Spring Training Report Cards: NL East
With the final Sunday before Opening Day behind us, it’s time to assess how each of the five teams from the NL East did in the preseason. This is not a general assessment of their performance, but is an evaluation based on how well each team performed relative to their expectations coming into 2016.
Atlanta Braves: C-
I’d feel bad giving the Braves too low of a grade, since their expectations weren’t high coming into the year. Regardless, the Braves have gone 6-17 this spring with 6 games left to play. Their run production hasn’t actually been horrible, sitting in the middle of the Grapefruit League with 126 runs scored this spring. The real problem has been pitching; the Braves have ceded 163 runs thus far, a number rivaled by few. With that said, they continue to make moves this offseason, acquiring former Nationals outfielder Tyler Moore, as well as nabbing Eric O’Flaherty from Pittsburgh. Also worth considering is the trade stock of current closer, Jason Grilli. The Braves have been open to trading relief pitchers over the past few seasons, and there are a few teams with higher playoff potential looking for a veteran closer. With that said, I can’t imagine one trade turning this season into a success. Expect the regular season to be more of the same in Atlanta.
Miami Marlins: C
I’m not saying that the Marlins are already done in 2016, but I did expect a team with so much talent to look a little more convincing in their argument that they were a NL East contender. It’s safe to say that the Marlins underperformed this spring; Miami is 9-12 with 5 games still left to play. So far, they have generated the least offense of any team this preseason, with just 82 runs- the caveat to that number is that Giancarlo Stanton has missed a chunk of Spring Training with back soreness. Still, this just shows that if Stanton continues to have health struggles, or misses a hefty bit of the season like he did in 2015, then there does not seem to be a lot of offensive production elsewhere. The pitching has been solid, top 5 in the Grapefruit League with 104, but if the offense is unable to provide at least a semblance of run support, it may not be enough.
New York Mets: C-
Coming into the year, a lot of people viewed the Mets and Nationals as the front runners in the NL East. I still think this is true, but Spring Training has been rough on New York thus far. Their offense has been below-average thus far and their pitching is bottom three in the Grapefruit League. This does give offensive cause for concern, but with Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright looking better and Asdrubal Cabrera returning from an injury earlier this spring, the Mets may find their groove (and Opening Day lineup) in time. The pitching is also worth mentioning, since in Spring Training, starters do not go nearly as long as they normally would. So more of the concern surrounds the bullpen than the starters. All the same, expect the Mets to find their form in the regular season and contend in the NL East.
Philadelphia Phillies: B+
The Phillies were expected to be in the same situation as Atlanta coming into 2016. Their preseason has opened turned some heads already. Their bats have been their most impressive aspect, wracking up 142 runs and posting a 14-9 record. Namely, third baseman Maikel Franco has been on a power surge with 8 homers. Their pitching does seem to be the weaker link, but is still middle of the pack. Jeremy Hellickson has looked strong his last two starts, but I still feel that the rotation lacks the depth needed when the regular season rolls around, and the offense will have off nights. Still, the Phils have provided their fans hope that, within a few years, Philadelphia baseball can be strong again.
Washington Nationals: A
The Nats have been stellar this spring. While preseason success does not guarantee regular season success, I think it paints a bright picture for Washington headed into 2016. Their offensive production has been dominant, 157 runs tops the Grapefruit League, and their pitching has looked good too. Coming into the year my biggest concern for Washington was going to be their bullpen. So far neither that nor their starters have looked shaky on the mound. As the season progresses and fatigue begins to set in, it’ll be interesting to see if the story changes. Right now, though, the Nationals looked poised to compete atop the NL East.