Tag Archives: Trea Turner

NL East Division position comparison: third base

My position-by-position evaluation of the Philadelphia Phillies and their rivals in the National League East Division moves today to the hot corner. In recent decades, the likes of Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, David Wright, and Anthony Rendon played third base in the division.

A year ago, the position was manned for those NL East clubs by Maikel Franco, Josh Donaldson, Todd Frazier, Brian Anderson, and Rendon. Incredibly, only Anderson remains, and he may not end up playing there regularly for Miami in the coming season.

So far I’ve covered first base, second base, and shortstop. The Philadelphia Phillies finished third in each of those rankings. They are once again placed here in that middle-of-the road spot. But the position is so muddled at the moment that they could be at the top or bottom of these rankings by season’s end.

Tomorrow will see a move behind the plate to cover the division’s catchers. Next week, I’ll begin by working across the outfield, followed by separate pieces covering each team’s projected starting pitching rotation, bench, bullpen, and managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea of where the Phillies actually stand entering spring training. Pitchers and catchers are due to begin reporting to Clearwater, Florida on February 11.

Let’s take a look now at what is easily the single most volatile, unpredictable position in the division for the upcoming 2020 campaign.

NL EAST – 2020 THIRD BASE RANKINGS

1) Jeff McNeil, New York Mets: Is McNeil a left fielder, where he played in 71 games a year ago? Is he a right fielder, where he played 42 times? How about maybe a second baseman, where he appeared in 37 games in 2019? Or will he finally spend most of his time at one position, third base, where he appeared in 31 games and made 16 starts for the Mets last season? Your guess is as good as mine, which may be as good as new Mets manager Luis Rojas as well. McNeil, who turns 28 in early April, is penciled-in as the starting third baseman. Of all the question marks at the position in the NL East, one thing is certain at this point – McNeil is the most proven, effective hitter of the bunch. He slashed .318/.384/.531 with 23 homers, 38 doubles, 75 RBIs, and 83 runs scored while making the National League All-Star team in 2019. The Mets could also go with J.D. Davis, who played in 31 games and made 27 starts, and Jed Lowrie, a veteran returning from injury, at times in the coming season.

2) Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins: Is Anderson a right fielder, where he made 55 starts and played extremely well in 2019? Is he a third baseman, where he made 64 starts and appeared in 67 games? He will turn 27 in mid-May, and could end up bouncing back and forth between the two positions once again in 2020. Anderson slashed .261/.342/.468 with 20 homers, 33 doubles, 66 RBIs, and 55 runs scored. If the Fish choose to play him regularly in right field, then any of Jon Berti, Jonathan Villar, or Miguel Rojas could see time at third base. This could end up as another position at which the Marlins rank at the bottom of the division by the end of the season. However, Anderson’s talent and potential, should he settle in at third base, make this speculative ranking valid.

3) Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies: Stop me if you’ve read this type of thing already in this positional evaluation piece. Is Kingery a center fielder, where he made 57 starts and played in 65 games a year ago? Is he a shortstop, where he played in 119 games just two seasons ago and another 18 games last year? How about a second baseman, clearly his best defensive position, but where he has played in just 14 big-league games to this point? The Phillies version of a Swiss army knife to this point in his career, Kingery has also played 14 games in left field, four in right field, and even pitched once. For the 2020 season during which he will turn 26 years of age in late April, Kingery enters spring training penciled-in as the third baseman, and this could prove a generous ranking. He played 41 games and made 37 starts at third base in 2019, and overall did not play badly on defense. Kingery raised his slash line from the .226/.267/.338 he put up during his rookie campaign to .258/.315/.474 a year ago. In just 16 more plate appearances he banged 11 more homers and doubles, drove in 20 more runs, and stole five more bases. Does he have another level to his game? At this point, Kingery could go either way. He could also continue to get bounced around the field by the Phillies, whose top offensive prospect, Alec Bohm, plays third base and should be ready for a shot at some point during the 2020 campaign. There is also a possibility that new manager Joe Girardi decides to go with Kingery at second base, flipping Jean Segura to third.

4) Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals: Kieboom has been one of the Nationals top prospects since they made him their first round pick at 28th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. Kieboom broke into the big-leagues a year ago under emergency circumstances, called up from Triple-A to play shortstop in late-April and early-May when Trea Turner suffered an early-season injury. He didn’t play well defensively, making four errors while handling 40 chances across 10 games. He was also over-matched at the plate, slashing just .128/.209/.282 over 43 plate appearances. Sent back to the minors, he never received a recall. Still, Kieboom earned a World Series ring when the Nationals ultimately won it all. His Triple-A performance at Fresno continued to demonstrate his true ability. There he slashed .303/.409/.493 with 43 extra-base hits. Kieboom is considered Washington’s top prospect, and enters spring training prepared to try and take over the everyday job left vacant by the departure of Rendon to free agency. He could emerge as a leading NL Rookie of the Year contender. However, if he can’t handle the job, veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick could see time here.

5) Johan Camargo, Atlanta Braves: Who’s on third? It is a question that fans of every single team in the NL East might legitimately be asking themselves at this stage. Donaldson left via free agency, leaving a big hole in the Braves lineup. Camargo who appeared in 114 games and made 105 starts for a division-winning Atlanta club in 2018 at third base, is penciled-in as the starter for now. He played in 18 games, making nine starts, at third base for Atlanta in 2019 during a season in which he made appearances at five different positions. Camargo plays the fulls season at age 26. He owns a .269/.328/.438 career big-league slash line over parts of three seasons. Atlanta also has Austin Riley, formerly one of their top prospects, on the roster. During his rookie campaign last season, Riley played mostly left field, producing 18 homers, 49 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in just 297 plate appearances. However, he also hit just .226 and struck out 108 times. Riley played in five games at the hot corner, one of four different positions at which he was used.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

NL East Division position comparison: shortstop

Continuing my examination today looking over the rosters of each team in the National League East Division and breaking them down with a comparison and ranking of the shortstop position.

Earlier this week, I covered the first basemen and second basemen. Those evaluations found the Atlanta Braves on top, clearly fielding the best right-side infield in the division and one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies finished third in both of those rankings.

I’ll finish up the infield with third basemen and then move behind the plate to cover the division’s catchers over this coming weekend. Next week, I’ll work across the outfield. That will be followed by separate pieces covering each team’s projected starting pitching rotation, bench, bullpen, and managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once this process is complete you should have a far better understanding of where the Phillies stand entering spring training. Pitchers and catchers are due to begin reporting to camps on February 11.

NL EAST – 2020 SHORTSTOP RANKINGS

 

1) Trea Turner, Washington Nationals: The one position on the infield where the defending world champions come out on top. Turner is a true impact player in his prime, turning 27 years of age in the middle of the 2020 season. Last season he slashed .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs, 61 extra-base hits, 57 RBIs, 96 runs scored, and 35 stolen bases. He put up those numbers despite missing six full weeks with a broken finger suffered when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Phillies starter Zach Eflin on a bunt attempt during an April 3 game at Nationals Park. The injury would bother Turner all year even following his return. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $7.45 million deal with Washington for the 2020 season. If the Nats don’t extend him before that point, Turner can become a free agent following the 2022 campaign. At least until then he will terrorize opposition lineups from the top of the Nationals batting order.

2) Amed Rosario, New York Mets: Playing the full 2020 season at age 24, Rosario is the youngest current starter on this list, will not become eligible for arbitration until after the season, and is under Mets control for the next four years. During his second full season a year ago, Rosario hit .287 with 15 homers, 52 extra-base hits, 72 RBIs, 75 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases. He is also a solid defensive shortstop. Rosario should be a key piece for the Mets as they try to become legitimate contenders over the next few years.

3) Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies: Gregorius came up with the Cincinnati Reds and was dealt to Arizona as part of a three-team, eight-player deal in December 2012 in which Trevor Bauer went to the Cleveland Indians and Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds. Arizona dealt him to the Yankees almost exactly two years later as part of another three-team deal in which Robbie Ray went to the Dbacks and Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers. In December 2019 the Phillies signed Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal. He hit 16 homers with 61 RBIs in 2019 with the Yanks after missing the entire first half of the season following October 2018 Tommy John surgery. Over the prior three seasons, Gregorius slammed 72 home runs and drove in 243 runs in the Bronx. He will turn 30 years of age just after spring training opens in mid-February and will be attempting to earn a long-term extension with the Phillies or a multi-year free agent deal with some other ball club.

4) Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves: Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Vanderbilt University. He was dealt by Arizona along with outfielder Ender Inciarte to the Braves in December 2015 for pitcher Shelby Miller as part of a five-player deal. Swanson’s offensive production has steadily improved over each of his three full big-league seasons. In 2019 he produced 17 homers, 46 extra-base hits, 77 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. He will turn just 26-years-old as spring training opens in mid-February, so may have another level to his game. If he regresses at all, Swanson could fall lower on this list in the future. He has a $3.15 million deal in place for 2020 and, like Turner, can become a free agent following the 2022 season.

5) Miguel Rojas, Mami Marlins: Rojas is by far the best defender of all those mentioned above, ranking fifth on the Fangraphs defensive rankings for the position a year ago. Unfortunately for Miami, he is also by far the weakest offensive producer. Last season, Rojas slashed .284/.331/.379 with five home runs, 35 extra-base hits, 46 RBIs, 52 runs scored, and nine steals. Jazz Chisholm is one of the organization’s top prospects. Turning 22 years of age in early February, the Fish hope that Chisholm fully reaches his potential, which would vault him high up this list over the next couple of seasons.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Struggling Phillies open mid-June series with resurgent Nationals

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Many fans in both towns now conflicted over Werth and Harper

The struggling Philadelphia Phillies (39-32) continue with their road show, this time opening a four-game series with the rejuvenated Washington Nationals (33-38) on Monday night in our Nation’s Capital.

The Phillies are coming off a humbling Father’s Day experience in which they were dismantled by the division-leading Atlanta Braves in a 15-1 rout. They enter D.C. having now dropped five of their last seven games, and 10 of 16 going back to May 29.
After suffering through a horrendous 19-31 start that buried them in fourth place, 10 games out, the Nationals have begun to right their ship. The club has gone 14-7 since that point. Still in fourth place, but they are just six games behind the Phillies for the final NL Wildcard spot, and would love to cut into that deficit this week.
They enter the series fresh off their own 15-run experience. Only in their case, the Nats were the team scoring all the runs in a 15-5 win at home yesterday over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Nationals offensive attack ranks seventh in the National League in both runs scored and OPS, and they are third in stolen bases. On the mound their pitchers are tied for sixth in batting average against and seventh in OPS against, and the staff ranks first in strikeouts.
A big reason they are at the top of those strikeout rankings can be found in their starting rotation, and the Phillies will see the Nationals best this week. Washington will throw lefty Patrick Corbin in the opener, young Erick Fedde in the second game, and then finish up the series with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for the final two games.
These two teams have already met three times this season. They split a two-gamer in Washington back in early April. The Nationals then took two of three in Philly a week later, but saw the Phillies take two of three at Citizens Bank Park in early May. They will meet yet again in a four-gamer right after the MLB All-Star break back in Philadelphia, but then do not see one another until the first day of Fall, on September 23.
Of course, there is added intensity when these two clubs meet, at least from the Washington fans perspective, with star right fielder Bryce Harper having left town. In eight games between the two clubs this year, Harper has slashed .321/.472/.643 with two homers, three doubles, eight walks, seven RBIs, and six runs scored.
Harper was the Nationals pick at first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft and played his first seven seasons with them, winning the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award, and making the NL All-Star squad six times.
A ball club that is much better than their record indicates, the Nats are looking at this as a big opportunity series. For the struggling, injury-depleted Phillies, this will mark another difficult challenge.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: The Nationals are in danger of losing their most impactful player for a second straight season. Rendon is a free agent after this year, and the 29-year-old third baseman doesn’t seem close to a deal. He leads the team in virtually every category, slashing .321/.415/.660 with 16 homers, 50 RBIs, 37 extra-base hits, and 52 runs scored. Those numbers are better across the board than anyone in the Phillies lineup.
Trea Turner: 26-year-old dynamic shortstop was hit on the hand while trying to bunt against the Phillies during the first week of play and missed nearly seven weeks. He started slowly after returning, but since May 28 has slashed .333/.392/.639 with three homers, 16 extra-base hits, nine RBIs, 16 runs scored, and five steals over 17 games. It’s no coincidence that the Nats have won 11 of those 17 games.
Juan Soto: The 20-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder was the runner-up for last year’s NL Rookie of the Year honors and much as with Turner, he has been hot over the last few weeks. Since May 24, Soto is slashing .329/.413/.519 with four homers, 11 RBIs, and 20 runs scored.
Adam Eaton: 30-year-old veteran now in his eighth big-league season, Eaton is hitting .280 and is tied for second on the club with 41 runs scored.
Victor Robles: If there is one player who the Nats would really like to see pick it up, Robles would be it. The 22-year-old center fielder is hitting just .234 and has only one home run in the last month after banging eight over the season’s first six weeks.
Matt Adams: The big lefty first baseman has been activated from the IL just in time to face four right-handed starters being thrown by the Phillies. Adams has nine homers and 27 RBIs in just 130 plate appearances, with eight of those longballs as well as five doubles coming off righties.
Kurt Suzuki: The Nationals split their catching duties in a fairly even platoon setup, but Suzuki is the power half. He has seven homers and 30 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances.
Brian Dozier: 32-year-old veteran second baseman was a former AL All-Star with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he played the first seven of his now eight-year career. He has 10 home runs and 10 doubles, remaining a dangerous, albeit streaky, hitter with the Nationals.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Howie Kendrick: Not much was expected of Kendrick this season, who at age 35 (he turns 36 next month) is now in his 14th big-league season. Kendrick spent the first 11 years of his career in Los Angeles, nine with the Angels and then two with the Dodgers.
He was then traded in late July 2017 to the Phillies for a fringe prospect, seeing action in 24 games out in left field and another 10 at second base. Kendrick then became a free agent, signing with Washington.
When numerous injuries opened up some playing time earlier this season, Kendrick received increased opportunities and made the best of them. His 12 homers and 43 RBIs are second on the team, and he is slashing at the .333/.383/.602 mark. He also continues to provide value with his defensive versatility, playing in 19 games at first base and 14 each at second and third bases.
Kendrick, who has made $65 million over the course of his career but is now making “only” $4 million this year, will be a free agent once again after the season ends. This kind of production assures that someone will want him coming off their bench. Maybe even the Phillies.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAY – Patrick Corbin: 5-5 4.11 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 75 hits over 85.1 IP across 14 starts with a 94/29 K:BB
TUESDAY – Erick Fedde: 1-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 32 hits over 36.2 IP across 10 games (5 starts) with a 21/14 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Max Scherzer: 5-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 87 hits over 99.1 IP across 15 starts with a 136/20 K:BB
THURSDAY – Stephen Strasburg: 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 78 hits over 96 IP across 15 starts with a 115/24 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

