Tag Archives: NL East

Oddsmakers list Phillies among 2020 World Series favorites

So, you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and you feel as if general manager Matt Klentak has not done enough this off-season to elevate your favorite .500 ball club to 2020 contender status?

Well, the folks who set the odds on such things, people not known to make their evaluations through rose-colored glasses, do not rate the team’s potential quite as poorly as some of you.

Oddsmakers at Sports Betting Dime (SBD) currently show the Phillies as having the seventh-highest odds in all of Major League Baseball. This is in line with numerous other sources rating the Phillies as having anywhere from the fifth to eighth best odds to finish the upcoming season as world champions.

While consistently receiving odds placing them within the top  eight teams in the game by betting sites during this off-season, there remains some sobering news for the Fightin’ Phils chances to not only capture the 2020 Fall Classic, but to even win the division or reach the postseason as an NL Wildcard team.

The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves have the fourth-best odds at the moment, placing them second overall in the National League behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. The defending world champion Washington Nationals odds place them just ahead of the Phillies as well.

A third division-rival, the New York Mets, slipped past the Phillies to finish in third place in the NL East standings a year ago. The Mets current odds place them right on the Phillies heels for the upcoming season.

Keep in mind that odds in Las Vegas and at some online sites reflect not only actual talent, but also where the money is flowing. In any event, it appears obvious as we prepare to open spring training that the Phillies are being looked upon as legitimate contenders by the professional gambling community.

Where do I think Joe Girardi, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and the Phillies will finish in 2020? I won’t be making that prediction until some time in mid-March.

But those fans of the Philadelphia Phillies who remain skeptical regarding the team’s ability to contend in 2020 should draw some comfort that the smart money and the oddsmakers currently like their chances.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: starting pitchers

My evaluation of the National League East Division clubs moves on to ranking the pitching staffs of each team, beginning  with this look at the projected starting rotations. Later today the bullpens of each team will undergo that same evaluation and ranking, concluding the player portion of the process.

For the rotation evaluations, I have listed the projected top four starting pitchers for each team at the beginning of their below write-ups. Those arms make up the primary consideration in their ranking position. During the subsequent discussion, any arms in the running for a fifth-starter slot or who might impact the rotation at some point during the season will be noted.

Combine these pitching rankings with the examinations of each position around the diamond which have been taking place over the last ten days and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training. Those prior pieces can be viewed through links at the bottom of this article.

Early next week, I will take a look at each club’s manager, giving those skippers the same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11 for the opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 STARTING PITCHING RANKINGS

  1. Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez

The defending world champions have the clear top three starting pitchers in the division, perhaps in all of baseball. However, a note of caution. That run to the first World Series title in franchise history put an extra month of wear and tear on those arms. Washington would not be the first team to find that becomes a difference maker in the following season. The Nats have a trio of interesting arms vying for the fifth starter role in Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth. If those three can prove ready to handle more of the starting workload, it would allow the Nationals to baby Scherzer and Strasburg along a bit during the summer.

2) New York Mets: Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Wacha

No team in the division has the potential to match the Nationals top three arms more than the Mets top trio. Syndergaard and Stroman in particular could elevate their games to another level. The real difference makers in the end in determining whether the Mets contend in the 2020 season is more likely to come from the back-end arms of Wacha and Rick Porcello. Beyond that, Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman give New York quality depth options. If Syndergaard and Stroman don’t have that extra level or break down physically, the Mets could easily slide down these rankings by one or two slots. For now, I like their talent.

3) Atlanta Braves: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Cole Hamels

The addition of the veteran Hamels to what was  a very youthful group could prove to be the smartest addition by any team in the division this off-season. The two-time division champion Braves also purchased a lottery ticket in former AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Atlanta has an exciting group of young arms fighting for rotation roles beyond that in Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb, Bryse Wilson, and Ian Anderson. The Braves quality young depth gives them a far better chance to weather injuries to any of their projected top starters than any other team in the division. It also gives them some potential trade chips to fill in any holes during the season.

4) Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin

The Phillies are fine at the top two spots with Nola and Wheeler. Beyond that will come the pitchers whose performances will ultimately determine whether the Phillies can finally contend for a postseason spot in 2020. Can Arrieta stay healthy? He has given the club strong April-May performances the last two years, only to break down physically each year. Can Eflin elevate his game to become a truly effective big-league mid-rotation starter? Even if the Phillies get positive answers to these two questions, they have more questions beyond that than any of the clubs ranked above them here. Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and possibly Enyel De Los Santos will battle for the fifth starter role to open the season. However, top pitching prospect Spencer Howard should be ready to impact the rotation by May or June.

