MLB Preview: National League East

The Washington Nationals have won the division four of the last six seasons. With other teams in the division, which ones will inch closer to competing for the division?

Every year, the Washington Nationals have had a strong hold of division. However, Washington has never made it past the division series.

Three of the other teams have been in progress of rebuilding with one more on the verge of beginning one of their own.

Washington may be poised to win the division once again, but which teams are the closet to competing again?

Here is a look at how the NL East could shake up.

Washington Nationals (104-58)

For the Nationals, finishing the season with the best record in baseball is no longer enough. Winning the division is no longer enough.

Of course, their main goal is advance to the World Series, but a trip to the National League Championship Series will give the team a sense of progress.

Bryce Harper and a couple of other key pieces set to hit free agency this winter, it is a make-or-break season for the Nationals.

Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman will help Harper supply the offense with power. A full healthy season of the speedster Adam Eaton will add another dynamic to the offense.

Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals. |Oct. 11, 2017 - Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America|
Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals. |Oct. 11, 2017 - Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images North America|

Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lead a pitching rotation that is one of the best in baseball. As a team, the National’s pitching staff finished in the top ten in strike outs and earned runs and hits allowed.

A full season of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Brandon Kintzler will make the bullpen one of the Nationals biggest strengths in 2018.

This could be the season the Nationals advance to the World Series.

New York Mets (81-81)

2017 was rough on the Mets. The Mets went from playing in the Wild Card Game to losing 92 games with essentially the same roster.

In free agency the Mets picked up Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. They will definitely fit in with slugger Yoenis Cespedes. If Adrian Gonzalez can remain healthy, the lineup could keep the Mets competitive.

The biggest factor in the teams’ success in 2018 will be the pitching staff. Will they be healthy enough to compete in 2018? Matt Harvey has been dealing with a shoulder injury for the past two seasons, Noah Synergaard dealt with a torn lat muscle in his right arm in 2017 and Steven Matzs’ season was disrupted by an elbow issue.

Jacob deGrom was the most consistent starting pitcher from a year ago, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA for 239 strike outs in 201.1 innings. Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas are battling it out for the fifth spot in the rotation, both will have to show they can be consistent to help the Mets be competitive in 2018.

Atlanta Braves (78-84)

Ronald Acuna #34 of Peoria Javelinas (ATL) in action against the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Park on November 11, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. |Source: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images North America|
Ronald Acuna #34 of Peoria Javelinas (ATL) in action against the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Park on November 11, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. |Source: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images North America|

Tough times have fallen on the Braves. They have not posted a winning record since 2013, also the last time they were in the playoffs. However, the Braves will not be down for long.

Four years into the rebuild, Atlanta has stock piling talent, with Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley and Dustin Peterson ready to make their debut. Guys like Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Kolby Allard and Cristian Pache are close but still waiting in the wings.

Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves hits a seventh inning three-run home run against the Miami Marlins. |Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America|
Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves hits a seventh inning three-run home run against the Miami Marlins. |Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America|

For now, the Braves will have to work with what they got. Led by Freddie Freeman, the offense will be potent enough to be competitive. Dansby Swanson will have to show major improvement if he wants to have any future with Atlanta.

With Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy and Sean Newcomb anchoring the rotation, the Braves could have one of the more underrated pitching rotations in baseball.

Atlanta is the closet team to turning the corner and becoming one of the better teams in baseball.

Philadelphia Phillies (74-88)

Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics. |Sept. 16, 2017 - Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America|
Maikel Franco #7 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits an RBI single against the Oakland Athletics. |Sept. 16, 2017 - Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America|

Like Atlanta, Philadelphia is in the middle of rebuilding the franchise. In 2017, the Phillies developed and assessed the young talent they have in the organization. They too hope to see vast improvement one year later.

In free agency, Philadelphia signed Carlos Santana to speed up the process a little bit. Santana will fit in well with Maikel Franco. Everywhere else on the roster is either in their second or third year in the big leagues, more assessment will need to be done.

The Phillies will need to find an ace. Aaron Nola was the only pitcher to win more than eight games last season. Brett Anderson, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still free agents. Next winter guys like Dallas Keuchel, Garrett Richards and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be free agents. Signing an ace will go a long way.

Miami Marlins (57-105)

J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins makes a throw to first during a game against the Washington Nationals. |June 19, 2017 - Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America|
J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins makes a throw to first during a game against the Washington Nationals. |June 19, 2017 - Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America|

The Marlins are now unrecognizable. 2018 is the year the Marlins will embrace a rebuild.

The rebuild was set in motion when Miami traded Gianarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. Offense will be harder to come by as a massive chunk of last year’s offensive attack is now out the door. Led by Martin Prado and Justin Bour, the road could be a little bit bumpy.

Bour and J.T Realmuto could be the next to be traded. Realmuto requested a trade from the organization soon after the trades of Stanton, Ozuna and Gordan.

Realmuto (26) is one of the best catchers in the game and will definitely pick up interest as the season rolls on.

Sandy Alcantara, Jorge Guzman and Braxton Garrett are a trio of minor league pitching prospects that at some point could give the Marlins help in the rotation. Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison could give the line up a boost once they get called up.

As we saw with the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs the rebuilding process is very rewarding. Only time will tell if Derek Jeter’s plan was a success.