Four teams think they have what it takes to win the NL East crown

Dayton Daily News - - MLB PREVIEW -

A team-by-team look at the Na­tional League East en­ter­ing spring train­ing, in­clud­ing key play­ers each club ac­quired and lost, and dates of the first work­out for pitch­ers and catch­ers, and the full squad:

At­lanta Braves

Man­ager: Brian Snitker (fourth sea­son).

2018: 90-72, first place, lost to Dodgers in Di­vi­sion Series.

Train­ing Town: Kis­sim­mee, Florida.

Park: Cham­pion Sta­dium. First Work­out: Feb. 16/21. He’s Here: 3B Josh Don­ald­son, C Brian McCann, C Raffy Lopez, pitch­ing coach Rick Kranitz.

He’s Outta Here: C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Ani­bal Sanchez, RHP Bran­don McCarthy, RHP Brad Brach, 3B Ryan Fla­herty, RHP Peter Moy­lan, 1B Lu­cas Duda, C Rene Rivera, OF Lane Adams, pitch­ing coach Chuck Her­nan­dez.

Go­ing campin’: The 2018 Baby Braves were a sur­prise break­through team, win­ning the club’s first NL East cham­pi­onship since 2013. A repeat ti­tle in a tougher NL East might be a big­ger chal­lenge. A key to the start of spring will be the health of Don­ald­son, who signed a one-year, $23 mil­lion deal af­ter a left calf strain spoiled much of his 2018 sea­son with Toronto and Cleve­land. The Braves need Don­ald­son, the 2015 AL MVP, to add more punch to the mid­dle of their lineup, es­pe­cially af­ter the team re-signed Nick Markakis in­stead of pur­su­ing a power hit­ter for the out­field. Don­ald­son and McCann, whose At­lanta home­com­ing should be a big hit with fans, add vet­eran voices to a club­house packed with such young­sters as 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Ron­ald Acuna Jr. and sec­ond base­man Ozzie Al­bies. Acuna and Al­bies are ris­ing stars. Fred­die Free­man, who fin­ished fourth in last year’s NL MVP vote, re­mains the fig­ure­head of the fran­chise. An­other key this spring will be the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween a long list of young pitch­ers to join Mike Foltynewicz, Kevin Gaus­man, Sean New­comb and Julio Te­heran in the ro­ta­tion. Foltynewicz en­joyed his much-an­tic­i­pated break­out sea­son in 2018, when he was an All-Star. New­comb had a strong first half be­fore fad­ing and fin­ish­ing with a still-re­spectable 3.90 ERA.

Washington Na­tion­als

Man­ager: Dave Martinez (sec­ond sea­son).

2018: 82-80, sec­ond place. Train­ing Town: West Palm Beach, Florida.

Park: The Ball­park of the Palm Beaches.

First Work­out: Feb. 14/19. He’s Here: LHP Pa­trick Corbin, RHP Ani­bal Sanchez, C Yan Gomes, 2B Brian Dozier, RHP Kyle Bar­r­a­clough, RHP Trevor Rosen­thal, C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Tan­ner Rainey, 1B Matt Adams.

He’s Outta Here: OF Bryce Harper, C Matt Wi­eters, RHP Tan­ner Roark, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Je­fry Ro­driguez, LHP Tim Collins.

Go­ing campin’: As spring train­ing nears, it’s still not clear where Harper will end up. The star slug­ger is a free agent and, while Washington made an ef­fort to keep him, it’s not as if GM Mike Rizzo sat around wait­ing to find out whether the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP would stay or go. The Na­tion­als were as busy as any­one this off­sea­son and will head to camp with more than a third of the ros­ter turned over, in­clud­ing Corbin — who ar­rived as a free agent for $140 mil­lion and will slot in be­hind Max Scherzer and Stephen Stras­burg in the ro­ta­tion. Dozier and the catch­ing duo of Gomes and Suzuki are also new to Washington. The bullpen has fresh arms, too, in­clud­ing the hard-throw­ing Rosen­thal, who is com­ing off re­con­struc­tive el­bow surgery, and Bar­r­a­clough.

Philadel­phia Phillies

Man­ager: Gabe Kapler (sec­ond sea­son).

2018: 80-82, third place. Train­ing Town: Clear­wa­ter, Florida.

Park: Spec­trum Field. First Work­out: Feb. 13/18. He’s Here: C J.T. Real­muto, SS Juan Se­gura, OF An­drew McCutchen, RHP David Robert­son, LHP Jose Al­varez, LHP James Pa­zos, RHP Juan Ni­ca­sio, C Drew Butera.

He’s Outta Here: 1B Car­los San­tana, C Jorge Al­faro, INF J.P. Craw­ford, C Wil­son Ramos, INF As­drubal Cabr­era, LHP Luis Avi­lan, OF Jose Bautista, 1B Justin Bour, RHP Luis Gar­cia, LHP Aaron Loup.

Go­ing campin’: The Phillies were a sur­prise con­tender for much of last sea­son and led their di­vi­sion with the sec­ond-best record in the Na­tional League one week into Au­gust be­fore they col­lapsed. They went 16-33 over the fi­nal 49 games and fin­ished with a los­ing record for the sixth straight year. Philadel­phia is still chas­ing Bryce Harper and Manny Machado but al­ready up­graded the in­field, out­field and bullpen. Real­muto, Se­gura and McCutchen will im­prove a lineup that fin­ished last in bat­ting av­er­age (.234), 22nd in runs (4.2 per game) and third in strike­outs (1,520). Robert­son gives the team a proven closer who could be used in high-lever­age sit­u­a­tions in any late in­ning. Harper or Machado would make the Phillies a se­ri­ous threat in the NL East. They’re also still in play for free agent lefty Dal­las Keuchel and closer Craig Kim­brel.

