We’ve been so busy picking apart the Mets roster this off-season, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a broader look at our division rivals to see how we measure up. Unlike other divisions, the NL East does not have a doormat team. The Marlins might not be a playoff favorite, but they’ve got more talent than any other projected fifth place finisher in either league. And, as you’ll see, they’re the least of our concerns. Here’s your annual NL East preview.

Atlanta Braves

Strengths: A strong middle-of-the-order with emerging star Ronald Acuna Jr., MVP/Mets crusher Freddie Freeman, and masher Marcel Ozuna. A strong rotation led by young guns Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson, and a deep bullpen topped by flamethrower A.J. Minter are both bolstered by a collection of carefully assembled veterans.

Weaknesses: The bottom of the lineup is potentially weak as the team is waiting for Austin Riley to establish himself at third and crosses its fingers that the young speedster Christian Pache can take over for the light-hitting Ender Inciarte in center field. Speaking of crossing fingers, as of this writing, the team does not have a proven catcher to back up the ever fragile Travis d’Arnaud. Ozuna can hit, but is a liability in the field and there’s no DH this year.

Best Player: Freeman

Wildcard: Pache

Best Case: Pache and Riley breakout, giving the Braves are strong lineup to support their pitching and they win a fourth consecutive division title.

Worst Case: Ozuna makes errors, d’Arnaud gets hurt, Riley is a bust, Pache isn’t ready and the pitching isn’t good enough to carry them beyond .500.

Prediction: Wild Card

Miami Marlins

Strengths: Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez lead a new wave of young rotation arms that are developing faster than expected. With so many great third basemen, you don’t hear much about Brian Anderson, but he’s a good ball player. Speedy, young outfielders will track down balls in the gap. Starling Marte is still on this team.

Weaknesses: The bullpen is largely unproven and the lineup lacks a real threat.

Best Player: Alcantara

Wildcard: Magneuris Sierra

Best Case: Some of the other young arms like Pablo Lopez, Nick Neidert and Elieser Hernandez develop and the team fights and scratches to a .500 record.

Worst Case: The Marllins get off to a slow start in a competitive division and trade away Marte at the deadline before sinking to last place.

Prediction: 5th place

New York Mets

Strengths: The strongest lineup this team has had since 2006 features power, speed, contact and balance. Adding a dynamic offensive player like Francisco Lindor to an already good lineup is scary for other teams. Jacob deGrom is without question the best pitcher in the game. A solid and versatile bench and some extra rotation arms should help the Mets overcome the usual injuries. They’ll get a jolt in early June when Noah Syndergaard returns.

Weaknesses: Outfield defense. Starting the season with three of our best pitchers on the IL. A poor fielding third baseman. Question marks in middle relief.

Best Player: deGrom

Wildcard: Syndergaard

Best Case: Those three pitchers return to health and the Mets find another reliable bullpen arm or two among who’s currently on the roster or available at mid-season. With this high octane offense, the pitching doesn’t need to be great, just good and reliable for them to make the playoffs. If Syndergaard comes back strong, this team could win the division and advance in the playoffs.

Worst Case: Syndergaard, Seth Lugo and Carlos Carrasco don’t all make it back and the pitching staff struggles.

Prediction: 1st place

Philadelphia Phillies

Strengths: A good lineup with six of their regulars capable of hitting 20+ homers. A strong top of the rotation.

Weaknesses: The bullpen was terrible last year and Archie Bradley won’t be enough to fix it. The backend of the rotation looks like a problem.

Best Player: Bryce Harper

Wildcard: Spencer Howard

Best Case: Howard has a big rookie year to give the Phillies four capable starters and the lineup stays healthy and keeps the team above .500 til the trade deadline when they bring in some reinforcements for the bullpen.

Worst Case: Zack Wheeler or Aaron Nola gets injured or Zack Efflin comes back to earth and the pitching proves too thin for this team to be competitive.

