The Washington Nationals won just 82 matches with Bryce Harper final season. Now it appears inevitable he will develop into an ex-Nat.
However, the additions of Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough deepened the casting team about Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Those of Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Kurt Suzuki and Matt Adams did the same for the offense.
Meanwhile, the top prospect Victor Robles is standing by to fulfill Harper’s shoes. Fellow young outfielder Juan Soto can become a superstar after achieving historic success for a teenager.
The National League East is too heavy for any team to acquire much more than 90 games. However, the Nats have the best chance of reaching that threshold and so the best chance of winning the division.
Playoff chances: 60 percent
The Atlanta Braves won the NL East last year precisely because they use the branch’s flaws with a 49-27 record. That will not occur again in 2019.
The Braves boosted their veteran thickness by bringing in Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann and re-signing Nick Markakis, but they might still use a starter (e.g., Dallas Keuchel) and/or tried-and-true relief ace (e.g., Craig Kimbrel).
Rather, they appear content to bet on their youthful talent. That is risky yet not completely unreasonable. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies can be the National League’s response to Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, also contained within the group’s No. 2 farm process is MLB-ready pitching galore.
The wild-card race won’t necessarily be present to grab the Braves–or some other NL East group –should they fall short from the branch. However they can handle competing with the Nats.
Playoff opportunities: 50 percent
New York Mets
The New York Mets might have torn down it after dropping 85 games this past year. Rather, they hired a new general manager and went all-out to add depth and stars to the roster.
For an offense that scored just 4.2 runs per match in 2018: Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie and Keon Broxton. For a pitching staff which was too reliant on Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson.
Questions remain about how the Mets are going to match all their offensive pieces together. There is also still lingering uncertainty about a defense that has been a weakness for ages.
But completely, the Mets should be right there with the Braves in pushing the Nats for the NL East crown.
Playoff chances: 50 percent
Everything will change if the Philadelphia Phillies stop dilly-dallying and finally bring Harper aboard. Adding the 2015 NL MVP would boost their upside down tremendously.
To their credit, the Phillies have already greatly improved a roster which made 80 wins last year. Specifically, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura will enhance both the offense and a defense that fought in 2018. For his role, David Robertson must stabilize the bullpen.
Nevertheless some concerns persist. There’s a drop-off in the rotation following Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Likewise, there is a drop-off in offensive upside after the newest improvements and incumbent slugger Rhys Hoskins.
So at least till Harper is at the fold, the Phillies are the fourth-best team in the NL East.
Playoff chances: 40 percent
And then there are the Miami Marlins, who are going into 2019 since the clear black sheep of the NL East.
With Realmuto gone, Miami’s continuing reconstruct has left the major league roster without any stars. But given that the team’s farm system only checks in at No. 25 at MLB, further trimming via the trade market is unavoidable.
It’s difficult to go backward from a 98-loss season, but the Marlins should do precisely that in 2019.
Playoff chances: 0 percent