New York Mets

Man­ager: Mickey Call­away (sec­ond sea­son). 2018: 77-85, fourth place. Train­ing Town: Port St. Lu­cie, Florida.

Park: First Data Field. First Work­out: Feb. 14/18. He’s Here: GM Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen, 2B Robin­son Cano, RHP Ed­win Diaz, INF Jed Lowrie, C Wil­son Ramos, RHP Jeurys Fa­milia, LHP Justin Wil­son, OF Keon Brox­ton, 1B-3B J.D. Davis, LHP Luis Avi­lan, LHP Hec­tor San­ti­ago, OF Ra­jai Davis, OF Gre­gor Blanco, RHP Walker Lock­ett, RHP Kyle Dowdy.

He’s Outta Here: RF-1B Jay Bruce, INF Wilmer Flores, LHP Jerry Blevins, C Kevin Plawecki, RHP An­thony Swarzak, OF Austin Jack­son, RHP A.J. Ramos, INF Jose Reyes, RHP Rafael Mon­tero, C Jose Lo­ba­ton, INF-OF Jack Rein­heimer, RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Ger­son Bautista, RHP Chris Beck, 3B David Wright.

Go­ing campin’: Fol­low­ing a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­son, the Mets made an un­ortho­dox move and handed the front-of­fice reins to Van Wa­ge­nen, the agent-turned-gen­eral man­ager who used to rep­re­sent NL Cy Young Award win­ner Ja­cob deGrom, in­jured slug­ger Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes and sev­eral other New York play­ers. Van Wa­ge­nen went to work up­grad­ing nearly ev­ery area on the ros­ter as the Mets were one of base­ball’s busiest teams this off­sea­son. He ac­quired for­mer clients Cano and Lowrie and spent about $80 mil­lion on free agents. Rather than chase big stars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Mets wisely ac­knowl­edged they had many holes to fill, so they spread that money around and fo­cused on build­ing depth and ver­sa­til­ity. The back end of an in­ef­fec­tive bullpen got a much-needed makeover, with the re­turn of Fa­milia (traded away last July) to set up Diaz, who led the ma­jors with 57 saves last sea­son. New York also as­sumed $100 mil­lion of the $120 mil­lion owed to Cano over the next five years, off­set some by the ap­prox­i­mately $35 mil­lion the club shed in send­ing Bruce and Swarzak to Seat­tle as part of the block­buster trade that also net­ted Diaz. Now, well-armed with deGrom, Noah Syn­der­gaard and Zack Wheeler atop a for­mi­da­ble ro­ta­tion, the Mets be­lieve they’re le­git­i­mate con­tenders again, even though Ce­s­pedes isn’t ex­pected back from surgery on both heels un­til at least mid-July. There will be plenty to keep an eye on at spring train­ing, in­clud­ing for­mer quar­ter­back Tim Te­bow and po­ten­tial talks on a mul­ti­year con­tract for deGrom. Power-hit­ting prospect Peter Alonso tries to win the first base job and catcher Travis d’Ar­naud — now sec­ond string be­hind Ramos — looks to re­turn from Tommy John surgery.

Mi­ami Mar­lins

Man­ager: Don Mat­tingly (fourth sea­son).

2018: 63-98, fifth place. Train­ing Town: Jupiter, Florida.

Park: Roger Dean Sta­dium.

First Work­out: Feb. 13/18. He’s Here: C Jorge Al­faro, INF Neil Walker, OF Cur­tis Gran­der­son, 1B Pe­dro Al­varez, OF Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa, 3B Deven Marrero, RHP Austin Brice, RF Gabriel Guer­rero.

He’s Outta Here: C J.T. Real­muto, INF-OF Derek Di­et­rich, RHP Kyle Bar­r­a­clough, RHP Nick Wittgren, LHP Dil­lon Peters.

Go­ing campin’: There will be plenty of scram­bling for play­ing time, and the only jobs that aren’t open are at the top of the ro­ta­tion ( Jose Urena), sec­ond base (Star­lin Cas­tro) and catcher (Al­faro, ac­quired from the Phillies in the Real­muto trade). Brian An­der­son was one of last year’s few bright spots as a rookie, and Mat­tingly must de­cide whether to play him at third base or in right field. Pla­toon­ing is the likely re­sult at sev­eral po­si­tions. Camp will pro­vide a chance to eval­u­ate some of the prospects ac­quired since CEO Derek Jeter’s group bought the team in late 2017. Sort­ing out the ro­ta­tion will be Mat­tingly’s most in­ter­est­ing spring task as he eval­u­ates a group of young, promis­ing arms that in­cludes Pablo Lopez, Sandy Al­can­tara, Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards. The Mar­lins also need to find out how much veter­ans such as Walker, Gran­der­son and 3B Martin Prado have left.


J.T. Real­muto (above) joins An­drew McCutchen and Jean Se­gura in a re­vamped Philadel­phia Phillies of­fense.

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