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NL East position rankings: Where do the Mets slot in?

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets - Game One
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets - Game One / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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The National League East is one of the more interesting divisions in baseball heading into the 2022 season, with the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves all expecting to contend, the Miami Marlins quickly on the rise with a loaded farm system, and the Nationals in the midst of a huge rebuild.

Let’s take a look at position rankings among NL East teams.

These rankings are as of the middle of February. Obviously once the lockout ends, plenty of moves will be made that will change this list. We will revisit this around Opening Day and make the necessary updates and adjustments. 

Starting Rotation:

  1. Mets: deGrom, Scherzer, Carrasco, Walker, Megill
  2. Braves: Fried, Morton, Anderson, Ynoa, Tucker Davidson 
  3. Phillies: Nola, Wheeler, Eflin, Gibson, Suarez 
  4. Marlins Alcantara, Rogers, Lopez, Luzardo, Sanchez/Cabrera/Hernandez
  5. Nats: Strasburg, Corbin, Ross, Gray, Fedde

The Mets top the starting rotation list, and they are rumored to be interested in making another big move, whether it’s a free agent or trade. You could make the argument that the Braves have a deeper rotation with Anderson as the #3 compared to Carlos Carrasco, but there’s no denying that the Mets’ deGrom and Scherzer trounces Fried and Morton at the top. There’s a chance that Mike Soroka comes back around midseason, but who knows what he’ll be like after tearing his Achilles tendon twice.

The Phillies have a strong 1-2 punch as well with Nola and Wheeler, but it really drops off after that. Zach Eflin is consistently solid yet snore-inducingly boring. Kyle Gibson is an ok fourth starter. Ranger Suarez had a fantastic 2021, but it wouldn’t be wise to expect another 1.36 ERA, especially with his FIP being more than a run higher at 2.72.

The Marlins could shoot up this list really, really quickly. Sandy Alcantara is a Cy Young contender. Trevor Rogers is coming off of a great rookie season. Pablo Lopez is one of the more reliable, underappreciated starters in the game. Jesus Luzardo has great stuff, and the potential to be a truly dominant starter if he can figure out his control. In the fifth slot, they have some combination of Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera, who both have high velocity and great stuff. 

There’s not much to say about the Nationals. Strasburg is coming back from thoracic outlet surgery, so he may be a very different pitcher than we’ve seen in the past. Patrick Corbin has fallen off a cliff since 2019. Joe Ross is a fifth starter they have in the 3rd slot. The one upside is Josiah Gray, who has a very bright future. Erik Fedde is really more of a depth arm holding a place until Cade Cavalli is ready to come up.


Tyler Matzek
World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Three / Michael Zarrilli/GettyImages

Bullpen (important names)

  1. Braves: Smith, Jackson, Matzek, Minter
  2. Mets: Diaz, May, Lugo, 
  3. Marlins: Bass, Bleier, Floro
  4. Phillies: Knebel
  5. Nats: *shrug*

As we saw in the playoffs last season, the Braves have a plethora of skilled relievers. Will Smith has been reliable forever. Luke Jackson has that wipeout slider that’s nearly untouchable. A.J. Minter is a flamethrower from the left side. Tyler Matzek eats, sleeps, and breathes clutch. Richard Rodriguez was a nice trade deadline pickup as well, but they released him before the lockout. 

The Mets come in second here. Mets fans still don’t seem to trust Edwin Diaz after his disastrous 2019, but he has been an elite closer since then and ya’ll need to move on. Trevor May is a solid setup man with great strikeout stuff. Seth Lugo has found a home at the back of the bullpen with higher velocity and sharper stuff. He’s capable of going multiple innings as well, which is super valuable.

The Marlins don’t have any big names in their bullpen, but they do have some consistent, reliable arms. After starting his career as a journeyman, Anthony Bass has been solid enough to earn an extension with the Marlins. Richard Bleier, while having no swing-and-miss stuff whatsoever, excels at missing barrels and limiting walks. Dylan Floro is another solid arm for them.

The Phillies find themselves in fourth. Corey Knebel was a nice addition before the lockout started. Other than that, there’s not really much to mention. This bullpen’s attitude is almost as wild as their fastball command. Almost.

Do the Nationals even have a bullpen? Given how far Tanner Rainey fell off last season, they basically don’t. The potential is there, as we saw in 2019 and 2020, but there’s nobody around him.


J.T. Realmuto
Pittsburgh Pirates v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Catcher

  1. Phillies: Realmuto
  2. Marlins: Stallings
  3. Nats: Ruiz
  4. Mets: Nido/McCann
  5. Braves: d’Arnaud

The Phillies take the lead in the catching department. At the absolute worst, J.T. Realmuto is the third best catcher in baseball. The only other names in contention for the #1 spot are Salvador Perez and Yasmani Grandal. Realmuto brings a rare combination of fantastic defense, athleticism, power, and even good baserunning, which is scarce among catchers. He’s also among the MLB leaders in pop time.

One of the newest Marlins, Jacob Stallings, comes in second. Defensively, he’s a brick wall behind the dish. Nothing gets past him thanks to his agility. He's got a decent pop time, and his framing has improved over the years. He’s slightly below average offensively (95 OPS+ in 2021), but when you play defense the way he does, you take that any day of the week.

This is the highest you’ll see the Nationals on this list. Keibert Ruiz is the real deal, and he could be higher on this list if he performs the way he’s capable of in 2022. This is an aggressive ranking, but he’s got the defense, arm strength, and bat to be one of the best catchers in the game.

