Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
That's it! You all have stood the way of my predictions long enough! I'm going to that clown college!

Well, I don't think any of us expected him to say that.

The 2021 NL East was not impressive, quality wise. I seem to recall a certain team we're all quite fond of around these parts posting a 14-6 record against these squads, including a 6-0 sweep hung on the tails of the eventual World Series Champs (who also won only 88 games, good enough for 5th*!* if they'd been in the AL East). Did I mention 2021 was a really, really annoying season?

The 2022 version hints that it will be more competitive, with each team (aside from one) prioritizing addition over subtraction in regards to talent. To my eye there are three teams here with a real postseason chance, another that appears leaning back into the "build" side of their "Build-Tear Down" perpetual cycle, and then a team with a good chance to be the worst in the National League. Lets give them all a look.

Atlanta Barves (2021: 88-73, 1st, Won World Series)

Q: Can they do it again?

A: Yes, it's entirely possible. Not even that crazy to think it.

After superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. went down for the year with a terrible knee injury July 10th, the obituaries for Atlanta's 2021 season were already being written. This had been a disappointing team already, middling around .500 after an exciting playoff run to the NLCS the year previously. Instead, recognizing just how godawful the NL East was, Atlanta set about to fix what had already been their most glaring hole: an atrocious outfield. Prospect Christian Pache was unable to hit even his own preteen weight, Ender Inciarte's days of being a viable big league hitter continued to fade in the distance, and big free agent re-signing Marcell Ozuna... well that was just terrible in many unforgivable ways and we'll leave it at that.

With Acuna Jr. now gone, Atlanta made a flurry of trades to overhaul their flailing outfield. Jorge Soler was poached from the Royals, Joc Pederson from the Cubs, Adam Duvall from the Marlins and Eddie Rosario from the Clevelands. Aside from Duvall, most of these were buy-low (we need a warm body) type additions. Soler had led the American League in homers during 2019 with the Royals, but was putting up a .658 OPS when the KC trade went down. Likewise Pederson wasn't enjoying the Wrigley Field breakout the Cubs were surely hoping for (91 OPS+), Rosario had left his power hitting in Minnesota (.389 SLG in Cleveland versus a career .478 as a Twin) while swing happy Duvall was having another useful home run heavy season for a Marlins team going nowhere.

Well, you all know the rest of the story... which is good because I don't. For the first time since the 90s I didn't watch a single second of the World Series, or the NLCS. After the Brewers and Giants were done so was I. Good for Atlanta...I guess. Meh.

The biggest surprise (from a team of surprises) was their offseason, especially the curious decision to let franchise icon Freddie Freeman leave for a National League rival. From a viewpoint of asset management it makes sense, since Atlanta was able to acquire another star first baseman in Matt Olson, who is five years younger than Freeman, signed a contract extension with similar money and is a hometown kid. From a spiritual viewpoint though, it's an awful cold way to say farewell to one of the greatest players to wear your uniform and was just crucial in winning you a ring. I can get it, but I don't have to like it.

So I won't. I don't like this team. Having Ozuna back certainly makes that easier for me. They should be good, though. Postseason heroes Soler and Pederson have departed but Duvall and Rosario remain. Combine that with Olson, shortstop Dansby Swanson, 2021 breakout star third baseman Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies continuing to add power and a returning Acuna Jr. (sometime in May)... this should be an offense causing all sorts of trouble. Meanwhile their rotation still boasts a formidable top three of Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson, another effective young arm in Huascar Ynoa, and of course a big lottery ticket in Canadian Mike Soroka (still recovering from an Achilles injury, possibly back midseason). The bullpen, which wasn't exactly a weakness in 2021, is now deeper also with Kenley Jansen aboard to finish games, Colin McHugh around to do Colin McHugh things, and Kirby Yates to be a lottery ticket among lottery tickets.

It's extremely difficult to point at something this team is lacking enough that it could be their undoing. Even the 2021 team won six fewer games than they should have by Pythagoreas, and this 2022 team looks even better than that one to me. Still, the division could also be better also. Segue!

