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MLB Previews: Nats look to run away, but rest of division looks to improve

Jake Brown, Sports Editor

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The MLB offseason was full of big trades, signings and extensions. Now we’re close to Spring Training. This is the second of six editions of predictions for each division for this baseball season.

 

Washington: The Nationals are coming off of an okay offseason. They addressed needs such as a catcher, leadoff centerfielder, some bullpen help and bench players. Recently, former Orioles catcher Matt Wieters signed a two-year deal with the Nats, causing a dilemma for the Nationals that everyone would love to have: too many catchers. The Nationals have a hole in the closer role in the bullpen after losing Mark Melancon to the Giants. The Nationals have expressed interest in White Sox closer David Robertson, and the White Sox happen to have a hole at catcher. The Nationals could package a deal for Robertson, sending new acquisition catcher Derek Norris or prospect catcher Pedro Severino. The Nationals have also acquired White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton, sending three top pitching prospects in return, and they also got first base help by signing first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind to a one-year deal. The Nationals could use help offensively though, needing comeback years from outfielder and former MVP Bryce Harper and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. If everything goes well, they’re a World Series team.

 

New York: The Mets have had injury trouble over the past few years despite having the youngest and possibly best rotation in baseball, featuring starters Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. But the fivesome have never been together in one season because of Tommy John surgeries and other elbow injuries. It’s not just the pitching side either. Third baseman David Wright is still recovering from a neck injury and won’t be back until May, and first baseman Lucas Duda just came back from another injury. Don’t forget closer Jeurys Familia is still being investigated for domestic violence and could be suspended for at least 30 games. The Mets are a mess right now, and chances are pretty bleak that they’ll be able to come back from their amazing 2015 run to the World Series.

Miami: Miami made huge adjustments to the bullpen, acquiring relievers such as Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, but the death of former starter Jose Fernandez might setback the team for a few years as they work to develop another ace. Starter Wei-Yin Chen is not that. Chen, the projected Opening Day starter, had an ERA of 4.96 and won just 5 games in 10 decisions in an injury-shortened 2016 season. The thing that will help the Marlins win games is the offense. Outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna had breakout seasons, and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is always fun to watch with his 450+ foot home runs. Stanton, though, has never had a 40-home run season despite his potential, and has only played 140 games twice in his seven-year career. If Stanton can stay healthy, you can expect significant production from the rest of the lineup. Second baseman Dee Gordon has also been convicted of steroids, and shortly after his 80-game suspension was announced, Nationals starter Max Scherzer said that the PED use was a “dark cloud” over baseball. We’ll see how Gordon does, and who else is using steroids.

 

Philadelphia: The Phillies have good parts, with first baseman Tommy Joseph, third baseman Maikel Franco and outfielder Odubel Herrera coming off of breakout years. There are still some places where the Phillies can improve, such as the starting rotation and the bullpen.The Phillies gave starter Jeremy Hellickson the qualifying offer for $17 million to help lead the rotation. Other than that, and the subtraction of first baseman Ryan Howard, not much change for the Phillies.

Atlanta: The Braves exceeded expectations in 2016 even though they were still a last place team. There has been some development with pitcher Matt Wisler, and we got to see shortstop Dansby Swanson for a while, but first baseman Freddie Freeman would’ve had an MVP caliber year if he was on any other team. Expect him to lead the Braves through the rebuilding phase and hit 30+ homers and 100+ RBI this season.

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MLB Previews: Nats look to run away, but rest of division looks to improve