The Braves have been scuffling of late, especially since last week's meltdown against the Nationals. The Braves are 2-5 in their last seven games and have fallen to third place in the NL East at 12-14 (not that it matters this early in the season).
And even though the season's barely a month old, one thing we've learned about Atlanta the past week is that it's not afraid to give the young arms a shot if things aren't going well. Case in point: The Braves called up 23-year-old minor league pitching prospect Mike Foltynewicz on April 30th to start after Trevor Cahill went 0-3 with a 8.03 ERA and was relegated to the bullpen. The club is hoping that a rotation including Foltynewicz, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran can develop as the year goes on and, if nothing else, lays down the foundation for a contender down the road.
They aren't out of the woods just yet, but things are beginning to stabilize a bit for the Marlins. Without question, the reason why they are steadily climbing back into the division race is because of the improvement of the starting staff. After a horrid first few weeks, they suddenly have three members of their rotation with ERAs under 3.00 in David Phelps (1.88), Dan Haren (2.70) and Jared Cosart (2.97). That's a welcome sight for a club that's still waiting on former All-Star Henderson Alvarez and phenom Jose Fernandez to return from injury.
As for the offense, the Marlins are showing they're more than just Giancarlo Stanton. Second baseman and leadoff man Dee Gordon leads all of baseball with a .433 average, and is second in the bigs in stolen bases with 12. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is emerging, hitting .320 with 16 RBI. Heck, even Ichiro Suzuki is still posting a .282 mark at 41 years old. So make no mistake, this team may be slowly rounding into form and could very well pose a legitimate threat to the Nats as the season wears on.
NEW YORK METS
You knew the Mets couldn't stay hot forever. New York has finally hit its first rough patch of the season, dropping seven out of the last 10 to close their division lead to just 3 1/2 games. Naturally, baseball observers pundits around the country are looking this club and thinking it is finally coming back to Earth and will regress to where most expected it would be.
So, are the Mets' struggles temporary or symptomatic of larger issues? It's probably too early to tell, but the two biggest factors for their recent slide have been the relative lack of offense and the shoddy defense being played. New York has committed 10 errors over its last 10 games while scoring 3.6 runs per contest (compared to 5.2 in the previous 10 games). It's not exactly disastrous, but it's certainly not as good as things were to start the season. The good news is that the pitching, for the most part, has stayed relatively in tact as the the team ERA sits a 3.01 -- third best in the majors. There have been some hiccups recently (Jacob deGrom's rough outing against the Nats, for example), but if the Mets' arms continue to hold things down they'll probably hang around for a while.
We might as well just rename this section "Phillies Trade Watch". Because with them having one of the worst records in the game at 10-17, it seems the only question revolving around this club is when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be able to unload high priced veterans Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels. Philly is reportedly "waiting with open arms" for a deal to get done, but is also trying to make sure to maximize what it could get in return. Though this process has probably gone on longer than Amaro would hope, the prudent approach would be to wait until a contending team gets desperate enough to offer a haul of top prospects. We probably won't find out who that team will be until closer to the trade deadline.