A native New Yorker, Dave Martinez is in his second season at the helm in Washington after guiding the club to an 82-80 mark and a second place finish in the NL East Division a year ago.
Martinez played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball after being drafted in the third round back in 1983 by the Chicago Cubs. He played for nine different organizations, with his four years in Chicago and four with the old Montreal Expos, the Nationals predecessors, marking his longest stints.
He was under fire when the club got off to such a miserable start this year, but any talk of firing has been muted with this recent period of improved play and winning by the team.

THE BALLPARK

Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and is known mostly as a fair ballpark for hitters and pitchers, ranking 11th in the current ESPN 2019 MLB Ballpark Factors list.
Dimensions are 337 and 335 down the left and right field lines respectively. Left-center is 377 feet out, right-center at 370 feet, and it will be 402 feet out to dead-center field.
Located along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard section of D.C., it has a regular capacity of 41,339 but they have reached as many as 30,000 just nine times since Opening Day. One of those was for Harper’s first return back on April 2 with Scherzer on the mound when just under 36,000 showed up.
Back in 201o they added a ‘Ring of Honor’ to celebrate those from the old Washington Senators franchise, the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues who were based in town, as well as the Expos/Nationals players who have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A dozen-and-a-half players are currently honored, including Walter JohnsonHarmon KillebrewJosh Gibson, and Andre Dawson. Also honored there is former Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jayson Werth.
Since 2011, a submarine dive horn blares after each Nationals home run and victory in a nod to the park’s location in the Navy Yard neighborhood.
In the middle of the 4th inning at every game, fans are treated to the President’s Race. Runners wearing costumes topped by oversized heads of four U.S. Presidents engage in a foot race, often with comedic elements built into the contest. The four Presidents are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Three other Presidents have also spent time as racers, but those original four remain today as the current lineup.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Game time for all four nights is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT
This will be a very unsettled weather week in Washington. There is a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms on Monday night, then an 80% chance on both Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping to 60% on Thursday. Temperatures will be in the upper-70’s to mid-80’s during games with high humidity and light winds all week. Any fans taking the ride down from Philly should be prepared for delays at the start of, or during, each of the four games, though all four should be played in the end.
Report using data from The Weather Channel

Defending NL East champion Braves stay right on Phillies heels in mid-May

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Ronald Acuna Jr and the Braves are defending NL East champs

One week ago today, the Philadelphia Phillies (27-19) were seven games over the .500 mark in first place in the National League East Division standings. They led the second place Atlanta Braves by three games, and were four up in the loss column over both Atlanta and the New York Mets.

