Today, I will talk about a division that is considered the weakest in all of baseball. Teams included are the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, Mets, and Nationals. First off, pitching wins championships and give a team a great chance to do so like the Mets, which are most likely going to win their division. Next, the Nationals always look great on paper, but can never get over that hump, but with Dusty Baker in town, they can look to win the first wild card spot. Now, after those two teams the rest is up for grabs. The Marlins made some nice additions with the names like Edwin Jackson and Wei-Yin Chen that will help their rotation that struggled except Jose Fernandez. The Braves and Phillies are on the verge of turning around and becoming great teams again. Now, in these next coming years, both teams have young talent that will still require the need of getting their feet wet at the next level. Both teams are filled with top prospects from either trading blue chip like players or drafting young studs. At the end of the day, the Braves and Phillies will remain near the bottom of the division for this season and possibly for the 2017 season, unless they turn into the Astros of the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, let’s get to the player that will give the Braves the best shot to win their division. Freddie Freeman is an obvious pick, but he will produce like he always does, which is probably the only exciting thing to watch for this year for the Braves, unless one of the pitching prospects pitches, which I personally will be excited for. Now, the Braves will be winning their division when all of these top prospects reach the majors. Lastly, the player that will be intriguing to watch as he grows into a top closer is Arodys Vizcaino. The 25-year-old reliever will get a chance to start the season as the teams closer after he had a solid 2015 campaign by posting a 1.60 ERA in 33.2 innings thrown (36 games) whiile saving 9 games. He also struck out 37 batters. If Vizcaino does good throughout the season expect Jason Grilli to be the setup man as he is older and looks like a future trade deadline candidate.
As a matter of fact, the Phillies are the same as the Braves with the rebuilding mode and waiting on prospects to takeover, but expect Maikel Franco to stay healthy and get a full season to show off his power and belt 30 bombs. The 23-year-old third baseman has all the tools to become the best third baseman in the game today, power, contact, fielding, and expect him to steal more bases than shown throughout his minor league career. Franco is the heart of the Phillies lineup and they will rely heavily on him to provide an offensive burst. Franco finished the 2015 season by playing in only 80 games due to injuries. In those 80 games, he batted .280 (304 at-bats) and belted 14 homers and drove in 50 RBIs.
Furthermore, the Nationals need to help Bryce Harper and the one player that has been a up and down signing has been Jayson Werth. If Werth stays healthy and hits like he did in Philly (2007-2010) and his early to mid National years (2012-2014), then the Nationals have a guy to protect Harper in the lineup or to hit in front of him and get on base for Harper to drive them in. Werth is an older player (36) and will need some days off to stay healthy, which Baker is good about doing. Limited to injuries, Werth had a slash line of .221/.302/.384/.685 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 88 games (331 at-bats).
In addition, the Marlins signed Edwin Jackson to become an innings eater, which he is a reliable pitcher capable of doing so. Jackson had a rough time with the Cubs, but last year in the pen for the Cubs and Braves, he produced well with a 4-3 record, 3.07 ERA in 55.2 innings of work and punching out 40 batters in 47 appearances. The 32-year-old is competing with David Phelps and Adam Conley for the fifth spot and should win it. Jackson is bound to have a stellar campaign in Miami and to show the Marlins and other MLB teams that he can still pitch like his old form back in his only All-Star season (2009).
Finally, the Mets player that could be the key factor on winning the division could be Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Conforto, or Noah “Thor” Syndergaard, but Steven Matz is who I am picking. Matz is a young southpaw and the Mets only left hander in their rotation that will play a big part his year as he is expected to produce at a high level for a less seasoned 24 year old. The southpaw went 4-0 last year with a 2.27 ERA in 6 starts (35.2 innings, 34 K’s). Matz will be the number four starter and is protected throughout the rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey, Colon, and Wheeler (when healthy). Matz did get hurt last year. If Matz can give the Mets 170 innings of work then it will help out the bullpen in a long season. Lastly, the rotation and Matz need to go deep in games to save Jeurys Familia’s arm and keep him fresh for a run to the playoffs.