My continuing position-by-position evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to the outfield today after previously covering and ranking the entire infield.

The Philadelphia Phillies had the top catcher in the rankings and the club’s projected starter finished third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstop, and third base.

The outfield coverage begins in left field today. Over the next couple of days, I’ll move across to center field and then over to right field. As we get to the weekend, I’ll cover each club’s projected starting pitching rotation, their benches, bullpens, and finally the managers.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where each team in the division stands. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater, Florida for Phillies spring training on February 11, just about two weeks from now.


1) Juan Soto, Washington Nationals: Just 21 years of age, Soto is one of the best young players in baseball. He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award to the player who is likely to appear in a couple of days at the top of the right field ranking. Last season, Soto upped his game, blasting 34 home runs with 71 extra-base hits, 110 RBIs, 110 runs scored and a dozen stolen bases while fashioning a .282/.401/.548 slash line. He then came through in the Nationals October 2019 run to their first-ever World Series crown, slashing .273/.373/.554 with five homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason. Just an average defender, Soto may never win a Gold Glove, but he doesn’t hurt the Nats in that regard. Soto looks right now as if he could sit atop this positional list for years to come.

2) Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves:  A solid offensive contributor and left field defender, Ozuna hung out on the free agent market for way too long this off-season. The Braves took advantage, scooping him up a week ago with a one-year, $18 million deal that will allow Ozuna to reset his value for another run at the market a year from now. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be the beneficiaries for at least the 2020 campaign during which the two-time NL All-Star will play at age 29. He has a .272 career average over seven big-league seasons, and a year ago produced 29 homers with 89 RBIs and 80 runs scored while helping lead the Saint Louis Cardinals to the NL Central crown. Atlanta also has a pair of solid veterans in Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall on their roster to cover the position effectively should injury strike.

3) Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies: So much of this ranking depends on ‘Cutch’ fully bouncing back from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his first Phillies season in early June. The former NL MVP and five-time All-Star is not that level of performer any longer. However, prior to the injury he had a .378 on-base percentage as the Phillies leadoff hitter, and had produced 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored in just 262 plate appearances. I wrote a piece at the start of this month asking what we should expect from him in the coming season. Let’s hope that his reply below is what we actually get in 2020. If there are any recurring or lingering injury issues, Jay Bruce and Nick Williams would try to pick up the slack.

4) Corey Dickerson, Miami Marlins: The Phillies obtained Dickerson from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season in an attempt to remain in the playoff race after both McCutchen and Bruce had suffered injuries. He was one of the few bright spots for the club before suffering his own season-ending injury in mid-September. Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers, 20 extra-base hits and a staggering 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances over 34 games with the Phillies in 2019. That performance and a solid seven-year big-league career earned him a two-year, $17.5 million deal with the rebuilding Fish. He turns 31 years of age in late May and should give them a solid return on their investment if he stays healthy.

5) J.D. Davis, New York Mets: There remains a certain segment of the organization and fan base still hopes Yoenis Cespedes will be healthy and return to some semblance of his All-Star days. Now at age 34 and having missed most of the last two years with injuries, that is highly unlikely. Davis made 79 starts in left during the 2019 season, his first with the Mets after coming in a five-player deal with Houston at this time a year ago. He has the ability to make this bottom ranking look a bit foolish if it all comes together. Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 and delivered 22 homers, 22 doubles, 57 RBIs, and 65 runs scored over 453 plate appearances in 2019. He could end up at least in the middle of these rankings by the end of the upcoming season. If he instead falters, odds are that Dominic Smith would fare better as a replacement than any Cespedes pipe dream.



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