Photo courtesy of John Bazemore/Major League Baseball
There will be baseball in 2020.
Since Major League Baseball went to six divisions in 1995, only the American League East has claimed more World Series titles than the National League East. That includes the reigning world champion Washington Nationals.
In this piece, we’ll be looking at the best player in the division at each position:
J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies. Realmuto is one of the game’s best catchers, both offensively and defensively. The Philadelphia catcher has pop at the plate, but does most of his damage gap to gap and extending singles into doubles.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. Freeman is going to go down as one of the best first basemen in the history of the Braves; that’s going back to the days of Boston and Milwaukee. Freeman helped Major League Baseball transition from first basemen being primarily power hitters into more complete, well-rounded batters. The New York Mets’ Pete Alonso set a rookie home run record last season, but he’s got years of production ahead of him before he eclipses the Atlanta corner infielder.
Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves. The NL East overall has a pretty weak group of second basemen, so this one is easy. Albies’ lead over his fellow East second basemen is humongous given his speed, his power, his defensive range, and even his low salary cap hit for his ball club.
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals. Coming off a World Series championship, the NC State product is looking to remain healthy for a full season in 2020. With the presumably shortened season due to the Coronavirus, that should come to fruition. Turner is one of the five fastest players in baseball. That speed allows Turner to swipe bases and get to ground balls that many at his position simply cannot. Defensively, only Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson is better among NL East shortstops.
Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies. With the departure of Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon, and uncertainty in Atlanta, Kingery takes this one. Due to Philadelphia’s abundance of injuries last season, Kingery primarily played center field. This season, with the departure of Maikel Franco from Philly, the hot corner is all his. He’s flown under the radar so far, but he’ll make waves this year. He has speed, makes good contact at the plate, and the luxury of lineup protection all around him.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals. Soto seemingly took over as the Nationals’ franchise player with the departure of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. The 21-year-old will be one of baseball’s best players for years to come.
Victor Robles, Washington Nationals. Robles is often overlooked due to sharing the field with Soto, Turner, and in the past, Rendon, and Harper. Still, he’s a well above average hitter and a decent enough fielder to give him the divisional edge. If Kingery was slated to remain in center for Philadelphia, the title would’ve gone to him.
Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves. Who’d you expect? Acuña is a prime MVP and 50/50 candidate this year. He’s a generational talent. He’s a 5-tool player in which all five of his tools are maxed out. When Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout calls it quits, he’ll be the best player in baseball, if not sooner. This one is a slam dunk.
New York Mets. Back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in the division and the National League. Add in Noah Syndergaard, Duke product Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Rick Porcello and there is no easy day for opposing lineups. If healthy, the Braves can definitely challenge for this title. The projected rotation for Atlanta of Mike Soroka, Cole Hamels, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz and Felix Hernandez is good enough to take Atlanta to the World Series. As of now however, the Mets get the edge.
Atlanta Braves. A weakness for the team the first half of last season, Atlanta went out and went to work. Carrying Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Sean Newcomb, Darren O’Day, and Kyle Wright, the Braves are loaded with arm talent out of the bullpen. A late lead for Atlanta will mean victory more times than not this coming season.