For the last few years, the NL East Division has mostly been dominated by Bryce Harper and the elite hitters of the Washington Nationals. Although Washington is rightfully favored to win the NL East by the end of the season, several teams are slowly but surely working towards becoming respectable and eventually supremely competitive. As of now, the team with the best chance of challenging the Nationals for the division title is the New York Mets. Offensively, the Mets are overly-reliant on their power hitters to score runs in large bunches, something that was exciting to watch although not particularly helpful in terms of winning games consistently. However, possessing what could be the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner in Noah Syndergaard, the Mets ace will be the driving force in allowing them to be competitive this year. Combined with the abilities of Jacob deGrom and a healthy Matt Harvey, the Mets may have enough at the front end of their rotation to at least make the Nationals sweat throughout this season.
5. Miami Marlins
If there is any team in baseball this season that is guaranteed to lose 100 games, it is the woeful Miami Marlins. Purging their roster of any and all players that were perceived financial liabilities, the only two notable/familiar players left on the Marlins roster is catcher J.T. Realmuto (3.6 WAR) and left fielder Marcell Ozuna (4.8 WAR). With a starting rotation that has just one pitcher who posted an ERA below 4.00 last season, the Marlins and their fans are going to experience what will be a grueling and unbearable season in 2018.
4. Atlanta Braves
As their youthful starting pitchers slowly begin to develop both their confidence and intriguing skill sets, the Braves are poised to be more competitive and exciting to watch this year. However, all eyes will be on wunderkind centerfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who will assuredly become the Braves regular starting middle outfielder at some point this season. Although the Braves will inevitably lose more games than they will win this season, the future is starting to look bright for a team that has high-ceiling playmakers to make them immensely competitive by next season.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
With the signing of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta during the early part of Spring Training, you have to believe that the Phillies have hopes of at least competing for an NL Wild Card spot this year. What will be interesting to see is how far the Phillies youthful in fielding corps can take them this year, with first baseman Rhys Hoskins offering up the most intrigue in terms of his prowess as an efficient power hitter. Even if the Phillies fall short of making it to the postseason yet again, they will at least have proven that the last few years of professional ineptitude were not experienced in vain.
2. New York Mets
If the Mets rotation can stay healthy and play up to its potential, this is a team that could very well challenge the Nationals for the NL East crown throughout the season. However, even if the Mets starting pitchers are able to stifle opposing offenses consistently, their bats will need to be at least average when it comes to hitting the baseball and getting on base. It may be somewhat of a long shot to expect the Mets to be what they were in 2015 when they made it to the World Series, but they at least have enough to seriously contend for an NL Wild Card spot by the end of the season.
1. Washington Nationals
A team that has consistently underachieved when it comes to going far in the postseason, this may be the final for the Nationals to make a serious run at getting to and winning a World Series. With superstar Bryce Harper going into a contract year, the Nationals should rightfully expect their exceptional playmaker to have one of his best seasons to date at both the plate and in the outfield. If starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can stay relatively healthy this season, the Nationals will once again be a dominant force during the regular season.