Following a week in which they went 4-3, the Phillies are now eight over that .500 mark. But the Braves also fared well, cutting into that lead. Atlanta now trails by 2.5 games, three in the loss column. Meanwhile, the Mets have fallen six back in the loss column, with the Washington Nationals even further in the rear view mirror at eight games out.
After dropping three of four games to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Phillies rebounded to sweep out the Colorado Rockies in three games over the weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are now 4-3 during what was a tough 23-game stretch of their schedule.
Now comes the most difficult part of that rough stretch, with 13 of the next 16 games on the road. It all starts with a seven-game road trip this week. Four games at Wrigley Field against the NL Central Division-leading Chicago Cubs followed by a three-game series next weekend with the Brewers at Miller Park.
During this series against the Cubs, fans of the Phillies will experience a first. On Wednesday night, Chicago will send lefty Cole Hamels to the mound. It will mark the first-ever career start for Hamels against the team for whom he broke into the big-leagues, won 114 games over 10 seasons, and captured both the World Series and NLCS MVP awards during the 2008 postseason championship run.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

EAST DIVISION

    <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
    W / (W + L)
    For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
    For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

    <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
    Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
    Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
    Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

    East Division
    Team W L
    Philadelphia Phillies 27 19 .587
    Atlanta Braves 25 22 .532 2.5
    New York Mets 20 25 .444 6.5
    Washington Nationals 19 27 .413 8.0
    Miami Marlins 13 31 .295 13.0


    ATLANTA BRAVES (4 – 2)

    Summary: The Braves lost their first and last games this past week, but took four in a row in between. They captured two of three from the Brewers over the weekend, the same club that had just left Philly after winning three of four.
    Veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman paces the Braves offense, slashing .318/.408/.581 with a team-high 11 home runs and 24 extra-base hits. Ronald Acuna Jr. last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, is slashing .281/.372/.480 and is second on the club with nine long balls. He and Freeman are tied with shortstop Dansby Swanson for the team lead with 29 RBIs apiece.
    The Braves offensive attack has been very similar to the Phillies. Double-digits one game, struggling to score in the next. Atlanta has scored two more runs, but has also played one more game. But their attack has been more dynamic, with an OPS at .783 ranking 3rd in the National League. Compare that to the Phillies .739 mark, which is ranked just 8th of the 15 teams.
    Rookie right-hander Mike Soroka has been excellent in the rotation: 4-1, 0.98 ERA, 1.009 WHIP, 23 hits allowed over 36.2 IP with a 34/14 K:BB. The 21-year-old has a streak of four consecutive Quality Starts going on at the moment. 25-year-old lefty Max Fried is 6-2 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.132 WHIP and a 46/11 K:BB while allowing 46 hits over 50.1 innings.
    Key injuries: Starting center fielder Ender Inciarte is on the 10-day IL with back spasms. He could return this coming weekend, and will be evaluated later in the week. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has resumed throwing after suffering forearm tightness, but has no timetable.
    Upcoming: The Braves also go on the road for seven games this week. They begin with four at beautiful AT&T Park against the host San Francisco Giants, who at 20-25 are in last place in the NL West Division. Atlanta then travels to Saint Louis to take on the slumping Cardinals, losers of 13 of their last 17, for three games next weekend.