5) Miami Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez, Jordan Yamamoto

Alcantara is not as well known to most fans as the other top arms in the division but he has legitimate talent and can be a part of the Fish rotation for years to come. Smith is a solid arm who generally keeps them in contention during his starts. Top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be ready to join the rotation at some point this summer. The Marlins have a further trio or arms in righty Edward Cabrera and lefties Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers who will be starting off in the minors, but who, like Sanchez, will be hoping to push for rotation spots later in the summer.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: right field

The National League East Division position-by-position evaluation and ranking of the starting eight position players comes to an end today with a look at right field.

The Philadephia Phillies had the top catcher in my rankings. The club’s projected starter ranked second in center field, and third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstopthird base, and in left field.

The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals had the top-ranked player at shortstop as well as in left field and center field. The two-time defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves came out on top at first base, second base, and now again in right field.

On Thursday, I’ll take a look at the backups and pinch-hitters for each team and rank each of those projected bench groups. Over the weekend the projected starting pitching rotations, bullpens, and finally the managers will be covered.

Once this evaluation process is complete, Phillies fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where the team stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 11, less than two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 RIGHT FIELD RANKINGS

1) Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta Braves: There are two particularly frightening things to consider regarding Acuna for the rest of the National League East. First, he turned just 22 years of age this past December. Second, the Braves got him to a sign a contract paying him $17 million through 2026 with team options at the same salary for two more years beyond that. Acuna is likely to be terrorizing opponents for many years. He won the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award after slashing .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 56 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 78 runs scored, and 16 steals in just 111 games that year. In his first full season a year ago, Acuna made his first NL All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger Award. He slashed .280/.365/.518 with 41 homers, 65 extra-base hits, 101 RBIs, 127 runs scored, and 37 stolen bases. For that performance, Acuna finished fifth in 2019 NL Most Valuable Player voting. On top of all that offensive production, Acuna is an outstanding defender in right with the ability to handle center field as well. He has the talent to win multiple MVP’s going forward.

2) Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies: After starring with the Nationals for seven seasons during which he was an NL All-Star six times and the 2015 NL MVP, Harper signed with the Phillies as a free agent prior to last season. He did not disappoint, producing a season in which he slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 homers, 114 RBIs, 72 extra-base hits, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. Harper also elevated his defensive game enough that he was a Gold Glove Award finalist. He improved as the season wore on, slashing .290/.374/.621 starting August 5, also cutting down his strikeout rate from that point. With an improved Phillies lineup around him, a year of comfort in the environment, and that strong finish, Harper could be poised for another All-Star campaign in which he is a leading NL MVP contender in 2020. He plays at still just age 27 for the entire season.

3) Michael Conforto, New York Mets: Turning 27-years-old on March 1, Conforto is under control with the Mets for just two more seasons. He can become a free agent after 2021, and the Mets are going to have to try to get him signed long-term before that point, because this is a player they cannot afford to lose. Conforto has a .253/.353/.481 career slash line over his first five seasons, and that is about the level at which he performed last year. If the 33 homers, 63 extra-base hits, 92 RBIs, and 90 runs scored is his peak production during his prime, that’s pretty good in these non-PED years. While Conforto will never win a Gold Glove Award, neither is he a poor defender. He ranked seventh in 2019 Fangraphs UZR among all big-league right fielders.

4) Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins: Anderson, who ranked second on my third base list, is the only player who I ranked at two different positions. In 2018, Anderson played 91 games in right and 71 at third. Last season he appeared in 67 games at third base and in 55 games in right field. While he is a better defender in right field than at the hot corner, the fact is that the Fish have a group of strong prospects coming in the outfield and no better options coming at third base. In 2020 when Anderson is in right field, newcomer Jonathan Villar could see action at third with young Isan Diaz playing second. It is not likely that manager Don Mattingly is going to really commit to a regular position for Anderson until he sees how his players look in spring training.

5) Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals: Having turned 31 years of age back in December, Eaton is the oldest starting right fielder in the division. He is also the weakest overall defender, though he does possess a solid arm. In his return from two injury-marred seasons a year ago, Eaton slashed .279/.365/.428 with 15 homers, 47 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs, 103 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. That is about his offensive upside at this stage of his career. The Nationals have the top left and center fielders in the division. But while both are talented, they are also young. Washington is happy to live with Eaton’s modest production and defense at this point in exchange for a veteran presence that he brings to the group. But don’t be surprised to see them bring in a more dynamic option via an in-season trade during the coming summer if they are contending again in 2020 as expected.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: center field

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to center field today as I continue to rank the Philadelphia Phillies and their divisional competitors on a position-by-position basis.