Philadelphia Phillies (2021: 82-80, 2nd)

Q: Can this team outscore their many, many holes?

A: Probably not, but kudos on them because they're sure gonna try it looks like.

Despite what you might have presumed (I know I did), the 2021 Phillies were an ordinary offense. I do suspect sometimes when a team has multiple star names (and the actual MVP of the league in this case) we tend to assume from a distance how that must be the engine that makes them win. It's true Philadelphia has those stars with the stick: Bryce Harper (said MVP), the best hitting catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura etc. Plenty of above average contributors. Alas, it was the bundle of at-bats given to well below average contributors that dragged the Phillies attack down to league average levels in nearly every category. 408 plate appearances of .205/.270/.370 from free agent addition Didi Gregorius, a disappointing 75 OPS+ from third base prospect Alec Bohm in 417 PAs (I had him tagged as a breakout candidate last year), far too much all-field-no-bat Ronald Torreyes (.632 OPS in 111 games) for any contending team, and then backup catcher Andrew Knapp's truly horrific .152/.215/.214 line in 159 plate appearances. Truly the stuff of Luke Maile nightmares, that.

To counteract that awfulness, for 2022 the Phillies decided to invest in raising their offensive floor, adding Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to long term deals. With the National League now instituting the DH (boo), this does assure one of those two defensively challenged players won't have to play the field... problem is Philadelphia already has a lot of those guys. Rhys Hoskins is no great shakes at first, Alec Bohm (who they're still counting on at third base, looks like) was genuinely terrible with the glove, Didi Gregorius was never a strong fielder at shortstop and he's 32 now, likewise Bryce Harper in right field... plus now you're going to have at least one of Schwarber or Castellanos out there trying to catch balls in the outfield. This is not a unit that is going to turn a lot of hits into outs (most likely the opposite). They'll be asking a lot of the pitching staff.

Speaking of that, how does the situation on the rubber look? Well... Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler make a pretty formidable front two in the rotation. After that, it gets somewhat murky. 2021 Deadline acquisition Kyle Gibson didn't quite deliver what was hoped (4-6, 5.09), Zach Eflin is fairly serviceable but is also a pitch to contact type (.272 batting avg against with a nearly league average strikeout rate at 22 percent) which might not jive well with the personnel behind him. Ranger Suarez is the wildcard here, in a true Charlie Kelly fashion (hey, we are talking Philly here). Suarez was excellent in 2021 as a swingman and continued said excellence once moved into the rotation during the stretch run. A 1.36 ERA in 106 innings certainly catches the eye. Expecting an ERA just over 1 again is probably asking too much (who is he, Jacob deGrom?) but if he can replicate his 2021 success enough to even just be a strong third option behind Nola and Wheeler, well it'll be some sunny times always in Philadelphia.

Quickly on the Phillies bullpen, which in recent years has been enough of a tire fire to tire out the fiery Philly fans. They've made some notable short term additions on that front also: former Brewers closer Corey Knebel, longtime Mets fireballer Jeurys Familia, and of course old "friend" Brad Hand. So, they're doomed then. Good to know!

This is a tough team to gauge. Their defense promises to be atrocious everywhere beyond catcher and maybe second base, but if their pitching hits its upside that won't matter as much. It also remains to be seen just how much Castellanos and Schwarber can improve this average-ish offense, as both bring serious upside but have quite a few seasons of meh production on their resumes as well. It looks really good on paper, how the pieces all fit together remains to be seen.

New York Mets (2021: 77-85, 3rd)

Q: Will these new cotton uniforms straighten the Mets out finally?

A: Oh no they've shrunk! They look like penguins out there! Forget it, this one's over!

One hopes the new Mets manager has stopped taking advice from unemployed balding men who live with their parents. Buck Showalter is back in New York! And he has a lot of shiny toys at his disposal. For the second straight offseason the Mets have been throwing money around, this time bringing in outfielder Starling Marte, utility piece Mark Canha, versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar and the big ticket: the incomparable Max Scherzer. Add that to the core of deGrom, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo... you gotta think finally, at long last, the depth is finally there for the Mets to not be a soul crushing disappointment, right. Right?

