MLB Picks: NL East Odds & Predictions
Welcome to what might be the most loaded division in baseball. While the American League is filled with division races that are probably down to two teams before we’ve even thrown a pitch, the National League is all about balance. Such is life in a division where four out of five teams played .500 ball or better last season and one of those teams was the World Series champion — and that team didn’t even win the division. The Braves and the Nationals are back to battle each other all season long, but they’re going to have plenty of company in the form of the Mets and the Phillies, both of whom are more than capable of making a run at the postseason this year.
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to reflect on the plight of the woeful Marlins, who would probably be on track for 75 wins if they played in the American League, where they could get an abundance of games against weak foes such as the Orioles or the Tigers. Alas, there is no oasis in the NL East other than the Marlins themselves, who should inflate the records of all four of their division foes this year.
Atlanta Braves (+255)
There’s one bit of good news in Georgia as far as the Nationals’ world championship goes: it means that everyone forgot just how good the Braves were a season ago. (It also means that everyone in the division has won a National League pennant more recently than the Braves, who haven’t appeared in the World Series since 1999 and haven’t won so much as an NLDS since 2001, but that’s another story.) Remember, though, we’re betting on regular season success, and the reality is that picking the Braves to win an NL East title has returned money three times in the past seven years, including each of the past two seasons.
Atlanta might have watched Josh Donaldson leave for Minnesota, but there’s a genuine question as to whether they really need him that badly. The Braves have plenty of talent in the lineup in Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson, their rotation is led by a pair of excellent arms in Mike Soroka and Max Fried, and there’s more help on the way thanks to a robust farm system that should have new blood coming up throughout the season.
This is also a roster that knows how to win, and that could be more important than ever this year because of the shortened season. The teams that are loaded with veterans are more likely to get off to a stronger start this season because there just won’t be enough time to recover from starting slow the way the Nationals did. Atlanta has all of the pieces in place to make a genuine run at not just the NL East, but the World Series title as well. Bet the Braves to win the NL East for FREE by taking advantage of a 100% REAL CASH bonus where you can deposit anywhere from $100 to $300 and they’ll match you with extra bonus money! You must use this link to sign up and use promo/bonus code PREDICT100 to receive the free bonus!
Miami Marlins (+2500)
The Marlins have now existed for 27 seasons, dating back to 1993…and they have never once managed to win a division title. They have two World Series titles in the trophy case, but not once have they finished atop the NL East. As we addressed at the start of this piece, it isn’t going to happen in 2020 either, and it’s probably not going to come all that close to happening. This is life after a season where the Marlins scored the fewest runs in the National League and hit the fewest home runs.
Worse, the Marlins have lost the one advantage that they had in the Jeffrey Loria days: their ability to outsmart the rest of baseball. Miami used to be the one team that you did not want to trade with, because the Marlins always knew something that you didn’t (see: the Dontrelle Willis trade, the massive trade with the Blue Jays), but even that advantage is gone, as Miami hasn’t drafted well and hasn’t been able to find quality talent in the trades they’ve made. Instead, they’ve watched stars such as Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich take off for other teams, and they haven’t come close to finding a real replacement.
With other teams, such as the Detroit Tigers, you can see a real plan in place over the course of the next three years. Those teams might be bad now, but they seem to be genuinely on the right track to becoming a contender again. Not so in Miami, where the Marlins are boring, bad and inept all at once. There is no long-term plan in Miami, and there’s little chance that there will be one anytime soon. The Marlins will likely avoid 100 losses, but when that’s considered a successful year for your franchise, your franchise is a royal mess.
New York Mets (+325)
The expectations in Queens are pretty high, which is far from an ideal situation for Luis Rojas to walk into. But on the plus side, Rojas knows what he’s getting into as he takes over the Mets. New York has been trying to follow the blueprint that the Yankees used 25 years ago by opting to go with homegrown talent rather than make a big splash in free agency, and for the most part, it has made them into a respectable ball club, albeit an unspectacular one.
That’s both good and bad in terms of a season-long bet. It’s good because if the Mets find themselves in a playoff race in July and need one more arm or bat to make it happen, they’ve got the financial wherewithal to go get that player without coming close to hitting the luxury tax. It’s bad because there’s no guarantee that the Mets are actually willing to open the wallet to get such a player if that situation presents itself. New York has a solid set of young hitters in Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil, and the Mets might not be so keen to part with young talent to bring in one more piece when they likely have the foundation for a long-term stay near the top of the NL East.
