As the Covid-19 pandemic continues its plague on the MLB and the globe, fans are left with speculation. The NL East division comes in as arguably the strongest division in all of baseball. With that being said, fans are eager to find out who will prevail. And with pitching being arguably the most important asset to any team, let’s rank which NL East team has the best starting rotation.
5. Miami Marlins
Sorry to break it to all you Marlin fans out there, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Miami has been in an obvious rebuild, with little success thus far. The number of talents the Marlins have traded is eye popping to say the least. Notably, in January of 2018, Miami traded Christian Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers who is now one of the best players in the MLB. Another star outfielder in the league, Marcell Ozuna, was also traded away by Miami in December of 2017. Taking a look at the players they have become, it’s evident that Miami wouldn’t have done the same in a do over.
To lighten the subject, the Marlins actually have some talent in their rotation. Relatively young, by the names of Jose Urena, Pablo Lopez, and Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara, was named to the NL All-Star team this past year because of his efforts. At just 24 years of age, this is very reassuring for a troubled Miami squad. As for the others, Urena should be handed a pass for his performance in 2019 due to only pitching 84.2 innings. And Lopez, got to see a lot more action in 2019, as he underperformed. However, the talent is there for Lopez as well for all these starting pitchers, as the Marlins look to build consistent improvement in the NL East.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
Coming into the fourth position is the Phillies, and by close margin. Philadelphia has made some solid moves this offseason which will be key components in their hopeful playoff campaign. From the New York Yankees, shortstop Didi Gregorius joined the Phillies on a one-year deal worth $14M. Philadelphia is counting on him to help the $330M man Bryce Harper. Harper is expected to exceed after a season, where he didn’t get an All-Star nod. A less than stellar year is unacceptable in the eyes of Phillies fans, and that can’t be blamed. To win the NL East, Harper will need to perform at a high level.
Also in the offseason, the Phillies signed Zack Wheeler to a 5yr, $118M deal. Wheeler has experience with the highly touted division as he recently played for the New York Mets. This should prove as a solid option to the rotation to go along with Aaron Nola and former Cubs starter, Jake Arrieta. As Nola has remained the Phillies’ ace on the mound due to his consistency, Arrieta has seen an incline in his ERA since joining Philadelphia. The potential contenders are hoping Arrieta can get back on track and possibly produce one of those Cubs years where he finished with an ERA lowest of 1.77 back in 2015. The Phillies have a solid rotation and could move up the ladder on this list once the season gets underway.
3. Atlanta Braves
Now, onto the top three and the favorites to win the division, Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is in a title mode now and with their infusion of youth with two solid veteran all stars, they feel this is their season. Parting ways with now Minnesota Twin, Josh Donaldson, hurts their lineup. Atlanta however, saw the need for a power hitter and got one this offseason by signing former St Louis Cardinal, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna’s deal is for one year, worth 18M, a deal which is strikingly close to Donaldson’s from a season ago.
What has to show up strong for the Braves is their starting pitching staff. Despite signing R.A. Dickey a few years back, the Braves have stuck with their young guys on the bump. And for the most part, they have succeeded. But, their playoff success isn’t fulfilled yet. The best pitcher a season ago for Atlanta was Mike Soroka, a first time all star in his second year. He finished the fantastic season with a 2.68 ERA and propelled the Braves to the playoffs. Another mention is Mike Foltynewicz. A somewhat spotty pitcher last year, Folty has great potential to return to his all star form of 2018. Adding to the staff, Cole Hamels was brought in to solidify the young starters. The 36-year-old is anticipating a playoff run for the ages, in the likes of the NL East.
2. New York Mets
Keep in mind this article is based on healthy starters in the present day. The Mets have battled injury upon injury with their starting rotation. And its no surprise that I’m talking about Noah Syndergaard and his recent past. It was announced that Syndergaard will undergo tommy john surgery, which was successful. Offensively speaking, the Mets have a pretty good core to build upon and work with. 2019 Star rookie, and now a main face of the team Pete Alonso, will be an even bigger part of the Mets’ playoff hopes. The pressure will now be on him have a repeat season if they want to play into October.
The Big Apple pitching staff is full with untapped potential, in the likes of Syndergaard particularly. The ace is without a doubt two time Cy Young award winner Jacob DeGrom. Since coming back from injury in 2016, DeGrom has been nothing short of remarkable. He has been an all star the past two seasons with a career best ERA of 1.70 in 2018, and 2.43 in 2019. DeGrom compiled 255 strikeouts last season, has shown no signs of letting up. To aid the Mets, is former Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman, brought over by trade last year. Stroman is hoping to settle in and continue to helping this staff in 2020. Unfortunately for Syndergaard, he isn’t expected to see play, until the summer of 2021. And frankly, that could be an early date at this point.
1. Washington Nationals
What more can you say other than this is the clear choice for number one. The Nationals won the title last season against the Houston Astros, in which the starting pitchers played an impressive role. So much success came from the arms of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and even Patrick Corbin. The biggest proof of Washington’s dominance on that side of the ball was the entire second half of the season. The wins were critical after a lackluster first half, and the pitching can be given all the glory for their success last season.
In favor of Washington, but not for the league, the Nationals enticed Strasburg back after he hit free agency. The World Series MVP signed a 7 year, $245M deal, a franchise friendly one for sure. At his side, will be the longtime veteran of the game Max Scherzer, who if healthy is still one of the best arms in baseball. The pitching staff is here and accounted for and ready to kick off the 2020 season in the NL East. Amid coronavirus concerns, the MLB season is suspended, however, not abandoned. If and when the season gets underway, the Nationals have a great chance to serve as repeat champions.
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