Nah, they're still gonna bungle it somehow. We're talking about the freaking New York Mets here.

Despite the splashy free agent scores, this is still a team that needs a lot to go right for them. Full healthy seasons from deGrom and Carlos Carrasco? Okay, now you'd have my attention... that with Mad Max would be the best top three in baseball (edit: the news of deGrom being shut down for a month to begin the season... not a good start). Strangely, pitching wasn't their problem in 2021 (their 3.90 ERA ranked 5th in the NL). It was the offense: 12th in OPS and home runs, 13th in runs scored! (only the Marlins and Pirates scored fewer). One assumes Marte's speed/gap power combo can help with that, although 33 year old outfielders do tend to drop off quickly sometimes. Canha and Escobar are solid vets who should at least be competent up there, but this is a team that needs somebody to be dangerous alongside Alonso. Maybe a Jeff McNeil bounceback does that, a prime Lindor season, or Nimmo being able to play more than 100 games (he's only done it once). Just two of those three things could be enough to bring the Queens attack to modest respectability.

Try as they might have by adding solid but unspectacular veterans, there are so many variables and different outcomes for this squad in 2022. Losing Marcus Stroman's dependable innings will sneakily really hurt if deGrom or Mad Max miss significant time. It's hard to bet on the positive side when you know the recent history of stunning collapses. Whatever crazy thing can go wrong... will happen even crazier than possibly imagined. It's the freaking Mets.

Miami Marlins (2021: 67-95, 4th)

Q: Are they two years away or two years from being two years away?

A: Until they can actually develop some position players into big league hitters, that question with endure in perpetuity.

They've attempted to upgrade a batting squad that ranked 14th in runs scored in the National League. Infielder Joey Wendle and his Rays peskiness is now here, along with World Series MVP Jorge Soler (to play centerfield apparently? Good luck with that) and former Brewer Avisail Garcia. The club is surely hoping on continued development from outfielder Jesus Sanchez and second baseman Jazz Chisholm (great name), both of whom are 23 and have already shown some pop in the stick.

Pitching is where this team shines, ranking 6th in ERA in the NL which is darn impressive for a team that lost 95 games. That'll tell you how bad their offense was, and likely will be again in 2022 barring several Giant Leaps Forward(TM) by their youngsters. If that happens, and these veterans are the best enough versions of themselves to cobble an effective lineup together... then you might have something here. Not something I'd bet on, personally.

Still, they have three young and very good starters in Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers and Pablo Lopez, plus Jesus Luzardo and his top prospect shine still in the mix. This seems like a squad destined to lose a lot of 4-2 games, doesn't it. Still, Alcantara, Rogers and Lopez are all under team control for the next half decade, so there's plenty of time still.

Washington Nationals (2021: 65-97, 5th)

Q: Is this a sleeper pick for worst team in baseball?

A: You betcha.

Flags fly forever, of course, and the Nationals gifted us baseball fans with one of the most memorable World Series Game 7s in recent memory. This version of the Nationals though promises to be offending and nasty on the eyes.

That might be a bit harsh on a team that employs Juan Soto, upon whom words cannot describe his sheer brilliance at the plate. If Josh Bell has a rough year, or time catches up with 41 year old Nelson Cruz... I feel like Soto has a chance to draw 170 walks. Why would you pitch to him?

I suppose there's a path to respectability for the 2022 Nationals though (unlike say, the Diamondbacks or Pirates). Stephen Strasburg's current injury is extremely worrying (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is what, among other things, robbed Matt Harvey of his velocity) but if Strasburg can make it back and be himself even for 100 innings, or if Patrick Corbin can find his pre-COVID era form... suddenly you've got an interesting pitching staff. Likewise with Soto, Bell and Cruz... you could maybe envision a league average-ish offense. I mean there's some upside there... upside to something like 75 wins... but upside nonetheless!