Prediction: 3rd place

Washington Nationals

Strengths: Rotation is one of the best with 3-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. Veteran Jon Lester is first in line to fill out the backend with Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Joe Ross competing for starts. The addition of Brad Hand should strengthen what should be a solid bullpen. Juan Soto is an absolute monster and Trea Turner is an All Star at shortstop.

Weaknesses: Soto will get walked 150 times as his only protection is Josh Bell. The rest of the lineup besides those two and Turner is hardly imposing. This team hasn’t replaced the departed Harper and Anthony Rendon and can’t consistently score runs. They have too many players than can field but not hit and vice versa.

Best Player: Soto

Wildcard: Carter Kieboom

Best Case: Kieboom develops, Victor Robles starts hitting, and Kyle Schwarber stays healthy and adds thump to the lineup. The key pitchers avoid the IL and this team can battle for a wild card.

Worst Case:  Too many errors in the field, too many runners stranded on base and not enough health among an aging pitching staff.

Prediction: 4th place

14 comments on “How do the Mets stack up in the NL East?

  • JohnFromAlbany

    1st Place Mets? Your lips to God’s ears.

    The Braves look real good but as you state they have potential holes. I don’t think Pache will be one though. He looks like he will be a solid defender in CF while at least hitting enough.

  • Metsense

    Mets win the division in a close race with the Braves.
    The other three teams will group themselves around .500 finishing in this order:
    Marlins, Nationals and Phillies. There won’t be a pasty in the division so therefore the division won’t produce a wild card team. It should be an exciting season.

  • BoomBoom

    Reading a lot all off-season about Noah providing a boost in June. Doesn’t it usually take a season or so for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John to find success? He’ll have the MPH, but what about the control? Still, much more realistic that Carrasco and Lugo act as impactful early trade deadline acquisitions.

    Our offense should overcome any defensive deficiencies. The key as usual will be the bullpen. Having someone like Castro turn into a lock down set up guy would really make things interesting. If we can hold onto 90% of our leads from the 7th inning on, we’ll hoist the division crown.

  • Wobbit

    Sorry, but I’ve been a Mets fan too long to gush with confidence. What could go wrong, except more than anyone could foresee. While the team has a great core of young and talented players, I fear they still don’t have the guy that they all rally around. There are a few that can partially suffice in that role, but bonfire leadership is what I’d like to see. Great leadership keeps the team together through rough spots. Just too many “ifs”.

    Starting with Luis Rojas. Good guy, very young. Will he jive with the new FO, lots of moving parts. Managing the pitching staff is a huge question mark. I’d like to see the Mets capable of manufacturing runs as much as relying on the home run… have not seen that.

    Generally, I think the team’s offense can outscore their defensive liabilities… but I wonder if they have the moxie to win close games against any of those NL East opponents. A lot has to come together to win the division… I think too much.

    Pardon my saying this, but I’d be very surprised if the Mets beat out the Braves. Pache, by the way, is a lock… the new Andrew Jones.

    Editor’s Note – Do not capitalize words for emphasis – violation of our Comment Policy

    • BobP

      Who is an example of who you think is “the guy” that they are missing? What about the best pitcher in the world?

    • MattyMets

      Braves fans are always welcome on Mets360.

  • Paulc

    For what it’s worth, here’s the FanGraphs projection:

    Mets 92 W
    Braves 89
    Nats 83
    Phils 81
    Marlins 73

    I think the Mets will place 2nd and face the Padres in the Wild Card as visitors in San Diego, so I hope FanGraphs is right.

  • Woodrow

    Lugo,Carrasco, and Syndergard… When do they return? How many innings do they pitch? Ho we’ll do they pitch? It all depends on them. If they all come back this team could be playing in the WS. Maybe they beat the Yanks in five!

  • NYM6986

    I think the added hitting and a more healthy rotation is a recipe for winning their division by 10 games. They hit the cover off the ball last year but losing Thor and Stroman’s opt out and Matz’ terrible season and having two retreads as mainstays in the rotation killed the year. Plain and simple.

