NL East Recap

NL East Recap: Ronald Acuna Jr.

Every two weeks, our baseball writers will check in with their respective divisions to see where things stand. In a shortened season, everything seems to be on the table, and baseball is not disappointing with a lack of crazy games and wild standings. Let’s take a look at the National League East.

1. Miami Marlins (7-3, .700)

Hitting stud: Brian Anderson

Anderson is quietly underrated at third base. He provides decent pop and a good bat to a lineup that sorely needs some. If he wants to stay in a Marlins uniform, though, he should cut it out, or he will be dealt with in the week.

Hitting dud: Jon Berti

Ummm, it’s never a good thing when you have a sub-.300 on-base percentage, and yet it is still above your slugging percentage. Berti went 4-for-21 last week, and his season line now sits at .172/.294/.207. Yikes!

Pitching stud: Pablo Lopez

Lopez made two starts last week against the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets. He took the win against the Orioles with seven strikeouts in five-shutout innings and still performed admirably versus the Mets on Sunday. Overall he went 10 innings with two earned runs, 11 strikeouts, and four walks. All four walks came against the Mets, though, so we will have to keep an eye on that moving forward.

Pitching dud: Brian Moran

Gave up two runs in a close game versus the Mets on Saturday. The 31-year-old has some impressive strikeout numbers, but it doesn’t really matter if you keep walking guys (three walks in 3.1 innings this year).

What’s next?

The Marlins have a two-game set in Toronto/Buffalo before 15-straight division games versus the Braves, Mets, and Nationals. If they are still leading the NL East after that gauntlet, we can begin to talk about the playoffs in Miami.

2. Atlanta Braves (11-7, .611)

Hitting stud: Ronald Acuna Jr.

It would’ve been Freddie Freeman until Acuna’s monster outing yesterday. Three home runs and five RBI in one day of baseball will go far to help your averages. The All-Star finished the week with a 1.359 OPS and seems to finally be heating up at the quarter mark of the season.

Hitting dud: Johan Camargo

Camargo has a .550 OPS on the season, but that season average is still better than what he put up last week where the infielder slashed .158/.238/.211. It doesn’t take a baseball expert to know that it is not ideal. Luckily, Austin Riley didn’t do much better with a 2-for-19 performance at the plate. The Braves don’t have a ton of options at third base, so it will, probably, remain a timeshare between those two.

Pitching stud: Touki Toussaint

Setting new career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts will earn you some respect in the majors. Toussaint was electric against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, going 6 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts while allowing only four hits that unluckily resulted in three earned runs. Toussaint was crushed in his first relief appearances of the year but has moved to the starting rotation now and is showing the stuff that made him one of the Braves’ top pitching prospects.

Pitching dud: Mike Soroka

Ending your season with a torn Achilles is a brutal way for Soroka to go out. He looked like an ace in his first two starts of the season before he took on the Mets last Monday. Did anyone notice that he slipped on the same mound a week earlier against the Rays? What’s going on in Atlanta? Hopefully, Soroka recovers, and we get to seem him sometime in 2021.

What’s next?

Atlanta has quick, two-game series versus the New York Yankees before nine-straight division games. The Braves are in a strong position and should pass the Marlins for the division lead over the next two weeks.

3. New York Mets (7-10, .412)

Hitting stud: Michael Conforto

During the 2019 season, Michael Conforto made 193 plate appearances versus left-handed pitching and hit six home runs.

During the 2020 season, Michael Conforto has made 31 plate appearances versus left-handed pitching and THREE home runs.

Sound the alarm, we’ve got a post-hype breakout on our hands!

Hitting dud: Jeff McNeil

The good news is McNeil returned from a three-game absence on Saturday and started all of their weekend games. The bad news is he went 1-for-10 with four strikeouts. Back injuries are tricky, and hopefully, McNeil didn’t feel the rush of a season and come back too soon.

Pitching stud: Jacob deGrom

I promise I won’t name deGrom the pitching stud for the Mets during every recap (but could you blame me?). The reigning Cy Young winner went 2-0 over 11 innings with 16 strikeouts to three walks. His season line sits at a 2.45 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. The Mets’ ace is making a strong start in his quest for a Cy Young three-peat.