Tomas Nido and James McCann find themselves in fourth. Nido is fantastic defensively, particularly at pitch framing. However, neither his bat nor McCann’s are productive. We know McCann can do better than he did last year, but until he gets it back, or until Francisco Alvarez comes up, the Mets are towards the bottom of the division and overall league in catching.

The Braves bring up the rear with Travis d’Arnaud. Injury issues continue to plague him, and when he’s on the field, both his offense and defense have gotten worse. Expect Manny Pina and William Contreras to get a lot of playing time when d’Arnaud isn’t available. Neither of them are great either.


Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley
Atlanta Braves v San Francisco Giants / Daniel Shirey/GettyImages

Corner Infield

  1. Braves: Freeman, Riley
  2. Mets: Alonso, Escobar
  3. Marlins: Aguilar/Cooper, Anderson
  4. Phillies: Hoskins, Bohm
  5. Nats: Bell, Kieboom

Yes, I’m assuming that the Braves will re-sign the face of their franchise and one of the best first basemen in recent memory. However, it was a huge mistake to not get it done before the lockout or even last winter, so all the power to Freeman if he wants to test the market and leave. Pair him with breakout stud Austin Riley at the hot corner, and this is the best corner infield duo in the division.

Not far behind is the Mets with Pete Alonso and Eduardo Escobar. Alonso has the most power of any first basemen in this division, and Escobar has the second most power among third basemen, behind Riley of course. Neither is brilliant defensively, but their offense makes up for it.

Brian Anderson had a very disappointing 2021, but he is capable of being an above-average major league third baseman. The projections have him bouncing back a little bit in 2022, which is good for him and the Marlins. Some combination of Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper will play first and DH, and both have the pop to do it well.

Rhys Hoskins is doing the heavy lifting for the Phillies in this category, considering the pitiful season Alec Bohm had that resulted in his demotion. He simply has to be better in 2022. Hoskins is a better first baseman than Aguilar and Cooper, but Bohm drags him down.

The Nationals find themselves at the bottom yet again. Josh Bell is a decent first baseman when he hits, right around the middle of the pack in baseball. Keiboom is young and has potential, but hasn’t shown much yet.


Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies
Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Middle Infield

  1. Braves: Albies, Swanson
  2. Mets: McNeil, Lindor
  3. Marlins: Chisholm, Rojas 
  4. Phillies: Segura, Gregorius
  5. Nats: Garcia/Hernandez, Escobar

The Braves run away with the best middle infield combo in the division. Simply put, they’re both five-tool players. There are no holes in their game. In fact, if Albies would give up switch hitting and just hit righty, he’d be even better.

The Mets come in second. Lindor is elite defensively, and we know he can do more offensively than he did in 2021. A lot of this hinges on what the Mets do at second base. I think it’s likely that McNeil will start there, but Robinson Cano could get time there as well. Or if they trade McNeil, possibly for a third baseman (perhaps Matt Chapman?), Eduardo Escobar would slide over to second.

I like the combination of Miguel Rojas and Jazz Chisholm. They’re athletic and they play really well together. Chisholm still hasn’t reached his ceiling, so I think we will see a lot more from him going forward. Rojas, while not much of a hitter, is a great leader on such a young, promising team.

The Phillies are in fourth place. Jean Segura and Didi Gregorious aren’t really exciting, but they’re not bad either. Segura put up some pretty decent offensive numbers, and his defense at second was pretty good too, but I think it’s safe to say that Didi is in the decline now. Both of these guys are going into their age 32 season, so age is not on their side either. 

There’s not much to say about the Nationals’ middle infield. They have one. There you go.


Ronald Acuna Jr.
Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Outfield

  1. Braves: Acuna, Duvall, Ozuna 
  2. Mets: Nimmo, Marte, Canha
  3. Marlins: Garcia, Sanchez, De La Cruz
  4. Nats: Soto, Robles, Thomas
  5. Phillies: Harper, Vierling, Moniak

Marcell Ozuna has a beautiful swing on the field, but his off-the-field swings got him suspended in 2021. If he’s back - and it sounds like he will be - the Braves easily have the best outfield in the division, with the powerful Adam Duvall and five-tool superstar Ronald Acuna due back from surgery as early as May, but more likely in June.

The Mets have a trio of on-base machines in their outfield. Put two of them at the top of the order and the other one ninth and just let them do their thing. Marte is fantastic in center field, and Nimmo’s defensive metrics should rise once he’s moved to one of the corners. 

The Marlins made a nice move by signing Avisail Garcia to join Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz in the outfield. Garcia immediately slides into the middle of their order and brings a strong arm to the outfield. They’ve also been linked to Bryan Reynolds in trade talks, so keep an eye out for that.

The Nationals narrowly find themselves in fourth. Juan Soto is one of the best players in baseball. His control of the strike zone is unmatched. Victor Robles is one of the best defensive players in baseball, even though his offense needs work. Lane Thomas was a solid mid-season pickup from St. Louis who can be the third cog in this outfield for years to come.

The Phillies go in last. Right now on their depth chart, Matt Vierling is listed as their starting left fielder and center fielder. That’s how shallow their depth is. I assume Mickey Moniak will get one of those spots. Obviously Harper is great, but there’s just nothing around him.

That's how things stand in the NL East right now. It'll be interesting to see what moves are made once the lockout ends and how they'll change the rankings within the division. Keep an eye out for an updated ranking near Opening Day.

Next. Matt Harvey's peaks and valleys. dark

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