    MIAMI MARLINS (3 – 2)

    Summary: The Marlins enjoyed their first winning week of the season thanks to a sweep this weekend of the visiting New York Mets at Marlins Park. Still, the Fish are buried in last place in the NL East standings. Their 13-31 record is the worst in all of Major League Baseball.
    Former Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro has just one home run in his last 13 games, yet his half-dozen long balls continues to lead the Marlins. Alfaro is also on top of the Miami leader board with 13 RBIs. Veteran first baseman Neil Walker has 10 extra-base hits, second on the club, and his .293/.374/.431 slash line make him the closest thing the Marlins have to a consistent threat.
    Lefty starter Caleb Smith continues to turn in an All-Star caliber campaign. The 27-year-old southpaw is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 0.917 WHIP. He has allowed just 30 hits over 48 innings across eight starts with a 64/14 K:BB ratio. Smith struck out eight and allowed just four hits in his most recent outing vs Tampa Bay last Sunday. But lasting just 5.1 innings in that start snapped a six-game official Quality Start streak.
    Key injuries: Alfaro suffered a left calf strain in Saturday’s game and was held out of the Sunday lineup. He is considered day-to-day. Righty reliever Drew Steckinrider suffered flexor strain in his right forearm. He hopes to rest it and return after the MLB All-Star Game break in mid-July.
    Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, the Marlins will travel to Detroit for a three-game Interleague series with the host Tigers at Comerica Park. Then it will be a four-game wraparound series with the Washington Nationals from Friday through next Monday at Nationals Park.

    NEW YORK METS (1 – 5)

    Summary: It all began so well for the Metropolitans. After winning their first game of the week, they had fought back to the .500 mark and were in second place. But then, disaster struck. A losing streak that has now reached five games, with the last three against the Marlins, the worst team in baseball.
    The Mets were shutout by Miami over the final two games and have now gone scoreless in 19 straight innings. Their offensive attack has generated more than four runs just five times over the last 18 games. To put that into perspective, the Phillies mercurial offense has done it twice as much over their own most recent 18 contests.
    First baseman Pete Alonso, who began the season on fire and was the leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate over the first five weeks, has fallen flat. The 24-year-old is slashing just .167/.239/.452 over his last dozen games.
    Their big off-season trade acquisition, veteran second baseman Robinson Cano, is slashing just .196/.237/.268 over his last 14 games. The now 36-year-old Cano is owed $96 million over the next four seasons – after this one is finished. Ouch.
    On the mound, starters Noah SyndergaardJacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all enjoyed solid seasons, as has new closer Edwin Diaz. But the overall staff ERA and BAA are both just 12th of the 15 National League ball clubs.
    Key injuries: Starting right fielder Michael Conforto suffered a concussion and will be out until at least the weekend. Veteran Jason Vargas, who has pitched poorly out of the fifth starter role, suffered left hamstring tightness. He is beginning a minor league rehab assignment. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and infielder Jed Lowrie both continue out with no timetable. Lefty reliever Luis Avilan has soreness in his left elbow and hopes to try throwing again soon.
    Upcoming: Mickey Callaway is just 97-110 over parts of two seasons. He had best start getting it turned around during a seven-game homestand this week, or could find himself at the top of the managerial on-the-chopping-block lists. The Mets host the Nationals for four, then welcome in the Tigers for a three-game Interleague weekend series.

    WASHINGTON NATIONALS (3 – 3)

    Summary: Continuing an extremely disappointing and injury-riddled start to their season, the Nationals only tread water with a .500 week that kept them eight games below that break-even mark on the season. Washington has now fallen a full eight games back in the standings.
    22-year-old center fielder Victor Robles has been a bit of a disappointment. Robles is tied for the team lead with eight homers, leads the club with eight steals, and is second with 30 runs scored and 16 extra-base hits. But he is also slashing at just the .241/.297/.451 mark.
    Their other young phenom outfielder, 20-year-old Juan Soto, is hitting just .246 on the season. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year runner-up does lead the Nats with 27 RBIs, however.
    In a dozen games since returning from a stay on the Injured List, third baseman Anthony Rendon has slashed .289/.373/.556 with 10 runs scored, eight RBIs, and eight extra-base hits. He continues to be the most consistent Nationals offensive threat. He also remains unsigned beyond this season, a situation that could become more interesting should the team stay out of the race, he stay healthy, and the season drag along with him remaining unsigned.
    Shortstop Trea Turner missed 40 games after breaking his finger on a poor bunt attempt against the Phillies during just the fourth game of the season. He returned this past week, and the speedster’s presence in the lineup should help rejuvenate the Nationals attack. Washington is just ninth in both runs scored and OPS in the NL this season.
    Key injuries: First basemen Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman remain out. Adams could begin taking swings this week after missing time with a left shoulder strain. Zimmerman is suffering from plantar fasciitis and hopes to begin running soon. The club’s fourth starter, Anibal Sanchez, was pitching terribly before hitting the IL with a left hamstring strain. He has no timetable. Relievers Trevor RosenthalJustin Miller and Koda Glover are all on the IL. Rosenthal could return soon.
    Upcoming: The Nationals begin a key 10-game stretch within the division on Monday. They visit Citi Field to take on the Mets in four games to open the week. Then it’s back home for four with the Miami Marlins in a wraparound series from Friday-Monday. Next Tuesday and Wednesday they will visit Atlanta.

