While it’s premature as the off-season is not over yet and there are still moves that can be made, there are so few things happening that I thought we should take a look at what each team has done thus far and who they plan to put on the field. I present my analysis in the order in which I predict them to finish.
When you run away with the division you really don’t have to do much and that’s exactly what they’ve done. In fact, by comparison they make the Mets look like the Padres or Dodgers. They traded Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers for a few minor leaguers who don’t look to have an immediate impact on their future. The biggest change for them is their hopeful return to health for Ryan Zimmerman who takes over for departed free agent Adam LaRoche at 1st base. They still have a formidable pitching staff that includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark. Their bullpen includes the 1-2 punch of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. In addition to Ryan Zimmerman, they also feature Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmon, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth along with catcher Wilson Ramos. Pencil them in for first place right now.
New York Mets
With a return to health and career average performances from some of their regulars, the NY Mets should easily finish 2nd behind the Nationals. Lucas Duda is coming off a 30 HR season. Daniel Murphy is solid. Wilmer Flores is a quantum leap over Ruben Tejada. David Wright is on the mend. Curtis Granderson has a full year against NL pitching under his belt. Gold Glover Juan Lagares Increased his offensive production last year and hopes to build upon that progress. Newcomer Michael Cuddyer is a professional hitter who, though he cost some big dollars and a first round draft pick, should solidify the revolving door in the other corner outfield position. Travis d’Arnaud looked like the hot prospect he was touted to be after his return from Las Vegas. The pitching staff gets All-Star Matt Harvey back again in addition to a plethora of solid pitchers that could enable the team to trade one or two starters before the season begins. The bullpen will eventually get the return of flamethrower Bobby Parnell to join last year’s surprising 28 save man Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, sub 2.00 ERA Josh Edgin and long man Carlos Torres.
One of the more active teams this Hot Stove season, the Florida Marlins have improved their team with some notable additions. Slugger Michael Morse takes over at 1st Base. Speed demon Dee Gordon takes over at 2nd. Flashy glove man Adeiny Hechavarria returns at SS and professional hitter Martin Prado supplants Casey McGehee at 3rd. Their young outfield returns unchanged with Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center and newly minted gazillionaire Giancarlo Stanton in right. Jarrod Saltalamacchia returns at catcher as well. The starting rotation should eventually see the return of Jose Fernandez. Until then it will include Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, maybe Dan Haren (if he doesn’t retire or get traded back to the west coast) and a plethora of candidates for the other open slot(s). Steven Cishek returns as the closer with an unheralded and somewhat uneven bullpen. If a few things break right, they could leapfrog the Mets.
While this club continues to age like a bottle of milk left out on the counter, the fact remains that they do still have a nucleus of some solid players interspersed with overpaid or unproven others. At 1st Base they have the underperforming contract albatross, Ryan Howard. Chase Utley – their Troy Tulowitzki – returns at 2nd. For the first time in what seems like forever Jimmy Rollins is gone and replaced by utilityman Freddy Galvis and 3rd Base manned by the unspectacular Cody Asche. The outfield is pretty strong and right now returns intact with Domonic Brown in left, Ben Revere in center and Marlon Byrd in right. Catcher Carlos Ruiz turns 36 this year and you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Their 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation is as good as any team in baseball with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (assuming they are healthy) but after that it’s warm bodies , with David Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Gonzalez penciled it at this juncture. Jonathan Papelbon is still a solid closer but then it’s a lot of hoping and praying beyond that.
As bad as the Phillies look, I actually think the Braves are worse, though positioned to improve sooner than the boys from the city of brotherly love due to the plethora of prospects they received in a flurry of off-season trades. First base is manned by arguably the league’s best, Freddie Freeman. Journeyman Alberto Callaspo takes over for the departed Dan Uggla at 2nd. All-Star caliber Andrelton Simmons mans SS and then you have the underwhelming Chris Johnson at 3rd. The outfield which was once a strength now features misplaced catcher Evan Gattis in left, contract-from-hell B.J. Upton in center and puzzling free agent acquisition Nick Markakis in right. Catching duties are being handled by Christian Bethancourt. The rotation does still have Julio Teheran and newcomer Shelby Miller, plus reliever-turned-starter Alex Wood. Then it gets a bit shaky with Mike Minor and David Hale. The bullpen has lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel, followed by the dice roll on a bunch of no-names. If any of their youngsters prosper during 2015 they could challenge the Phillies for 4th but right now they look like a lock for the basement. They sport exactly one hitter in the lineup – Freeman – with 25 homer potential. Gattis may do it but he’s rumored to be on the trading block. This team is going to struggle to score runs and doesn’t appear to have the pitching to carry a moribund offense.