Nah, they'll be pretty bad. Just the matter of degrees is to be decided. Instead, lets take a look at the ageless Nelson Cruz. The National League adopting the DH has potentially added a year or two to his career, which might be enough for him to reach 500 home runs. He needs 51 at the moment, and it would be a shame in the end if he fell about 20 short (considering he lost about 100 potential games thanks to the COVID season). On Cruz's 30th birthday, July 1st 2010, he had just 65 major league home runs to his name. That's seven fewer than Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who only turned 23 last month, and 33 fewer than his new teammate Juan Soto (who is five months older than Guerrero Jr.). Cruz's totals aren't skewed by any singular insane seasons either: his career high is 44 (2015 with Seattle) and he's only hit 40 or more four times (14-16, 2019). Just awesome consistency, and if he can reach 500 we might be talking about one of the greatest "old" hitters in the modern era.

All right, clown college time. Predictions away!

ATL -- 96-66
PHI -- 89-73
MIA -- 80-82
NYM -- 78-84
WSH -- 60-102 

Picking the Marlins ahead of the Mets is my completely crazy "go through the loop" trick here but I just don't trust the Mets at all to not screw things up, plus if Miami's offense can improve from dreadful to below average that will make a difference, so I'll gamble on that. Atlanta is an automatic pick to win it as easily the best team in the division, but I think the Phillies have added enough talent to be interesting. If Gregorius and Bohm actually hit, that lineup will be a juggernaut... despite the certainty of the Philly defense being hilariously bad.

Hey, how about some playoff predictions while we're here. With the new format in mind and the records I've predicted so far, here's what I've got for the National League:

LAD 103-59
ATL 96-66
MIL 91-71
PHI 89-73
StL 88-74
SF 87-75

Seems reasonable, though I think you could swap any of those bottom four teams with the Padres and nobody would be surprised. Next time, we move into the junior circuit... the exciting world of the AL West, featuring yet another team trying to be bad on purpose. And those hapless Angels...

A 2022 Quick Look at the National League East | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
JohnL - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 09:24 AM EDT (#411810) #
It is kind of sickening in a way that a poorer team, season-wise won the WS while the Jays were out of it.

On a related note, is the plural of “barf” “barves”?
bpoz - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 09:43 AM EDT (#411811) #
That is the nature of the AL. 91 wins got us nothing. Should be easier now. But I see an Oakland team making it in the future and going far. They are happy to have a 3-5 year window and then tear it down.
John Northey - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#411813) #
A quick review of recent results - doubt the NL East has been as lopsided as the West or as pathetic as the Central but lets see...
  • 2021: Atl-Phi-NYM-Mia-Wsh
  • 2020: Atl-Mia*-Phi-NYM-Wsh
  • 2019: Atl-Wsh*-NYM-Phi-Mia
  • 2018: Atl-Wsh-Phi-NYM-Mia
  • 2017: Wsh-Mia-Atl-NYM-Phi
  • 2016: Wsh-NYM*-Mia-Phi-Atl
  • 2015: NYM-Wsh-Mia-Atl-Phi
  • 2014: Wsh-Atl-NYM-Mia-Phi
  • 2013: Atl-Wsh-NYM-Phi-Mia
  • 2012: Wsh-Atl*-Phi-NYM-Mia
  • 2011: Phi-Atl-Wsh-NYM-Mia
  • 2010: Phi-Atl*-Mia-NYM-Wsh
Summary by team...
  • Atlanta: 5 wins (including the past 4 straight), then 4-1-1-1 for 2nd-3rd-4th-5th. I'd say they are dominating the NL East, 9 of 12 years 1st or 2nd, 2 WC so 7 playoff appearances including last years WS win.
  • Washington: 4 wins, 4-1-0-3 - in a slump (2 straight last place) right now, but otherwise a nice 12 years. 1 WC so 5 playoff appearances including 1 WS win
  • Philly: 2 wins, 1-3-3-3. Once Halladay's career ended so too did the Phillies. Last year their first time as high as 2nd place since 2011. No wild cards, no WS, last WS was 2009, last WS win was 2008 Hard to believe they have been around since 1883 and only won the WS twice.
  • NYM: 1 win, 1-4-6-0 - not in last since 2003 surprisingly, they've often been bad but not THAT bad. 1 WC, lost the WS in 2015, last won the WS in 1986.
  • Miami: 0 wins, 2-3-2-5 - they did get a WC once (good ol' 2020), so everyone in the division has been in the playoffs since 2010. They were the Florida Marlins up until 2012 when they became Miami as a condition for the new park taxpayers paid a LOT for. 2003 their last WS win - in fact outside of 2020 their previous playoff appearances always ended with a WS win (2). They have NEVER won their division though.
So most definitely a 2 team division in Atlanta & Washington which is odd given Philly & the Mets have financial resources up there with the Yankees & Dodgers (both in the NY region). Miami needs to be run like the Rays to have a shot - cheap and very, very smart.
BlueJayWay - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 12:32 PM EDT (#411814) #
Oakland just traded Manaea to the Padres....
Mike Green - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 12:42 PM EDT (#411816) #
Barfs like Maple Leafs, JohnL.