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

Right field will come on Wednesday, and then each club’s bench group will follow on Thursday. Over the weekend the projected starting pitching rotations, bullpens, and finally the managers will be covered.

Center field is currently not a glamour position within the division. There are a number of younger players being used by the clubs. Any of those players could still develop into a more impactful player in the coming years and vault up the list. That includes a couple of prospects in the minor leagues who aren’t likely to appear in the upcoming 2020 campaign.

Once this evaluation process is complete, Phillies fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where the team stands as spring training opens. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater on February 11, less than two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 CENTER FIELD RANKINGS

1) Victor Robles, Washington Nationals: The Nationals had the clear front-runner in left field with Juan Soto, and the defending world champs also have that in center with Robles. Though it was the third season in which he made an appearance with the Nats, he was still rookie-eligible a year ago. Robles, who turns 23 in mid-May, finished 6th in the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year voting during a season in which he slashed .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs, 53 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 86 runs, and 28 stolen bases. Robles is also an outstanding defender, leading all MLB center fielders – in fact all outfielders overall – in defensive runs saved last season. After finishing as a runner-up to Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain in 2019, Robles should eventually earn a number of Gold Glove Awards at the position.

2) Adam Haseley, Philadelphia Phillies: Haseley was a surprise emergency call-up by the Phillies last season who saw far more time in the big-leagues than ever originally envisioned. That promotion and playing time came due to the injuries suffered by Andrew McCutchen, Roman Quinn, and Jay Bruce and the Odubel Herrera domestic violence suspension. While he didn’t light the world on fire, neither did Haseley embarrass himself. In fact, no less an authority than the folks at Bill James Online named Haseley as their top defender for the month of September. He slashed .266/.324/.396 with five homers, 14 doubles, 26 RBIs, and 30 runs scored over 242 plate appearances across 67 games, 59 of those as starts. Haseley has been penciled in as new manager Joe Girardi‘s starter entering the season. He turns 24 in early April, and the 2017 first round draft pick could emerge as a legitimate difference-maker in the 2020 campaign.

3) Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets: Nimmo, who will turn 27-years-old as spring training comes to an end, missed nearly three-and-a-half months of the 2019 season due to a bulging disk in his neck. Finally returning to the lineup in September, Nimmo slashed .261/.430/.565 with five homers, 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, and 14 runs scored over the final month as the Mets went 17-10. Jake Marisnick, who turns 29 at the end of March, was signed as a free agent. A far better defender than Nimmo, Marisnick could take some playing time away here, especially in late-game situations.

4) Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves: The 29-year-old Inciarte was the center field starter in Atlanta during the 2016-18 seasons. After beginning the season as the starter once again last year, Inciarte began suffering what turned out to be a series of injuries. A bad back at first cost him a couple of months, and then injuries to the quads in both of his legs finally ended his season early. The Braves could slide Ronald Acuna Jr.over to start in center field and use either Adam Duvall or Nick Markakis in right field. But while Acuna would excel anywhere on defense, the club’s overall best defensive outfield would have Inciarte in center with Acuna in right. Another factor to keep an eye on is that the Braves have a pair of hot outfield prospects who could be ready quickly in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Either could push for a starting role before 2020 is over.

5) Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins: Many felt that Brinson was prepared to break out as a leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate with Miami in 2018 after he arrived from Milwaukee as part of the four-prospect package in January of that year for Christian Yelich. However, Brinson underwhelmed as a 24-year old. He returned last season, but rather than take a step forward, he seriously slid back, demoted to the minor leagues after hitting just .197 with no offensive impact over the 2019 season’s first month. After returning on August 5, Brinson didn’t fare any better, slashing only .160/.230/.200 with just five extra-base hits and no stolen bases over 166 plate appearances across 48 games. The Fish have a trio of talented outfield prospects rushing through their system in Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, and JJ Bleday, and all three could be starting by some point in the 2021 season. But only Harrison, who also arrived as part of that Yelich trade with Milwaukee, is really a center fielder, and he lost time a year ago with a wrist injury. Brinson will likely get a long look this year in hopes that his raw talent will finally translate into on-field results.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: left field

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.

NL EAST – 2020 LEFT FIELD RANKINGS

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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