One “Bold” Prediction for Each NL East Team

As far as I am concerned, the end of the Super Bowl marks the beginning of baseball season. Next week Pitchers and Catchers will report and while some guys have a good idea of what their zip code will be in 2017, a handful are coming into spring training preparing to battle for a position and in some cases, a roster spot. Today we are going to make some predictions about who will be playing where in the NL East come 2017. One BOLD prediction for all five teams.

Washington Nationals

There was not a whole lot of personnel needs that had to be addressed in the nation’s capital this off-season and while the Nats made some quiet moves to add a little bit of depth to the loaded roster, they made the most news for the signing they did not make. It is no secret that Washington has been in the market for a big name closer and if you had to pick one weakness on their roster it would have to be the bullpen. The Nats missed out on Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon among other closers this off-season. Jon Heyman had reported that there was still a “mystery team” bidding on Sergio Romo but the Dodgers officially inked him today. Now Ken Rosenthal is reporting they are working on a trade for White Sox closer David Robertson, but if they go through with that the White Sox will have essentially wiped out the Nationals farm system after getting three of their pitchers for Adam Eaton earlier this off-season. At this point I think it is safe to assume the Nats did not land the closer they wanted, no offense Joe Nathan, and are preparing to move on with in-house options.

The National’s 2017 Opening Day Closer will be Shawn Kelley

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I understand this one is not so “bold”, but it addresses the biggest question on the roster. Kelley is coming off of his best Major League season and was arguably the Nationals most consistent late inning guy in 2016. His WHIP was below 1 at 0.897 and he only walked 11 batters in 58 innings while striking out 80. Given his command and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, one could have argued the Nats had a pretty good closer candidate in Kelley all along. After serving as the setup man last year it will be interesting to see if he can translate that same success to the ninth inning.

New York Mets

There is a whole lot of stuff going on in New York and while you can’t argue the talent on the roster, you can question what the product will look like on the field in 2017. Whether it’s injuries to the rotation, underperforming outfielders, or a questionable managerial situation, the Mets have left themselves with a lot of question marks. This was the toughest one on the list. I could see Reyes taking over at third for Wright, I could see Bruce struggling out of the gate and Conforto taking over right, and we all know the Terry Collins rumblings aren’t going away anytime soon. After going back and forth on this one I finally settled back where I usually do when talking about the Mets, the rotation.

The Mets Fifth Starter will be Robert Gsellman

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I like this guy a lot and, just like I have been with most Mets starters in recent memory, I am very high on him. He is fairly consistent with four pitches but the two that have everyone talking are his mid-90’s fastball that runs a little and his devastating curveball. In his first big league season in 2016 he appeared in eight games, starting in seven, and went 4-2 with 2.42 ERA and a 2.63 FIP. There is no denying that Zach Wheeler’s injuries have a lot to do with this prediction. I expect to see Wheeler coming out of the bullpen to start 2017. If he stays healthy and gets back to his old self, I think he can easily earn this spot back. I think a six man rotation would look nice in New York too, just saying…

Miami Marlins

It was hard to pinpoint ONE overriding question within the Miami Marlins organization heading in 2017, but for way different reasons than the Mets. While the Mets have too many question marks, the Marlins are polar opposites. The lineup from last year is going to remain essentially the same. The bullpen should be pretty good, especially with the addition of Brad Ziegler. The rotation is atrocious but at least it is pretty much set in stone. It may not be the most talented roster but  they know what they are heading into the season with.

The Marlins Will Have an Eight Man Bullpen

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins

The Marlins have three solid starters in Giancarlo Stanton (4.7 WAR), Christian Yelich (3.9 WAR),Marcell Ozuna (2.5 WAR), utility man Derek Dietrich, and veteran Ichiro to patrol the outfield and with a full year of Dee Gordon, the infield is set. My bold prediction for the Marlins is that the rotation is going to be so bad the only way to compensate for it would be an eight man bullpen. I expect the Marlins to have a four man bench consisting of catcher A.J. Ellis, infielder Miguel Rojas, utility man Derek Dietrich, and outfielder Ichiro. With the way it looks like the Marlins are counting on the bullpen to compensate for poor starting pitching, I would not be surprised to see 13 pitchers on the roster very early on in the season.

Philadelphia Phillies

The last two teams are in pretty similar situations, the Phillies and Braves are both heavy into their rebuilds and are now playing the waiting game for their young talent to develop while filling out the roster with some veteran plug and play pieces. The Phillies are committed to their young guys in the bigs, they are throwing them out there as everyday players and letting them develop. I know Ryan Hanigan was signed to a minor league deal but don’t be surprised to see him crack the opening day roster as the team’s backup catcher behind Cameron Rupp while Jorge Alfaro starts the season in AAA.

