2013 result: 86-76, 2nd place
Blame it on having to follow a 98-win season (and thus hoping to alleviate the sting of their NLDS loss to the Cardinals), but it was difficult to see the 2013 Nationals as anything but a disappointment. At 86-76, they were far from an embarrassment, and certainly didn’t trip over their shoelaces in the face of high expectations like, say, the Blue Jays or the previous year’s Marlins. Unlike the Dodgers or Yankees, however, they’ve sought to address the hype with a low-key offseason. They replaced Davey Johnson with the dynamic Matt Williams as manager, and landed underrated starter Doug Fister in a lopsided trade with the Tigers. An offseason whose greatest triumph was acquiring Detroit’s fourth-best starter seems like a dud, but actually therein lays its success. The Nationals are a team that simply needed to augment their rotation and get a fresh start, and getting Fister and hiring Williams does just that. If the rotation performs to its full potential, and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper stay healthy, and Williams improves Johnson’s clubhouse coordination issues, the Nationals are a safe choice for their second division title in Washington.
Prediction: 95-67, 1st place
2013 result: 96-66, 1st place, lost to Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 in NLDS
With Brian McCann off to instruct the AL on home run etiquette, the Braves can still savor having reliable stars like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, and Justin Upton, as well as a host of young talent from their top-tier farm system. But McCann was far from the only notable departure, with Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Scott Downs, Eric O’Flaherty, Luis Ayala, and Reed Johnson all leaving as well. For many playoff teams this would probably prove to be a decisive step back, but for a franchise that’s been a contender almost every year since 1991 it’s hardly a blip on their radar. Expect them to stay locked in the division race with Washington until the end, and if they don’t claim that, a wild card spot should come easy.
Prediction: 92-70, 2nd place
New York Mets
2013 result: 74-88, 3rd place
It seems like an eternity since the Mets’ embarrassing back-to-back collapses in 2007 and 2008. Those years were followed by a steady plummet in the standings as the Phillies dominated the division. But after that stretch of on-field futility and front office frustration, the Amazins look like they’re finally clicking into place as an organization again. They doled out star contracts for Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, the latter of whom will augment an underrated rotation with Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, and DIllon Gee. The presence of Granderson’s and Chris Young will simultaneously address the team’s outfield issues and their anemic home run production over the past few years. Give them credit too for showing so much promise even with ace Matt Harvey out for the season, recovering from Tommy John surgery. They’ve still got a ways to go until they’re playoff-ready, but 2014 should nonetheless present a satisfying step forward for an oft-struggling franchise.
Prediction: 79-83, 3rd place
2013 result: 73-89, 4th place
As the Fightins lumbered to a fourth place finish in 2013, it was clear they were a rebuilding team with too many aging position players. So they addressed this situation in the offseason by…signing more aging position players. With a two-year deal for the 36-year-old Marlon Byrd and a three-year extension for the injury plagued, 35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies easily made my pick for the most clueless offseason approach. Worse, not only did they sink a good portion of money into old players, but they’ve spent relatively little outside of it. GM Ruben Amaro needs to realize the calendar has flipped past 2008-2010 and start rebuilding now. Otherwise, the team will continue to age to the point that just might as well ask Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, and Mike Schmidt to suit up again.
Prediction: 75-87, 4th place
2013 result: 63-100, 5th place
Well….at least they’ve got Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton! After a speedy flight of star players in 2012 that saw Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle depart via trade, the Marlins’ descent from championship contender to rebuilding mode was instant. In 2013, Fernandez’s ROTY campaign and Stanton were all that kept the Marlins from being mentioned in the same breath as the utterly hapless Astros. Going into 2014, they have a robust lineup of young arms that includes Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner alongside Fernandez, as well as sound if not incredible acquisitions such as Rafael Furcal, Garrett Jones, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But it’s hard to envision Miami escaping the cellar in a division with more experienced rosters and stellar position players to match their starting rotations.
Prediction: 67-95, 5th place
Who will win the NL East in 2014
- Washington Nationals (87%, 13 Votes)
- New York Mets (7%, 1 Votes)
- Atlanta Braves (7%, 1 Votes)
- Miami Marlins (0%, 0 Votes)
- Philadelphia Phillies (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 15