MLB.com Picks Washington Nationals As Team To Beat In NL East

Nationals Have The Proven Pitchers

Monday, March 24, 2014
Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg
- photo by Tim Evearitt
A year ago, you might recall, Washington was also the consensus pick to take the division. But the Nats didn't gel until it was too late and missed the playoffs entirely despite winning 26 of their last 38 games.

There are plenty of reasons to suspect that the Nationals will bounce back strong this season. While four of the five teams in the division have to consider starting pitching their greatest asset, the Nats took a rotation that already included Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann and added Doug Fister to it. On paper, that's pretty imposing.

They've amassed enough talent that the focus is just on staying healthy and having each player do what he's supposed to do.
They don't need anybody to overachieve to win.

And winning the division is important. In the last 10 years, only two of 12 Wild Card playoff teams have come from the NL East.

The Braves finished 10 games ahead of the Nationals last season, but they will be without right-handers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the entire season due to reconstructive elbow surgery. While Atlanta can't be counted out, any team would be devastated by losing two top starters.

The Marlins appear to be on the rise once again with oodles of talented young players. The only question is how many of the top prospects will reach their potential and how quickly. But if Miami can find a way to score more runs, they'll be a tough opponent this season.

Mets fans can look ahead and imagine what a rotation with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard will look like in a year or two, especially after all three young arms get a little big league experience. But it shouldn't be overlooked that New York finished third last season, so they can't be written off entirely.

The Phillies still have big names and players who know how to win, but many of the stars have been nagged by injuries in recent years. As a result, good health is even more crucial than normal. If everything falls into place, though, the aging nucleus could have a last hurrah.

Of course, with so much good pitching and so many questions about the offense, there could be a lot of close, low-scoring games in the NL East this season. And that creates a climate in which almost anything is possible.The Marlins appear to be on the rise once again with oodles of talented young players. The only question is how many of the top prospects will reach their potential and how quickly. But if Miami can find a way to score more runs, they'll be a tough opponent this season.

Mets fans can look ahead and imagine what a rotation with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard will look like in a year or two, especially after all three young arms get a little big league experience. But it shouldn't be overlooked that New York finished third last season, so they can't be written off entirely.

The Phillies still have big names and players who know how to win, but many of the stars have been nagged by injuries in recent years. As a result, good health is even more crucial than normal. If everything falls into place, though, the aging nucleus could have a last hurrah.

Of course, with so much good pitching and so many questions about the offense, there could be a lot of close, low-scoring games in the NL East this season. And that creates a climate in which almost anything is possible.

--- Source: MLB.com

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has hit 25, 26 homers the past two seasons.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has hit 25, 26 homers the past two seasons.
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt

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