J.P. Crawford Will Take Over as the Phillies Starting Shortstop

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How is that for going out on a limb? This won’t happen immediately but with Freddy Galvis being arb eligible next year do not be surprised to see J.P. Crawford start splitting time with him at short at some point this season. The Phillies might use 2017 as a transition period to slide Crawford in as the full time shortstop.There has been a lot of hype surrounding this kid since the Phillies took him 16th overall in 2013 and we all know the Phillies aren’t exactly patient with their prospects. The only thing that might be holding Crawford back is his .244/.328/.318 slash line he posted in AAA last year. Hey, I warned you these predictions were bold.

Atlanta Braves

The team might not be very good this year but they certainly will be fun to watch. There is a lot of excitement about the young guys coming up and of course the new ballpark. Everyone is talking about a full year of Dansby Swanson and trying to predict when Ozzie Albies will be joining him up the middle in SunTrust Park. I think most of the Braves top pitching prospects are still pretty far away but I also think we could be seeing another year like last year when it comes to the Braves rotation who led the league in starting pitchers used last year with 16. I get the attraction of having Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in the rotation, they will be entertaining guys to watch but one has to wonder if they will put together a whole season and also just how much they are there to pitch and how much they are there to mentor. Despite all of that my bold prediction has nothing to do with pitching because that is way too unpredictable for the Braves.

The Braves will Sign Kelly Johnson to be Their Fourth Outfielder

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For the fourth time… Cause why not… The organization loves Kelly Johnson and at this point I just think it would be hysterical, plus you know you would have a trade piece around the deadline. At 34 he still puts up decent enough numbers to be on a big league roster and while the organization is high on guys like Dustin Peterson and Adam Brett Walker, there has not been a lot of talk about either one of those guys being on the opening day roster. The trade of Mallex Smith could be evidence the Braves are ready to bring up Peterson, but it would be smart to have a backup plan other than Chase d’Arnaud in case he isn’t ready.

Tell me what you think! What are your bold predictions and just how far did I go out on a limb with these calls.

Stats Courtesy of: baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Photos Courtesy of: mlb.com

3 comments

  1. As a phillies fan i think i speak for everyone when i say i hope crawford is starting at ss on august first. Not getting too analytical but he had a .284 average on balls in play, so if he could lower his strike out rate from 15% to about 10-12% it would really help his average. But other then that a 21 year old with an obp .084 points higher than his average in AAA is solid in my book. Also i wouldn’t be surprised either if Volquez, Koehler, Conely, and Straily all have 170+ innings pitched (barring injury), thats my hot take!

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    • You have that Marlins rotation firing on all cylinders! That is a hot take! Thanks for the comment, Erik. I think the Phillies fans and everyone associated with the organization is ready to see Crawford at citizens bank in 2017!

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  2. I think as far as the outlooks on the teams go, not as much the bold predictions, it sets up like this.
    Nationals– Very solid staff. Need Scherzer healthy. Which I think he will be. Strasburg is a solid number two arm. Roark is coming off really good effort in 2016. There was a lot to like about Ross’s rookie campaign. Gio can be erratic at times, but all in all, it is an extremely solid staff. The Nats must have thought highly enough of the rotation to trade Giolito as well. As far as their bats go, I think that they are equally as good, if not even better, than rotation. Having now Wieters & Norris at Catcher will be a very solid duo offensively. One is left to wonder how their relationships will be with pitchers, and how that will effect both parties performances in 2017. That will be brand new guys that the National pitchers will be throwing to this season. Murphy should regress in his hitting, back to his career .285 ish mark. But that is very solid and he had 15-20 HR pop. Rendon is a solid player all around. Think he can be very similar to Murphy in terms of average and power but I think he also could have 20 SB speed upside. Trea Turner blew the roof off of his short 2016 run. I don’t think you can just take his numbers & multiply them by two and expect those to be his 2017 numbers though. Remember Carlos Correa having a very similar performance in his 2015 rookie effort? Once could argue what he did from HR SB & AVG standpoint that he was better in half the AB’s in 2015 as he was in all of 2016. I do expect Turner to be a menace on the base paths. No scout ever called for Turner to be a 70+ steals guy. I think 40+ steals is a very reasonable expectation. Turner it in the .340’s in 2016. That is not going to last. If you say Turner is a .300 hitter, why would 70 SB not be reasonable? Ok. If Turner his .340, & we are saying that he is a .300 hitter, that means that he would have hit .260 for the second half of the season to bring that number to .300. That is major difference. Assuming he can be a .300 hitter, which would be a very impressive feat for more or less a rookie, & not a .285 or even less hitter, that does not put him on pace for those kind of speed numbers. All in all I expect him to be a big producer this season, and I expect him to be a big part of what the Nationals do offensively. Harper needs to get back to his 2015 self. I don’t expect him to be quite as good as he was that year, but I do expect Harper to be closer to that hitter, than he was the guy we saw last season. Adam Eaton is an interesting addition. He is a very solid fielder, good hitter, who brings moderate power & speed.
    As for the bullpen, I think as a whole it is a solid unit. I agree with your call on Kelley, & barring a bad spring, I think he is the best guy for the job in the 9th inning.

