Coming into the 2018 MLB season, it was expected that certain divisions would have serious races that would captivate the summer.
Several divisions seemed destined to take hold of the blockbuster summer races were that of the American League East (New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays), the American League West (Houston Astros, LA Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners), the National League Central (Chicago Cubs, St.Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers) and the National League West (LA Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants).
The division that was expected to be an easy division to win and only have minimal resistance was the National League East. The NL East was supposed to be the Washington Nationals division to lose. If any competition was to be had was to be by only the New York Mets. However, through approximately the first 40 games or so for each of the teams in the division, it is a much more challenging division that than originally given credit for.
As of today, the Atlanta Braves sit atop the division with a one-game lead over The Philadelphia Phillies. Two teams that were expected to be bottom dwellers not just in the division but in all of the MLB. Both the Braves and Phillies are among the top tier ball clubs in terms of an advanced farm system. Through drafting and development, both clubs have high ranking prospects. Some of those prospects have made their way through the minors and on to the Major League roster. Top prospects like Ronald Acuña and Scott Kingery are contributing in a big way to make their teams serious contenders.
But the division isn’t just two teams deep. The Washington Nationals who were the heavy favorites by all preseason prognostications are currently third in the division and have been playing better as of late. The Nats have had many of their players find themselves on the DL. They still have a few key contributors on the mend in Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. Even with that said the Nationals strength is in their depth. Depth in both the lineup and in having old school starters that will provide inning and gritty performances throughout the dog days of summer when they don’t have their best “stuff”.
The New York Mets started out incredibly out of the gate. however, they have since found themselves in an extremely tough stretch dropping eight of their last ten games and with a negative run differential through 36 games. The Mets also have had their share of players hurt and that has aided in them losing the lead they built up in the division. The Mets were also apart of a three-year soap opera involving the “Dark Knight” Matt Harvey. However, since they have purged themselves of Harvey the Mets have gone 1-2 dropping two games. The two games they lost were to the very team they dealt Harvey to in the Cincinnati Reds. Even with all the turmoil in Queens, the Mets are only four games behind the Braves for the lead. And with the starters they possess can regain control of the division.
The only team in the division that doesn’t seem to have a punchers chance in claiming the top spot in the NL East is that of the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are in the midst of a “re-build” in an attempt to reset the market in South Florida. The Marlins want to build a team that can contend in the future and remain consistent and not be forced to live through another tear down after producing a winning product.
This division has become a must watch division as the teams that no one gave a chance this season are proving that they have what it takes to make a stand. Though many believe that the young teams in the Braves and Phillies will it be able to sustain the pace that they are currently on. Those same prognosticators believe that the depth and overall strength that the Nationals posses will win out in the end. To those people, it must be pointed out that both clubs are viewed in the same light as the 2017 New York Yankees and that team made it to within one game of making the World Series.
The National League East is going to be a divisional race that should remain tight throughout a majority of the summer. And no matter the outcome is up to this point in the season the NL East has certainly given baseball fans something to be intrigued about.