    National League East Report: 4/8 – 4/14

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    Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso has helped the Mets get off fast

    The early going in the National League East Division has already made for some tremendous head-to-head excitement and we’re only in the opening weeks. A division race which many predicted would be dog-eat-dog over six months of drama seems to want to unfold in exactly that manner.

    During what was the second full week of the Major League Baseball campaign we saw more of those face-to-face meetings between the Phillies closest rivals. For the Phillies themselves, that’s all it was, a week filled with intra-divisional showdowns. In fact, 11 of the club’s first 14 games have been against those rivals.
    As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.
    ATLANTA BRAVES
    Summary: With a second consecutive winning week the Braves continued to bounce back from their season-opening sweep at the hands of the Phillies. They began the week by sweeping a quick two-game set Colorado, scoring 15 runs in the rarified air of the Mile-High City. Atlanta then came home to host the New York Mets in a big, early four-game set which the two rivals would split. The Mets took the first two before the Braves offense opened up for 18 runs to win over the final two games.
    25-year-old left-hander Max Fried was stellar over six innings at Coors Field, holding the Rockies to just an unearned run and five hits in that difficult pitching environment. It was a second straight strong start for Fried, who began the season pitching out of the bullpen. On a club with a ton of talented young starting pitching options, Fried is one of the best, and he should remain in the rotation moving forward.
    Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, left fielder Ronald Acuna, finally began to heat up. That could be bad news for the rest of the division. Acuna slashed .545/.630/1.091 over the Braves six games with three homers among five total extra-base hits. He drove in nine runs, scored seven, and stole his second base of the season. He now leads the club with five homers.
    Shortstop Dansby Swanson continues to lead the club in RBI with 18. New third baseman Josh Donaldson leads the Braves with seven extra-base hits, five of those as doubles. Freddie Freeman is hitting .345 with a .478 OBP.
    Key injuries: Right-hander Mike Foltynewicz was scheduled for his third minor league rehab game on Monday night. He is working his way back from spring elbow issues. The Braves hope that he can return either this coming weekend or at some point next week. Veteran catcher Brian McCann has been on the IL with a right hamstring strain and could return this weekend as well. A trio of key relievers in Johnny Venters, Darren O’Day and Arodys Vizcaino are all on the IL. There is no timetable on any of the three, though Venters is likely closest to helping again, possibly before April is out.
    Upcoming: Atlanta will host the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games beginning Tuesday night at SunTrust Park. The club then heads out on a six-game Ohio road trip starting with a three=game Inter-league series over the weekend in Cleveland before moving on to Cincinnati to open next week’s schedule.


    MIAMI MARLINS
    Summary: Another week and more losing baseball from the Fish, though their bats did enjoy one big night at the Phillies expense. The Marlins began the week by getting swept in Cincinnati and scoring just one run over three games. They returned to Miami to face the Phillies and scored just one run on both Friday and Sunday. In between the Marlins erupted for a 10-spot to gain their lone victory of the week on Saturday night.
    Left-hander Caleb Smith was the beneficiary of all the Saturday runs, but he was also outstanding on the mound. Smith held the Phillies to just one hit over six innings, striking out six and walking three to earn his first victory of the year. It was the third start for the 27-year-old southpaw and he has been excellent in all three outings.
    Former Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro is tied for the Marlins team lead in homers (3), RBI (6) and is slashing at the .316/.366/.553 mark. Shortstop Miguel Rojas has gotten off hot, hitting .310 with a .375 OBP and also has six RBI. Austin Dean also is tied with six RBI for the club lead, though five of those came in one night when he drove in half of the Marlins runs in a big 4-4 night against the Phillies.
    Key injuries: While the news in the standings and on the scoreboard hasn’t been good, the news from the trainer’s room is solid. The Marlins remain the healthiest team in baseball, with no significant injuries suffered to this point.
    Upcoming: Miami is in the midst of a nine-game home stand which continues this week as the host both the Chicago Cubs and division-rival Washington Nationals for three games apiece. This will be the first meeting of the season between the Fish and Nats.