    Mets– I agree with the outlook of the hitting. It’s sort of a vinilla group. However, I think the numbers would surprise a lot of people. Asdrubal Carbrerra turned in a .280 20HR effort last season. Reyes was solid while he played. Niel Walker had a very similar year to Cabrerra. Duda is a bit of a concern at 1B. The power is there with Duda, but you can’t drive the ball out of the ball park if you cannot make solid contact. They had 3 30 HR guys in the OF! I don’t think another team in MLB can say that. Albeit, Bruce played much of the season in Cincy, & was able to hit in the hitters haven known as The Great American Small Park, that is still a very impressive stat. With a rotation as strong as theirs they won’t need a ton of run support most nights. They key is for their guys to be out their and healthy. Thor is in my opinion a top 5 SP right now. DeGrom probably a top 20 SP. Harvey is a hard call, but I think if he is your number 3, or 4 arm, that you are in good shape. Matz could very well be the three, and I look for him to build on what I thought was a nice 2016 for him. Wheeler is the biggest question mark of the bunch. I think you have an interesting take, or bold prediction, if you will. I don’t know how much I like the 6 man rotation though. When you have a top 5 & too 20 arm as your 1,2, I think you want to get those guys as many innings as you can within reason. From a health standpoint I think it is an interesting proposition. With as many injury suceptable arms as they have in this rotation, maybe that’s away to lessen the stress on these guys arms.

    Marlins– Yeah, you pretty much nailed it here I think. Stanton staying on the field is the only thing. If I were a betting man, I would say that Stanton will not play even 150 games. There is a lot to like with Yelich. Starting seeing a little more pop in his bat last season and I think that will continue as he grows into himself and matures. He’s a solid fielder and a plus hitter who any team would like at the top of their lineup. There is definitely power with Ozuna, I just wonder if we have seen the best from him already, or of there is another gear there we have yet too see. It’s a pretty bad team all in all. Dee Gordon, I think, will have a very nice 2017. He will be at the top of the majors in steals and will score plenty of runs and hit for a good avg. Prado is sort of a “pros pro” , as they say. But I expect the Marlins to struggle immensely.

    Phillies– I think you’re probably spot on with your call there. Philadelphia historically has not been very patient in letting young talent develop in the minors. I think Crawford’s glove will get him up more so though than his bat will. While he is a solid hitter. The Phillies really do have some interesting young talent though, not even counting what they have on the farm. Joseph showed some nice power ability, as did Franco. Galvis & Hernandez were probably a little bit better statistically than most would realize, bringing moderate speed and a little power. Odubel Herrera was very impressive with a .285 15 HR 25 SB effort. He’s someone I will have a close eye on this season as to how he grows. Nola came on strong and then sort of imploded last season. I will be anxious to see how he looks in the spring and especially the season. Prospectively, Hellickson had a decent season. Velasquez came on extremely strong and steamed out after some elbow issues. He has some pretty nice raw stuff, and I think if healthy, he could have a successful 2017. Eickhoff, in perspective, also had a good season as well. I would put Philadelphia’s rotation 3rd in the division as of now. This should be an exciting team to watch.

    Braves– As for the KJ prediction, I will not go there, but as far as the team goes, I think you are right. Freeman really had a year in 2016. It was a Freddie we haven’t really seen in full yet, and I think it may be the Freddie we can get used to seeing. Phillips should be good to help fill seats. He is in his hometown. I don’t expect a year quite as productive as his 2016 campaign was, but I do think he will be a solid addition. Swanson will be the player everyone will have their eyes on. With good reason. I think he may have even surpassed expectations of most in his short stint in 2016. It will be intriguing to see how he develops in 2017. Adonis Garcia has been a sold player for the Braves. He is nothing to get excited about, but he has been a solid player. Inciarte brings the ability to get on base and has good base running/stealing ability when he gets on. Kemp had a big year in terms of power last season. I thik he will be close to the 25-30 HR range rather than 35. I do think his AVG will go up a tick though. Markakis is a sold veteran. Flowers showed pop at times. I do think it will be interesting to see how the ball carries in the new stadium. As for the arms, I think Teheran had a great bounce back from 2015. While he isn’t really an “ace”, he is without a doubt Atlanta’s best pitcher. The bringing in of the veteran starters was a very good move on part of JC. I think it will help the Braves win more games in the short term, in turn, helping fill seats in Sun Trust Park. I am looking forward to seeing Folty again this season. The way he can change the velocity on his pitches is truly atop the league and he gets good spin on his breaking pitches as well. He is without a doubt a raw pitcher at this point, but I think he does have some raw talent. As a whole, I think you said it. The Braves should be a fun year to watch this season.

    Enjoyed the read. That’s my take. -EK

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