There are also serious questions about the pitching. The Mets’ bullpen was a roller coaster at best last season, as New York finished third in the majors in quality starts, but its team ERA ranked nearly a run above the Dodgers, who had two fewer quality starts from their starters. That points to a glaring problem in the pen, and there isn’t a lot of evidence that things have been fixed. To make matters worse, one of the Mets’ top pitchers from a year ago, Zack Wheeler, is now wearing the red and white of the division rival Phillies, and Noah Syndergaard is out for the year after announcing that he’s going to undergo Tommy John surgery.
The Mets are talented, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough there for them to really challenge the top two for the division crown. The Mets also have to figure out how to win in Philadelphia if they’re going to get anything done, as they went just 3-7 at Citizens Bank Park last season.
Philadelphia Phillies (+350)
The fact that last year’s fourth-place team is going off at such a relatively low return says a lot about how strong this division is. It also says that the Phillies don’t expect to be an 81-win team again this season. Philadelphia has a new manager, new pitchers, a new shortstop and high expectations, the last of which is simply the way it goes in the City of Brotherly Love. Ideally, the Phillies will get a fired-up Bryce Harper after he had to watch his old team win the World Series the year after he left Washington. Harper was fine last season in Philadelphia, but fine isn’t what the Phillies are paying him to be after signing him to such a large contract.
The Phillies will benefit from the virus layoff because it means they’re much more likely to get Andrew McCutchen back in one piece when play resumes. McCutchen tore his ACL last season and was on track to miss opening day, but now he’s much more likely to be ready to go when the season begins. They’ve also added Didi Gregorius from the Yankees and ex-Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, who should find Philadelphia a bit more patient than he did New York. Six playoff appearances in 10 years would likely be just fine with Phillies fans, given that the Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since 2011.
The question is, is there enough there with the starting pitching to make the Phils a real threat in the East? Aaron Nola is solid and Zack Wheeler should give Philadelphia its own pair of aces to compete with the Braves’ hitting and the Nationals’ pitching, but there’s kind of a noticeable drop-off in the rest of the rotation. The Phils have to get quality work out of the bullpen to give themselves a real chance.
Washington Nationals (+250)
The Nationals took themselves out of contention to win the NL East before a pitch was ever thrown last year, getting off to a 19-31 start that left them scrambling for the final three months of the season before they managed to put it all together and break Washington’s 95-year World Series drought. Now, can they pick up where they left off and actually claim the division title?
Honestly, it’s tough to see. The Nationals lost Anthony Rendon, and what they have left is an older team that’s talented but fragile. The Nats are a proven squad, but with several players now on the wrong side of 30 and some approaching 35, you have to wonder how many good years they still have in them. Washington’s title felt more like an older team taking advantage of one of its last shots at glory rather than the birth of a dynasty, and the reality is that this squad is built almost entirely around its pitching and defense.
That’s not a bad place to be when you have Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg atop your rotation, but the Nats don’t really have a solid middle relief man who can get the game to Daniel Hudson. Scherzer, Strasburg and Patrick Corbin had to carry the load for far too long last year, and if that happens again, Washington is going to end up collapsing from age or injury at some point. The Nats have to find a way to either get more out of their offense or get the bullpen to produce.
Dan’s Pick to Win the NL East
With four potential champions here, the odds are lowered on the favorites, and that means that the favorites are likely a good place to put your money. Washington might be the defending world champions, but Atlanta was the more consistent team, Atlanta is the younger team and Atlanta is the deeper team. There’s really nothing that the Braves cannot do well, and even without Josh Donaldson, the Braves have more than enough pieces to keep themselves atop the NL East and hold off their three challengers (as well as the Marlins).
The Phillies are going to be solid in the near future, but I think they’re still a year away from being real contenders. The Mets might have pushed the Braves, but with Wheeler gone in free agency and Syndergaard now lost for the year, it’s hard to see how the Mets can cobble together enough pitching to challenge Atlanta. The Marlins are the Marlins, and that leaves the Nationals, who have an older lineup that likely won’t produce at the level it did a year ago. Plus, as good as Washington was in the second half of last season, the Nationals never came within four games of the Braves after their 19-31 start.
The price is good, the team is solid and the team is full of veterans who know how to win and are eager to shed Atlanta’s reputation as a team that blows its chances. This is one situation where I am more than happy to bet the favorite. Give me the Braves. Did you know that you can still use credit cards to deposit at an online betting site? Yes, AND you get a 50% real cash bonus up to $250 FREE! Find this good stuff and more at Bovada Sportsbook!