NL East power rankings
By JOSHUA BROWN
College Contributor Network
After picking the Red Sox, Tigers and Angels to be victorious in the American League, it's time to move over to the NL, starting with the East. With the division largely wide open, it could prove to be one of the most exciting races in baseball, with the 2-5 spots only separated by six games last year.
1. Washington Nationals
Any time you add Max Scherzer and he is likely only to be your number two starter, you're in a good position to win some games. The addition gives Washington the best rotation in baseball. Stephen Strasburg, Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister is a video game-esque rotation that should have no problem dominating the mediocre NL East. The Nationals could legitimately have two teammates battling for the Cy Young Award, a problem that Matt Williams is sure to like.
Offensively the Nationals are not too far behind. A top five consisting of Denard Span, the up-and-coming Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman has big run potential, and should have no problem scoring enough runs for the prolific pitching staff. Also, look for Drew Storen to have a career year coming out of the 'pen for the Nats'.
2. Miami Marlins
The Marlins keep plugging away and look to be a legit wildcard contender this year. The Marlins hung around for awhile last season, eventually finishing in fourth at 77-85. The addition of Dee Gordon is a big one for Mike Redmond's team, as it adds a guy who can legitimately steal 50+ bases at the top of the order. The Marlins have a solid 1-9, it's as simple as that. Giancarlo Stanton getting locked up is obviously huge, but even despite that, it is a lineup that can certainly have a surprisingly good season. The bottom three featuring Martin Prado, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Adeiny Hechavarria is going to be a pleasant surprise for Marlin fans this year.
Adding Mat Latos to head the pitching staff was a big move for Miami. Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart will add good depth to the rotation, one that should have a productive 2015. If everything comes together the Marlins could be the dark-horse team to watch in MLB, but at the very minimum will compete for the wildcard.
3. New York Mets
The young talent is there for the Mets, they are just another year or two away from it developing and being MLB-ready. As for this year, expect for New York to finish in the middle of the pack again in 2015. The Mets have a solid top of the lineup with Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer and David Wright, but it really takes a significant step down after that. Young guns Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares should continue to develop into the All-Star caliber players they can be, in what will be another step in the right direction for the Mets.
Matt Harvey's health is obviously the big question going into the season. If he can return to the Harvey of 2013, himself, Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese make a very good top half of the rotation, with the Mets likely mixing in younger talent in the final two spots. With that being said, if Zach Wheeler can pitch up to his potential that would be a huge boost for Terry Collins.
4. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are certainly doing all they can to return atop the East, a post they have occupied so many times over the last 25 years. The lineup isn't one that is going to turn any heads yet, but it certainly could get the job done with the additions of Nick Markakis and Johnny Gomes. This will be a telling year for Chris Johnson, who in 2013 competed for a batting title before having an awful 2014, in which he had the lowest OPS among third baseman in the NL. Look for Freddie Freeman to have another career year at first base after taking a small step back in 2013.
Pitching is going to be the Achilles Heel for Atlanta all year. Even if Julio Teheran steps up and has a big 2015, they simply do not have enough depth behind him to compete. When the rotation starts to straighten itself out in the coming years, the Braves have the nucleus there to once again be a top the NL East.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
Selling big in the offseason was a smart move for Ryne Sandberg's team, and they continue to do that throughout the 2015 season. With Ryan Howard on the chopping block and declining by the year, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere are the only real offensive threats for the Phillies.
Although unlikely at this point, Cole Hamels could be gone by the beginning of the season. Aside from Hamels and Cliff Lee, Philidelphia has no depth at all in the pitching department, which will do them no favors in concealing their lackluster offense. If the Phillies want to return to the top of the NL East, they are going to need to sell on those final big pieces to completely overhaul the team.
Joshua Brown is a Sports Correspondent for the Boston Globe. He is a color commentator for Northeastern University basketball and hockey and also writes for USCHO and College Hoops Daily. Follow him on Twitter: @josh_brown31