This year’s MLB season will be unlike any other year. With the shortened 60 game season, the landscape of baseball has shifted from the marathon that we know to a 100-meter sprint. Each game will carry more weight and teams cannot afford to have a slow start. While for the most part, I do not expect the games to change the end results of the season it is a storyline that will no doubt be talked about. Here are my predictions for this unique season:
NL East Standings:
The race in the NL East may end up being the tightest division in baseball this year. The Braves won the division last year with a 97-65 record, but had a disappointing postseason performance and were sent home early by the hands of the Cardinals. Freddie Freeman is a star in the prime of his career and their core guys, such as Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, are coming into their prime. The Braves surrendered the 5th lowest ERA in the MLB last year and also signed Marcell Ozuna to fill the void that Josh Donaldson has left. The Braves roster is the most complete in the division and they will be a tough team to beat this year.
The Phils are heading in the right direction and have a ton of talent to be excited about. The addition of Zack Wheeler will help stabilize the pitching rotation and Didi Gregorius is an exciting new piece in the lineup. Andrew McCutchen is healthy again and Bryce Harper has been tearing the cover off the ball since training has picked back up. With the contract issues between the Phils and JT Realmuto still remaining unresolved, it should be expected that he plays like he has something to prove this year. The guy who will have the biggest impact on progressing the team is new manager, Joe Girardi. The failed Gabe Kapler experiment is finally over and the Phillies now have a legitimate baseball mind guiding the ship. Overall I expect the Phillies to have a very successful season this year and they will take more strides than people expect.
While it may be somewhat disrespectful to put the defending champions at 3rd in the division, I do not think they are as talented of a team as last year’s results should indicate. The rotation led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin is certainly something they should feel confident about.
However, I think this may be the year Scherzer begins to fall off. Scherzer will be 36 in a few days and is coming off a season where he missed time (including game Game 5 of the WS) due to a back injury and he did not look sharp at all in his exhibition debut. Strasburg signed an extension with the Nats this offseason, but he is never a sure bet to stay healthy. Age is a lingering question for a good portion of the roster as Howie Kendrick and Kurt Suzuki are also 36 years old. While the Nats no doubt have some terrific young guys who will continue to grow, such as Juan Soto and Trae Turner, a lot will have to go right for the Nats to come close to the level of success that was seen last year.
4)New York Mets
The Mets have a chance to be a dark horse team this season. They showed great signs of improvement in the second half of the season last year and now have hired Luis Rojas as manager which should bring on a pleasant change in the organization. Led by Jacob deGrom, the Mets have a solid pitching rotation and decent offensive firepower as well. Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil will both make a major impact and overall the Mets are doing a good job putting pieces together. They are still the Mets and I expect them to find a way to come up short because of this, but they will be a team to keep an eye on this year.
Then there are the Marlins. Having the least talented roster in the division along with the toughest opponent schedule of any National League team is not a good combo. The team has not finished above .500 in over a decade and nothing about this year indicates that there will be a change in this. Jesus Aguilar was a nice signing and Brian Anderson is growing into one of the best players Miami has developed. Regardless there should not be very high expectations for this season and everyone should feel comfortable locking them in for a last-place finish.
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