    NEW YORK METS
    Summary: It was a roller coaster .500 week for the Metropolitans, who began by dropping a game to the Minnesota Twins and ended with a pair of losses in our nation’s capital. In between there were three victories, one over the Twins and two over the Nationals. Offense was the story for New York as the bats provided 39 runs over the half-dozen games.
    Utility man Jeff McNeil continues to prove invaluable. The 27-year-old has split time in left field and at third base, and even took up second base for a game. He hit .360 with five RBI this week and was slashing .383/.463/.511 by week’s end with nine RBI and eight runs scored.
    Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso also continued to rake. The 24-year-old is emerging as an early NL Rookie of the Year contender, and this week he slashed .286/.400/762 with three home runs, six RBI, and five runs scored. He leads the club with six homers and 17 RBI. Catcher Wilson Ramos, who had a cup of coffee with the Phillies late last season, is hitting .320 with a .393 OBP in the early going and has 10 RBI.
    On the mound, defending NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom lost a pair of games last week after having looked dominant over his first two starts of the season. The righty surrendered nine runs and 13 hits over nine innings in the pair of defeats. Noah Syndergaard was also whacked around a bit, allowing nine runs on 14 hits over a dozen innings.
    New closer Edwin Diaz has been everything that Mets could have hoped since coming over from Seattle. The 25-year-old entered this week with five Saves having allowed one run with a 10/1 K:BB ratio over his first 5.2 innings with the club.
    Key injuries: Veteran infielder Todd Frazier will be activated during this week’s series with the Phillies. The 33-year-old began the year on the IL with a left oblique strain. He is likely to slot in as an infield backup who sees most of his time at third base when either he gets hot or McNeil and J.D. Davis are cold. Jed Lowrie has been out since spring with a sprained knee capsule that has been slow in healing. He is taking batting practice but has not played the field and is still likely weeks away. There remains no timetable on outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who could miss months, or could miss the season.
    Upcoming: The Mets travel south on I-95 to meet the Phillies for the first time this season with the early lead in the NL East on the line. New York then flies out to visit the tough Saint Louis Cardinals over the weekend at the conclusion of a 10-game road trip.

    WASHINGTON NATIONALS
    Summary: The Nationals began the week by taking two of three from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, with their offense exploding for 25 runs to win the final two games. But the Nats then dropped two of three over last weekend to Pennsylvania’s other team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, scoring just three runs in each of the three games at home in Nationals Park.
    Pending free agent Anthony Rendon remains on fire in the early week’s of the season. The third baseman slashed .360/.370/. 760 on the week with a pair of homers, eight RBI, and a half-dozen runs scored and extra-base hits. Rendon leads the Nats with six homers, 14 extra-base hits, 17 RBI, and 18 runs scored.
    22-year-old center fielder Victor Robles is second on the club with three homers, eight extra-base hits, and 11 runs scored. 20-year-old left fielder Juan Soto is second with 10 RBI.
    The Nats have really missed shortstop Trea Turne, lost when he was hit on the hand while trying to bunt against the Phillies last week. His hot bat and big-time speed have been replaced by Wilmer Difo, who is slashing just .184/.262/.263 with little production over 43 plate appearances this season.
    On the mound, Max Scherzer is off to another ace-level start. Over his first four starts the righty has allowed 24 hits across 27 innings with a 35/10 K:BB ratio. Jeremy Hellickson. the Phillies starter on Opening Day in both 2016 and 2017, returned to Citizens Bank Park and shut his old club down over six strong innings last Wednesday.
    New lefty Patrick Corbin has gone at least six innings in each of his first three outings with the team. He gave a strong seven-innings performance with 11 strikeouts while surrendering just four hits against Pittsburgh, but was let down by his offense and bullpen in a 6-3 loss over the weekend.
    Starters Stephen Strasburg and Nate Eovaldi and the entire Nationals bullpen other than closer Sean Doolittle have been up and down over these first few weeks.
    Key injuries: Turner has begun the early stages of rehab work as he starts to recover from the broken finger. It is anticipated that he will miss up to five more weeks, so the Nationals will have to do without their spark plug until the end of May.
    Upcoming: The Nationals will host the San Francisco Giants to open this week. The club then heads out on a road trip to Miami over the coming weekend and then on out to Colorado for a three-game set at Coors Field to open next week.