The Washington Nationals have never been a part of a truly competitive race for the NL East crown. Sure, they finished four games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in 2012. Yet Atlanta spent a grand total of 10 days atop the division standings all season and was never able to cut the Nats’ division lead down to less than three games after Aug. 3.
2018 doesn’t appear to be any different, as Washington is once again expected to run away with the division. FanGraphs projects their closest competitor, the New York Mets, to finish with 81 wins — 10 less than their D.C. counterparts.
New York made one of its biggest splashes of the offseason on Monday, signing third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17-million contract. The team also brought back outfielder Jay Bruce for three years, $39 million in January and signed estranged Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez — who was acquired by the Braves in the Matt Kemp deal — to a one-year deal two days later.
The Mets are banking on the health of their starting rotation, a gamble that hasn’t paid off in either of the past two seasons. Last season, just two pitchers that made New York’s Opening Day roster avoided stints on the Disabled List: Jacob deGrom and Jerry Blevins.
Assuming he doesn’t turn down any MRIs, a healthy Noah Syndergaard can join deGrom atop the rotation to form one of the most formidable pitching duos in the sport. However, even when they were healthy, the rest of the Mets’ starters were pretty ineffective. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman all finished the year with ERAs above 4.70 and only two of them eclipsed 100 innings.
Offensively, the Mets should be better than they were last season with Bruce locked in for the full season and both Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes coming off the bench. Flores actually finished the year with an OPS 23 points higher than Frazier’s, but the career Met’s ability to play multiple positions will still create plenty of opportunities for playing time.
The biggest question surrounding the lineup will be the health of the team’s other two outfielders. Yoenis Cespedes was limited to just 81 games thanks to multiple hamstring strains that affected both legs. Michael Conforto underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in September and is uncertain to be ready by Opening Day.
Rookie skipper Mickey Callaway will be tasked with not only balancing playing time for all his injury-prone stars, but he’s going to need to orchestrate some bounce-back seasons in order to get New York back in the playoff hunt. Even if everything swings right for the Mets in 2018, they don’t look to be too serious a threat to the Nationals in 2018.
The two teams square off for the first of 19 games this season on April 5. Are the Nationals in for another cakewalk to the division title, or is a repeat of the nightmare 2015 season in the works?
Where will the New York Mets finish in the NL East this season?
This poll is closed
Win the division
Within three games of first place
Within ten games of first place
It won’t even be close