As the 2021 MLB Season countdown turns from days to hours, there’s no better time to check in with each team and take a look at their potential (or lack thereof) heading into another 162 games. After the Covid-19 pandemic- shortened 2020 season, some National League teams are hoping to capitalize on their offseason momentum, while others are just trying to keep their heads above water and their records above Colorado’s. Regardless, the National League is likely to be very volatile in 2021, with lots of teams looking to claim their division and only a few playoff spots available. Things are going to get rough in the NL, and that’s a good thing.
So without any further adieu, let’s jump right in!
The National League East
The New York Mets
James McCann, Francisco Lindor, Trevor May, Carlos Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. The Mets have had an offseason that only seemed possible in dreams, and yet, this team is real. Very, very real. And they have a real chance to make a big splash in 2021.
That’s a big deal considering how absolutely abysmal they have been in the last few seasons. That’s nuts. New owner Steve Cohen has shown that his “Win a World Series in the next three years” mentality is not just lip service. That’s for real. The man is wasting no time.
Their biggest challenge within the division will come from the Atlanta Braves, who have a young pitching staff, and a solid core of stars that are only getting better. Can the Mets best the Braves? It’ll be close, but the tides are shifting in the NL East, and Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson are manning the oars in Queens.
That should give Mets fans something to feel good about, and that’s hard to trust. Much like fans of Ted Lasso’s AFC Richmond, “it’s the hope that kills” is a very real thing for Mets fans year in and year out. As a Mets fans myself, I went back and forth on giving them the top spot in the division for weeks. Is it possible that we’re counting our chickens before they hatch? Is this the same thing as saying your birthday wish out loud? Am I jinxing the Mets?
Superstition aside, things in Flushing are beginning to turn around, and if you’re not paying attention to the 2021 Mets now, you will be in a few months.
The Atlanta Braves
At the end of the 2020 season, it seemed that the Braves were easily the best team in the NL East. It didn’t seem like they were going to lose that title any time soon, as their division rivals struggled to find their identities. So while the competition is beginning to heat up, there isn’t much need to worry in Atlanta, unless things go south fast. The Braves’ big issue in 2020 was their rotation, which they made moves to shore up. Taking a chance on Drew Smyly is a good call, but signing Charlie Morton was even better. Will they be the big fix for a rotation that lost Mike Soroka last year?
The core of this Braves lineup isn’t going anywhere, that’s the best news. As the rest of the NL East scrambles to get themselves together, the Braves could coast to another divisional banner. All the Braves have to do is keep their heads above water and hope the rest of the division doesn’t catch fire. It’s that simple.
But while coasting is lovely, it would be prudent to remember that the rest of the division is gearing up for big pushes. If the Braves get complacent, they could fall behind.
The Philadelphia Phillies
On paper, the Phillies have a great offensive lineup, and a formidable starting rotation. That’s it. This Phillies team is only successful on paper. In real life, they are in dire need of direction and structure, and Dave Dombrowski has been tasked with delivering just that.
Dombrowski is a great fit for the Phillies in their current state. Known for selling off prospects for expensive contracts and big names. The Phillies already have a few of those, and don’t have too much room for more.
What the Phillies need to focus on is developing their youth and changing the inner workings of the organization. The Phillies need a clean start without a rebuild, a tough needle to thread for sure.
However, after signing Realmuto, the Phillies have all of the pieces they should need to be successful. The same pieces they had in 2020, but still, things can only get better, right? It just might take a while for everything to click together and run smoothly. Is that a possibility for 2021? Maybe, but we’ve seen this kind of potential before and the Phillies fell on their faces.
The Washington Nationals
The Nationals went through it all in 2020, and while they have much of their World Series team still intact, 2021 might only get a little better. That’s not necessarily a bad thing by any means.
The Nationals are a young team and are trending younger every year. While their contract responsibilities to Strasburg, Corbin, and Scherzer stretch on for a while, those deals could lend them to dealing for bats on the trade market.
Eight of the Nationals top ten prospects are pitchers. The Nationals need bullpen help more than anything, so these young arms will more than likely get their MLB debuts in spot starts or out of the pen. That’s good for everyone. It’s sure to be a bit touch and go, but it’s the right way to work their prospects in. It’s also the only way these young arms will get looks after the Nats signed Jon Lester.
And if the right deal comes along, the Nationals have some room to work with, should they go down that road. But for now, this Nationals team boasts two of the league’s best hitters, and three of the league’s best pitchers, when healthy that is. And that’s not too shabby. I mean, if your team has Juan Soto batting in the 3-hole, that’s nothing to be sad about.
The Miami Marlins
As we head into a fuller 2021 season, it’s hard to see the Marlins repeating their success in a tougher NL East. That being said, it’s not as if the Marlins are dead in the water after 2020. In fact, it’s the opposite.
In 2020, we got a glimpse of what Derek Jeter and his ownership team are building. More to that point, it’s no surprise why they brought in new GM, Kim Ng, after last season. The Marlins front office got a free glimpse into their future. Now, all they have to do is sit and wait.
The Miami Marlins are coming, it’s just not going to happen in 2021.
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