Pitching dud: Jeurys Familia

The former closer picked up a hold despite a minor implosion on Sunday. Familia pitched 2 2/3 innings over the week and had five walks to six strikeouts. He has been escaping a lot of his outings with a scratch. Unfortunately, his 1.895 WHIP spells doom in the future.

What’s next?

Four games versus the defending Champions kicks off the week before series against the Phillies and Marlins. The two-weeks are capped by a three-game set versus the Yankees. That will be the first regular-season meeting between the teams for the 2020 season.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (5-6, .455)

Hitting stud: J.T. Realmuto

The best catcher in baseball lived up to his status over the last seven days. Realmuto went 7-for-18 with three walks on the week to boast a .476 OBP. He also mashed three home runs and six RBI. The All-Star catcher has his season slash line sitting at a fantastic .290/.353/.677. The slugging percentage will have to come down over time, but it looks like Realmuto has picked a great time to have a career season.

Hitting dud: Scott Kingery

I didn’t know this was possible until I just check Scott Kingery‘s baseball-reference page, but he has a -20 in OPS+ this season. The Phillies season is only nine games old, but even that was shocking to me. It probably didn’t help that Kingery went 2-for-21 last week and struck out six times to only one walk. I believe he will turn it around, but that’s a rough way to start a short season.

Pitching stud: Jake Arrieta

Stop digging that grave for Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young winner showed some life to begin his season. He took the loss while giving up three runs to the Yankees on Tuesday, but returned to finish the weekend strongly. He stumped the Braves offense with six scoreless innings. He sent six Braves down via the strikeout and only gave up one walk. The NL East can have some promising matchups at times, and the AL East isn’t it’s usual juggernaut this year. Maybe we will see a little revival from Jake Arrieta in 2020.

Pitching dud: Spencer Howard

It seems unfair to pile on a pitcher that just made his first big league start, but it, unfortunately, did not live up to the hype. There will be better days ahead for Spencer Howard, and he hopes they will include pitching against a lineup that does not include Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna. Both welcomed the rookie the major leagues with long balls on Sunday afternoon.

What’s next?

If the Phillies want to be taken seriously this season, they should come out of there next ten games with a winning record. Three games against the Orioles, three versus the Mets, and a couple of two-game series versus the Red Sox and Blue Jays will tell us a lot about this 2020 Philadelphia team.

5. Washington Nationals (5-7. 417)

Hitting stud: Juan Soto

It is so good to have Juan Soto back in our lives. He went 5-for-14 with a home run in his first action of the 2020 season. He led the Nationals on their World Series run last year, and he will need to shoulder the load once again if they want to turn their early-season struggles around.

Hitting dud: Victor Robles

Remember during the second game of the season when Victor Robles hit a home run? We all looked at each and wondered if the bat was finally catching up to the defense. Breaking news: It’s not. That was one of his two extra-base hits this season.

Robles’ average exit velocity ranks in the bottom eight percent of the league. Still, if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, then you will be happy to know that is an improvement over 2019 where he ranked second to last among qualified hitters.

Pitching stud: Tanner Rainey

I am in on the Tanner Rainey experience. The reliever has a 1.35 ERA through seven appearances and appears to have the stuff to become a major player in the Nationals bullpen. The righty has thrown 6 2/3 innings this year and given up one run with nine strikeouts. He had two spotless holds last week, and it will be interesting to keep an eye on him moving forward.

Pitching dud: Sean Doolittle

Things seem to be going downhill quickly for Doolittle. After struggling towards the end of last season, the two-time All-Star 18.00 ERA through four appearances this season. Over the weekend against the Mets and orioles, Doolittle surrendered three earned runs, four hits, and two home runs in 2/3 of an inning. Doolittle needs to turn things around or could find himself removed from any high-leverage situations soon.

What’s next?

With COVID-19 postponements, hopefully, behind them, the Nationals can focus on baseball. They take on the Mets, Orioles, Braves, and Marlins, so there should be plenty of opportunities to climb back into the playoff hunt for the defending champions.

Player stats are through Sunday

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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