As a healthy Freddie Freeman renews excitement of the fans of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals still have even more talent and the Philadelphia Phillies improved dramatically.
A look at the big time players being eyed before the trade deadline for both the Phillies and Nationals in their hope to overtake the Braves – and in the Nats case shoot for the elusive World Series appearance before Bryce Harper decides where he will play next year.
Explanation of Ratings: We start by rating each team on a base 20 scale, with a 10-point scale for batting, 5-point scale for starting pitching, 3-point scale for relief pitching and 2-point scale for fielding. This was done by reviewing personnel and results to date and playing simulated games through Statis-Pro baseball (free version here), weighing pitching and batting stats by the team’s home ballpark, reviewing which fielders on each team were nominated for a gold glove either of the past two seasons and evaluating all new players. We then assess the new players acquired and present the weaknesses that might be addressed by the July trade deadline.
Washington (15.3 of 20) – I was just in Washington where fans were in a panic over Bryce Harper and the offense not producing but relax – this team has one of the top few offenses in baseball even though they are off to a slow start. With incredible fielding, starting pitching and relief pitching, the Nats are a good bet to get enough hitting to take off and dominate.
Batters (7.0 out of 10) – I know they have produced at more like a 3 level, but the potential is for one of the best couple of offenses in baseball around a 10 so I’m putting them at 7.0. Juan Soto has the best Statis-Pro hitting card I’ve ever seen for a 19-year-old (and is backing it up with an OPS over 1.000), and the Nats also added Howie Kendrick, Matt Williams and Mark Reynolds to a line-up that was mostly loaded last year. They are the one NL team with options of great DH hitters who cannot get on the field. Bryce Harper is not going to stay last in the league in batting average, and this whole lineup is bound to explode as the season progresses. If they add Starlin Castro from the Marlins via trade, they will certainly have too many potentially great bats for the line-up.
Starters (2.7 of 3) – No need for additions here as Max Scherzer’s ERA is 2.06 and all five starters are between that and 3.87. When Steven Strasburg returns noone will want to face those two four games in a seven-game series.
Relievers (2.7 of 3) – The pickup of closer Sean Doolittle (1.71 ERA this year) and Ryan Madsen (1.37 ERA for Nats last year), both from Oakland, made completed an elite bullpen.
Fielding (1.4 of 2) – A strong fielding team with three gold glove nominees in CF Michael Taylor, 3b Anthony Rendon, and RF Adam Eaton.
Atlanta (14.4 of 20) – The Braves do not quite match up with the Nationals, particularly with the big two starting pitchers, but with a head start of a few games they are solid enough to potentially win the division if the Nats line-up does not kick in or Strasburg’s injuries continue.
Batting (6.1 out of 10) – No real moves beyond a solid part-time player in Preston Tucker (who has the exact average Statis-Pro card) with a 27-32 home run range on an 11-88 range). What has made the offense much better than average is having Freddie Freeman without injury and Nick Markakis going from a great glove man to an incredible two-way player.
Starters (2.0 of 5) – While a couple of starters have good ERAs, I’d still view this as the potential vulnerability and certainly the difference that sets them apart from the Nationals.
Relievers (2.0 of 3) – The rescue of Shane Carle from Coors Field and getting Dan Winkler and AJ Minter a few innings last year to set up for this season resulted in three new excellent relievers that turned this into a strong pen.
Fielding (0.8) – Gold glove nominees Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte cover a lot of field in the outfield, but they are the only gold glove nominees.
Philadelphia (10.1 of 20) – The Phillies made great moves to improve all four aspects of the team to go from bad to an almost exactly average team. They had played well above average though, so if they follow-up with another big trade acquisition by superstar batter and fielder Manny Machado from Baltimore and/or Avisail Garcia from the White Sox, then they could hang with the Braves and Nationals to fight for the division. Batting (3.5 of 10) – While Carlos Santana from the Indians is a nice addition for the middle of the line-up, this is still a fairly weak line-up – but as mentioned above they could grab a couple of incredible bats to get closer to the Nats and Braves.
Starters (3.6 of 5) – The huge play to get Cubs’ ace Jake Arrieta propelled the Phillies to a strong starting rotation that has competed well so far.
Relievers (2.0 of 3) – The pickup of Tommy Hunter from Tampa Bay tipped the pen from average to strong – and his 7 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio looks strong even the ERA isn’t down at last year’s 2.61 ERA.
Fielding (1.0 of 2) – What the addition of Santana does do at 1st base is solidify the Phillies fielding as a gold glove nominee, but between him an Arietta that does not make up for losing nominee SS Freddy Galvis to the Padres. CF Odubel Herrera is the other gold glove nominee.
NY Mets (9.1 of 20) – New York tantalized their fans with an 11-1 start before plunging as one of the most injury-plagued team in baseball. The good news is they have an excellent pen and solid rotation to take advantage of the pitcher-friendly CitiField and that their line-up can be much better than it has been once healthy. The bad news is the lack of fielding behind the pitchers and the fact that the line-up has been truly terrible since the opening streak even adjusting for the park. Then finally there is the problem of three teams in the Division being loaded and looking for more talent – leaving fans to be thankful for the miserable Marlins keeping them out of last place.
Batters (4.5 of 10) – If Yoenis Cespedes and the many other injury-plagued Mets can get healthy, they appear to have put together an adequate line-up with the nice additions of C Devin Mesoraco (attained in a trade with the Reds for Matt Harvey), RF Jay Bruce from the Indians, and 3B Todd Frazier from the crosstown Yankees. Statistically, the offense has been poor since their win streak to open the season, but the potential for a productive line-up if healthy is there.
Starters (2.3 of 5) – It appeared picking up the Royals Jason Vargas would solidify a strong rotation, but so far it has been the returning rotation including Jacob de Gromm (whose cut his ERA in half to 1.50) who have given the Mets the solid starts despite a weaker field behind them – particularly with Cespedes are from left field sidelined.
Relievers (2.3 of 3) – The pickup of Anthony Swarzak (Brewers and White Sox last year) takes this bullpen from good to great. The bullpen did well while he was one of the many Mets on DL, so him taking the mound this month is welcome news.
Fielding (0.0 of 2) – The Mets do not have a single fielder who has been nominated for a gold glove in the past two years.
Miami (2.8 out of 20) – The latest firesale of great gloves and bats leaves a bunch of youngers learning to lay at the Major League Level.
Batters (1.5 of 10) – A bunch of new rookie player cards are fun for games, and several new players are decent. They just do not have any standouts among the new players – with only Starlin Castro coming over from the Yankees to give them a little more offensive punch (and he will likely be traded by the deadline too).
Starters (0.4 out of 5) – Stuck with the same starters and not a single one has an ERA of less than 4.00.
Relievers (0.9 out of 3) – Kyle Barraclough’s next relief appearance will be his 200th – all with the Marlins in his four seasons – and his 1.11 ERA this year gives him a great 2.58 ERA for his career – so one bright spot.