Phillies

Phillies

You know how much the NL East has improved this offseason, but there's no such thing as a perfect roster and each of these teams has at least one weakness. 

Let's take a look. We're excluding the Marlins because the entire roster is a weakness.

Phillies: Rotation spots 2-5

The starting rotation was the Phillies' strength in the first half of 2018, thanks to strong pre-All-Star break stints by Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez.

Arrieta entered June with a 2.16 ERA. 

Pivetta entered June with a 3.26 ERA.

Eflin entered July with a 3.02 ERA. 

Velasquez stumbled in April, but from May 5 through Aug. 3, he allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of 15 starts, lasting at least six innings in nine of them.

Obviously, Aaron Nola had one of the best seasons ever by a Phillies starting pitcher.

The second half was another story. Their second-half ERAs:

Arrieta: 5.04

Pivetta: 5.05

Velasquez: 5.68

Eflin: 5.76

The Phillies still have high hopes for their young starting pitchers but the clock is ticking, and so far, none of them has had a strong full season. With a better roster and better defense, all of them should theoretically improve, but expectations are also greater and the pressure will be more intense.

As of now, this is the Phils' weakness — starting pitching behind Nola. More volatility than you'd like.

Nationals: Bullpen aside from Sean Doolittle

Washington has a deep roster. Strong infield, strong outfield, solid defense, the top starting pitching trio in the league, one of the best catching situations with Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.

 

The Nats' weakness, as it stands in mid-February, is the bridge to closer Sean Doolittle.

The Nats brought aboard Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough, two hard-throwing right-handed setup men who have experienced highs and lows. 

Rosenthal had four very good years with the Cardinals but had trouble throwing strikes in 2016 and 2017, walking 5.0 batters per nine innings and posting a 1.52 WHIP. He had Tommy John surgery late in the '17 season and did not pitch in the majors at all this past season.

Barraclough was very good for the Marlins from 2015 through the first half of 2018. After the All-Star break, he totally fell apart. Barraclough had a 1.28 ERA at the break, then proceeded to allow 19 runs, five homers and 31 baserunners in his next 8⅔ innings. He was practically unusable down the stretch, blowing four of his five save chances.

The Nats are banking on both players reverting to their previous form. If they don't, there will be plenty of frustration felt by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

Braves: Rotation spots 2-5

Mike Foltynewicz has figured things out, but the Braves' four starters behind him — Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, Sean Newcomb and Touki Toussaint — lack consistency.

Teheran has walked 70-plus batters in three of the last four years and has alternated good and bad seasons. It's impossible to know what to expect from him, and his home run rate has risen since the Braves moved from Turner Field to the more hitter-friendly SunTrust Park. 

Gausman was a key trade deadline addition for Atlanta, giving the Braves a 2.87 ERA in his 10 starts. He's always had the pedigree and talent but never lived up to expectations in his six seasons with the Orioles. He's a major key in the Braves' rotation. If he can pitch like he did down the stretch, the Braves have a solid mid-rotation piece rather than a No. 5 starter.

Newcomb had a 2.71 ERA entering July and a 5.45 ERA thereafter. He tired as his first full big-league season progressed.

Mets: Bottom of lineup

The Mets have added many players this offseason: Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson.

Three of their projected first four hitters in the lineup (Lowrie, Cano, Ramos) are new. Expectations are low for Yoenis Cespedes to play effectively, if at all, following heel surgeries. 

The top of the Mets' lineup is solid, their top three starters (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler) could challenge the Nats', and Familia and Diaz should be a formidable one-two punch at the back end of the bullpen.

The glaring weakness is the Mets' 6-7-8. As of now, it's looking like Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario and Juan Lagares. Frazier has hit .213 the last two seasons with an OPS well below average for a starting corner infielder. Lagares is a defensive whiz but had a .293 OBP from 2015-17. There are a lot of outs to be had after the five-spot in the Mets' order, which will create plenty of low-scoring nights when the top of the lineup can't produce crooked numbers.

 

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