I think the Phillies are going to take the division by bludgeoning opponents and getting to 91 wins.
greenfrog - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 01:12 PM EDT (#411817) #
Atlanta Barves

I'm thinking of a new advertising campaign: "Olson. Acuna. Albies. Come see baseball the way it was meant to be played. Barfball."
bpoz - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#411818) #
Good trade for SD.
John Northey - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#411820) #
Boy is Oakland clearing house this winter. Sean Manaea and Aaron Holiday for Euribiel Angeles and Adrian Martinez.  Fits Oakland perfectly.  Angeles is turning 20 this season and has shown a decent bat while playing 2B/3B/SS.  Martinez is a long time minor leaguer ready for his shot.  Holiday is a 13th round pick last year so unlikely to be much.  Manaea is a free agent after 2022 so of declining value this season.  Angeles I see as the key here - if he is a hot prospect then this will work well for Oakland, otherwise I feel they could've done better.  Still, #1 to them is getting some more depth in the minors right now to prepare for 2-3 years down the road. has Angeles as Oakland's #10 prospect now.Martinez #25.  It is a deep system now. 
AWeb - Sunday, April 03 2022 @ 05:02 PM EDT (#411822) #
It is my assumption that DeGrom will never be able to stay healthy throwing superextra hard all the time. He was already the best pitcher throwing 96, but he has upped that to 99 the past two years. I know all pitchers break eventually, but adding that much juice made it inevitable...imo anyway. Even guys like Verlander tended to ramp up to full speed, not just sit at 100mph.

Looks like Atlanta wins by default? Division full of teams that I don't want to root for.
Glevin - Monday, April 04 2022 @ 11:43 AM EDT (#411847) #
Braves were probably one of the worst teams ever to win a World Series but they were also missing their best player and some other good players so I expect them to be a much better team this year. It's a fun division with 3 teams going for it in different ways. I feel badly for Soto who is in a generational talent but stuck on a rebuilding team probably until he's a free agent. Nats might look into trading him because they could get an absolute ton of top prospects/young talent.
John Northey - Monday, April 04 2022 @ 04:13 PM EDT (#411877) #
Just for fun I checked Baseball Trade Values to try to figure out a Soto trade.  Basically to make one work you'd need a lot (duh) he is valued at 224.7 with 3 years of control left.
To make it work you'd need to eat Strasburg's contract (5 years of $35 mil a year) which eats up 155.1 of it, then find 70 more in value which would roughly be Moreno (67) or Manoah (76).  Vlad is 79.8, Bichette 127.7 (I suspect that is mainly due to Vlad being in arbitration now) as reference points.

So yeah, getting Soto out of Washington would be damn hard.  Our top prospect plus eating $35 mil a year for 5 years for an injured pitcher who might never pitch.  Ain't gonna happen.  Fun to check though (the concept of a lineup with Vlad, Bo, and Soto...drool).
bpoz - Monday, April 04 2022 @ 07:34 PM EDT (#411884) #
Vlad, Bo, Soto!!! I need a heart emoji.
A 2022 Quick Look at the National League East | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.