  • ChrisF

    Right now the pitching staff is one of the big concerns. Yes, Jake is the best in the game. But that’s 1 out of every 5 starts, and we need to be realistic, the Mets don’t score behind him. Furthermore, he’s won 2 CY awards and that didn’t get us into the post season. There is a big drop in pitching quality after deGrom. Who knows when Carrasco returns, and how he will be, and how long it will take to get him ready for slotting in at the big league level. May? By May the team could already be in trouble with a team that is notoriously poor in the early season. Stroman is serviceable for sure, but he’s more a 3/4 guy. How many innings will Peterson be allowed – 130? 140? A pen anchored by Diaz, Familia, and Betances leaves plenty to be desired.

    It’s clear that a team that has JD Davis batting in the 6 hole can hit the ball. Certainly Lindor and Alonso look to be coming in to the season in championship form. Will they bring in runners though? We shall see.

    Lastly, I’m not sure how much the defense has improved. Sure Lindor is made of gold, and I like McCann behind the plate, but we have Pete at 1B (I still think he’s better than the metrics give him, especially in scooping where I would call him elite), McNeil needs to settle back in at 2B and already racked up 4 errors in Spring (3 at 3B), and an outfield of Smith-Nimmo-Conforto is not inspiring. Yesterday’s game saw another in score because Nimmo plays so deep. We will be giving up lots of extra bases and putting runners in scoring position by tagging up on our outfield.

    There is a lot to like about the team. Great energy. Some legit ballers going out there, and I think a few players could really lift the team. My sense this is going to be a dog fight between the Mets and Braves for the division. I have lived through far too much of the Braves to just think they won’t be a thorn in the side of this team.

  • Wobbit

    I’m afraid that McNeil is very weak defensively. Yesterday is a good example. He charges a ball, misses the tag on the runner passing him and hurries a throw to first. He had plenty of time to get the force at second. That runner scored on a two-out hit.

    Later, he misplays a rather routine shallow bouncer, to which he is assessed an error. Player make errors, but it is the smart plays that good fielders make that distinguish a better defense from an ordinary one.

    It’s a long season, and all weaknesses become exposed and exploited by attentive opponents.

    • Remember1969

      Wobbit .. I agree. I am far more concerned with second base defense from McNeil than third base defense from Davis. And yes, it will be exposed and exploited. I actually thing Guillorme will see a lot of time at second base.

  • Remember1969

    Matt, nice piece – well done. I generally agree with you, but my order that I laid out the other day has:
    1. Mets 90-72
    2. Braves 85-77
    3 Nationals 85-77
    4 Marlins 77-85
    5 Phillies 74-88

    The Mets have enough to win, but the key players must remain healthy. I think they have more character and fire than most teams.

    The Braves are always there. Acuna is a superstar, Freeman and Ozuna cannot possibly have the same seasons as last year. Freeman is good, but not as good as 2020 and Ozuna will not threaten the triple crown and be worse in left field than our own Dom Smith.

    The Nats are getting old, Soto, Turner, and Robles aside. I think Schertzer will be a mere mortal very soon and Strasburg is a blister or arm issue waiting to happen. This team still has a decent core, and could challenge for second, but also has the potential to completely bottom out and finish well under .500. (my prediction is that they will lose the play-in game for the second wild-card to the Braves)

    The Marlins have some good players and will be sneaky good, led by a terrific young pitching staff. That will be a scary series to play when facing their top three. If things go right, they could easily break 81 wins.

    The Phillies. A house of cards. Their pitching has to stay both healthy and good. They have the capability to do it, but somehow always seem to have one or two of them come up short. I see them losing a lot of games in the last three innings and a lot of 10 – 8 ballgames.

  • Mike W

    Second place. Too many questions and hopes with Peterson, Walker and Lucchesi.

    I really hope they sign Lindor this week.

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