2019 NL East Preview

February 21, 2019

Atlanta Braves – The Braves enter 2019 looking to defend their NL East title, and will hope that their largely-unheralded-but-mostly-effective bullpen can repeat its output from a year ago. They’re strong at the top, with Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter as an enviable 1-2 punch in the late innings, with Minter wanting to become a Josh Hader-esque relief ace type. After that, it’s elder statesmen Jonny Venters and Darren O’Day, along with a slew of young holdovers, including Chad Sobotka, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, and Dan Winkler. Of this group, we like Sobotka to potentially break out as a valuable holds candidate; the 25-year-old righty posted impressive strikeout totals throughout the minors, and struck out 21 in 14.1 innings after a late-season callup last year. Finally, despite the lack of any substantive discussions, the Braves continue to pop up on various speculative lists as one of the logical landing points for free agent Craig Kimbrel, so keep an eye on his status as you assess both Vizcaino and Minter.

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Vizcaino | Minter | Venters.
Holds candidates: Minter, Venters, Sobotka.

Miami Marlins – With Kyle Barraclough shipped off to the Nationals in an October deal, the team will likely turn closing duties over to recent acquisition Sergio Romo, hard-throwing righty Drew Steckenrider, or lefty Adam Conley. We think Steckenrider could have a slight edge right now — the Marlins might use Romo as an opener, among other things — but this could easily go to any of the three, or become a closer-by-committee situation. Regardless, it gets pretty thin after these guys, as the only two other relievers entering camp with significant MLB experience are Tayron Guerrero and Jarlin Garcia, neither of whom have ever been more than serviceable. Look for them to be joined by a mix of youngsters (Riley Ferrell is a former 3rd round pick and Jose Quijada has impressive minor league numbers) and/or whoever doesn’t win the 4th/5th starter jobs (Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, etc.) 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: *Steckenrider | Romo | Conley.
* = closer-by-committee
Holds candidates: Conley, Guerrero, Garcia. 

New York Mets – After posting the third-worst bullpen ERA in baseball in 2018, the Mets spent part of their busy offseason attempting to shore up their relief corps and have, on paper, flipped the script from a year ago, with their bullpen currently projected to be the third-best in baseball. They traded for one of the best relievers in the game, Edwin Diaz; brought back their former closer who they had dealt midseason, Jeurys Familia; and added veteran lefty Justin Wilson. That trio will join holdovers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to make up what will likely be the team’s top five relievers; rounding out this pen will be some mix of veterans (Luis Avilan, Hector Santiago) and youngsters (Paul Sewald, Daniel Zamora). 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Diaz | Familia | Wilson.
Holds candidates: Familia, Wilson, Lugo.

Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies were among the more maddening bullpens for fantasy owners in 2018, as nine different pitchers logged saves, including five who managed to tally three or more. But the addition of David Robertson likely stabilizes the 9th inning for now, allowing Gabe Kapler to deploy the likes of Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris earlier in the game. Beyond those three, there’s a logjam of qualified guys in camp, and it’s likely to be a spring training battle for the remaining slots, with newcomers Juan Nicasio, Jose Alvarez, and James Pazos competing with holdovers Pat Neshek, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan, and Edubray Ramos. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Robertson | Dominguez | Neris.
Holds candidates: Dominguez, Neris, Neshek.

Washington Nationals – Sean Doolittle (1.60 ERA, 0.60 WHIP in 2018) is doing what he can to make Nationals fans forget that they once had both Blake Treinen and Felipe Vazquez in their midst, and Washington is hoping to support him this year with two offseason acquisitions: former Marlins closer Kyle Barraclough and former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, who is fresh off of elbow surgery. (Dave Martinez has already said that Rosenthal will get a few save chances, though we’re a bit skeptical, given how good Doolittle has been.) Justin Miller, Matt Grace, Koda Glover, and Sammy Solis should round out this pen, which will likely see its share of saves and holds in support of their three top-tier starting pitchers. 

Starting 2019 hierarchy: Doolittle | Rosenthal | Barraclough.
Holds candidates: Rosenthal, Barraclough, Glover.