The National League Eastern division looks to be very competitive for the 2014 season, and this guide will preview and give predictions of each team for the upcoming season. The NL East has established itself throughout the MLB with exciting, young talent and successful franchises to become one of the premier divisions in baseball. This division looks to host an even closer race for the title in 2014 because of some intelligent offseason moves, emerging young stars, and strong core players.
Atlanta Braves – After winning last year’s National League East title in the MLB, the Braves will likely be in serious contention again in 2014 through the help of their young stars and strong pitching. Key losses include pitcher Tim Hudson and catcher Brian McCann, who were imperative in the clubhouse and on the field. Atlanta did not make much of a splash this offseason in signings or trades, but they signed several members of their core group of young and solid players. Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and Julio Tehran all received multi-year extensions from the Braves. Atlanta’s gifted starters such as Kris Medlen and Mike Minor are important to having a successful season, as well as the offense scoring runs with the fundamentals instead of the home run. Getting on base and scoring runs are key to winning games in the post-steroid era.
Predictions: Jason Heyward will be the team MVP, and he will stay healthy and produce at the plate by batting .285 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI. The team will score many runs, and their dominant starters and bullpen will make this another successful season. 96-66 (Division Winners)
Miami Marlins – The Marlins had a very disappointing 2013, which did not come as a surprise to those around the MLB. They went 62-100 and finished with the worst record in the National League. But this was to be expected after the organization traded away most of their veteran players before the start of the season to once again have one of the lowest payrolls in the game. The 2014 Miami Marlins’ outlook looks somewhat brighter, however, with their young team learning through experiences and certain top prospects that could become ready for the majors soon. With the emergence of their ace, the 2013 Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, and the continuing growth of their star power threat, Giancarlo Stanton, Miami does have its stars to build a team around. The main problem with the Marlins lies with their unproven offense that struggled in 2013 and will likely do so again in 2014.
Predictions: Jose Fernandez will be one of the best pitchers in the MLB and go 16-10 with a 2.56 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts. But their young and talented group of starting pitchers can only get them so far with a weak offense that will not score many runs. 71-91
New York Mets – The Mets made the most notable offseason moves of the teams in the National League East for the 2014 season, and they earn the title of “most improved team in their division” from this guide of previews and predictions. The signings of Curtis Granderson, a big power threat to which the Mets were lacking, and Bartolo Colon, a veteran pitcher who can provide a low ERA and low walk count, will provide the team with proven veterans. While the 2013 Mets season was relatively disappointing after they finished 74-88, it became a national showcase for Cy Young contender Matt Harvey as he completely dominated hitters. However, Matt Harvey required Tommy John surgery last season and likely will not pitch at all in 2014. So this puts an immense amount of pressure on the Mets’ pitching staff, highlighted by starter Zach Wheeler, to perform well enough to make the playoffs.
Predictions: David Wright once again becomes the team MVP by staying healthy and batting .312 with 24 home runs and 94 RBI. The addition of Curtis Granderson will not be enough to bolster the offense, but their young pitchers – even without Harvey – will impress. 79-83
Philadelphia Phillies – After dominating the NL East for years, the Phillies’ core group of players have had declining numbers that went along with frequent injuries in recent seasons. After a poor 73-89 season, things are not looking so bright for the Phillies in the near future. Their few offseason signings included veteran outfielder Marlon Bird, former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett, and the re-signing of catcher Carlos Ruiz. But the signing of these veteran players may not be enough for a team that is rapidly aging. If the Phillies can stay healthy and play younger than their age, then the NL East will be on high alert all season long. Their two biggest impact players include Cliff Lee, who returns as one of the game’s best pitchers, and outfielder Dominic Brown, who looks to build upon the great season he had a year ago.
Predictions: The team MVP will be Cliff Lee, who will go 14-9 with a 2.90 ERA. Injuries and age will get the best of the Phillies again, despite valiant efforts by Lee and Hamels. 70-92
Washington Nationals – Even after missing the playoffs in 2013, the Nationals still had a good season, although it was ultimately disappointing for a team with high hopes. But the Nationals possibly made the best offseason trade when they acquired the underrated pitcher, Doug Fister, from Detroit. He, along with Stephen Strasburg and their other talented starters, provide them with one of the best pitching staffs in the game. Other notable offseason happenings include the loss of pitcher Dan Haren and the addition of valuable outfielder Nate McClouth. The offense is led by the young star Bryce Harper, who is still looking to have that defining season that puts him among the game’s elite. For the Nationals to win the NL East title in 2014 they need a more consistent offense that can find ways to get on base and score runs.
Predictions: Bryce Harper becomes a proven star by batting .290 with 35 home runs and 95 RBI. The pitching staff will be among the elite in the MLB, while the offense will be good but not great, overall. 90-72 (Wild Card)
The 2014 season should be a competitive race for the National League East title, and all the previews and predictions become irrelevant once the season begins. Once the stadium gates open and fans pour in to smell the enticing Spring aromas of fresh grass and juicy hotdogs on Opening Day, a clean slate will be dealt to these teams to go at it once again.
Opinion by Glen Parris