carlos Santana, INF J.P. Crawford, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B Justin Bour.
Unless you are a Manny Machado fan, adding Harper was the biggest score of the offseason and the Phillies came through in grand fashion: 13 years, $330 million. Add Segura, Realmuto, McCutchen and Robertson to the mix and watch out for the Phillies.
Cause for concern: The defense will need to improve but the good news here is that it can’t get any worse than last season’s miserable effort. Merging so much new talent has its own inherent challenges but it is a problem manager Gabe Kapler doesn’t mind having, especially after landing Harper.
Projecting 2019: The offense will be better, the defense will be better, the rotation is intimidating and the bullpen has a veteran closer in Robertson with the live young arm of Seranthony Dominguez right behind him. Adding so much major league talent dealt a blow to the farm system, with much of the top talent in the lower levels of the organization now.
To review: 2018 record (82-80); second in NL East.
What’s new: Additions include 2B Brian Dozier, C Kurt Suzuki, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Anibal Sanchez, C Yan Gomez, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 1B Matt Adams. Gone are OF Bryce Harper, INF Daniel Murphy, RHP Tanner Roark, LHP Gio Gonzalez, C Matt Wieters.
Cause for concern: Replacing Harper’s offense is the obvious need, not to mention that the Nationals are now short on depth in the outfield. Rosenthal will help, but a leaky bullpen figured to need more assistance than that.
Projecting 2019: Left fielder Juan Soto hit 22 home runs with 77 RBI as a 19-year old last season and is coming off an impressive spring. The Nationals’ rotation still looks as good as anybody’s with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin at the top, while putting Sanchez in that mix as well. OF Victor Robles is one of the best prospects in baseball and is expected to get a chance to show what he can do.
NEW YORK METS
To review: 2018 record (77-85), fourth in NL East.
What’s new: Additions include 2B Robinson Cano, INF Jed Lowrie, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Edwin Diaz; Gone are OF Jay Bruce, C Kevin Palwecki.
Cause for concern: Cano alone does not figure to make up for the Mets’ issues scoring runs. Tight, low-scoring games cause high-stress innings for a pitching staff and more of the same could be on the way for the Mets.
Projecting 2019: If any pitching staff can carry a team it is this one led by 2018 NL Cy Young winner Jacob de Grom, backed by Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. The addition of Diaz as closer, with Jeurys Familia backing him up is formidable. First baseman Pete Alonso hit four home runs this spring and figures to contribute after hitting 21 home runs at Triple-A Las Vegas last season.
To review: 2018 record (63-89); fifth in NL East.
What’s new: Additions include INF Neil Walker, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Sergio Romo. Gone is C J.T. Realmuto.
Cause for concern: The issues are plenty for a team in full rebuild mode. When the positives for the upcoming season include a new look to the uniforms and news that the roof might be open more this season, it is clear that winning will be an issue.
Projecting 2019: Anything but last place in the NL East would be a surprise. Trading Realmuto was just the latest downgrade to the roster for a franchise that, not so long ago, had players like Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcel Ozuna. Top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez represents a brighter future, after being acquired in the Realmuto trade, but he remains a few years away from helping.
2019 SEASON PREVIEW SERIES
–Doug Padilla (@DougPadilla), Field Level Media