Over the last two weeks, I previewed the division races in the American League. This week I will be covering the National League. Up first is the NL East. We will organize our discussion by current standings.
60-49 | division lead
Following a 2013 season where they fell four games short of a wild card birth and 10 games out of first in the NL East, the Nationals have taken control of a weak NL East.
Washington’s offense has struggled recently. Denard Span has the highest average on the team at .291, and their team BA of .250 is 19th in the league. Also, Bryce Harper spent three months on the DL earlier this season, which certainly hurt their offensive output. However, there are some bright spots. The Nats traded for Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline, who adds some much-needed power and a decent bat to the lineup (not to mention some flashy fielding). Also, Harper has been been slowly heating up sine his return to the majors, and is now hitting .260 on the season.
As the 2014 pennant race starts to kick into gear, we explore a number of teams who need to look to 2015 and beyond for their chance to compete. The fourth and final team we’ll discuss is the Miami Marlins. (Click here to see the rest of the series.)
The Marlins have had four losing seasons in a row, and could be on the way to a fifth in 2014. However, while not spectacular, their 44-50 record through the All-Star break is an improvement from years past. They might not be in serious contention in 2014, but they have undoubtedly gotten better, and should continue to do so in the future. The Marlins’ farm system is far from the best in baseball, but this is partly because several of their top prospects are already in the majors. However, they do have several prospects in the minors who they hope will contribute in the future.
Impact hitters proving their worth
The Marlins’ best hitter, and one of the best players in baseball, is right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. in 2014, the 24 year old leads the National League in home runs (21) and RBIs (63) and has raised his batting average to .295. Stanton is already in his fifth year, and was an All-Star for the second time in 2014. He figures the cornerstone piece of the Marlins franchise; the player to stand strong during the rebuilding period and carry them to future contention.