It’s hard to predict the future, especially in baseball. Top prospects often become busts, unknown minor leaguers break out and become quality everyday players, and injuries can derail even the brightest of stars. Changes in management can lead a team to take on a new direction. Free agents can prove to be boom or bust for their new clubs, either guiding them into October or wallowing away in irrelevance. To the best of my ability, I try to predict every MLB organization’s lineup for 2020. In this particular article of the series, I’ll focus on the National League East.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: 88-74
- Ozzie Albies, 2B
- Ronald Acuna, CF
- Freddie Freeman, 1B
- Adam Jones, LF
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Ender Inciarte, RF
- Alex Jackson, C
- Dansby Swanson, SS
Starting Five: Kolby Allard, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb
The Braves don’t have too many players currently on their roster that figure into their future plans. Freddie Freeman is the big exception to that statement, as is Ender Inciarte, who has a very team-friendly contract. I expect Atlanta to trade Julio Teheran by 2019 to add another solid prospect or two. Adam Jones is my prediction for their big signing prior to the 2020 season. He will be in the tail-end of his career but still has potential to produce offensively.
Obviously, the Braves’ future will be put on the backs on their loaded farm system. Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are both consensus top 25 prospects, and they should head the Braves lineup for years to come. Austin Riley has big power potential, as does former sixth overall pick Alex Jackson. Dansby Swanson may have been demoted back to Triple-A, but he should still develop into a reliable shortstop with a decent bat.
The Braves major strength in the future should be their starting pitching. Between Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and Kyle Wright, Atlanta has some serious upside to look forward to. Allard and Soroka both look like they could be potential aces. Mike Foltynewicz has flashed signs that he can be dominant as well.
Miami Marlins: 72-90
- Dee Gordon, 2B
- J.T. Realmuto, C
- Christian Yelich, CF
- Justin Bour, 1B
- Carlos Gonzalez, RF
- Brian Miller, LF
- Brian Anderson, 3B
- J.T. Riddle, SS
Starting Five: Alex Wood, Jose Urena, Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, Braxton Garrett
The Marlins may have some talented young players in Miami right now, but their future is very grey considering the bleakness of their farm system. Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Adam Conley, Jose Urena and Justin Bour should all figure into their future plans. They’re all cheap and controllable for now, and they can help the club compete. Once the sale of the team takes place, I expect the new ownership to make a few splashes in free agency, namely by signing Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Wood. Gonzalez is on the decline, but his bat could still be productive down the line. Alex Wood is putting together a magnificent season. The Marlins would be wise to sign him and make him their future ace.
Brian Miller and Brain Anderson should both receive a chance to compete for roster spots next spring. Miller is a solid athlete with some hitting ability. Anderson was selected to play in the Futures Game a few weeks ago, and his bat could be average as a third baseman. Dillon Peters and Braxton Garrett are two of the Marlins top pitching prospects. Garrett has number two starter upside, but he just underwent Tommy John Surgery.
The most notable omission from the Marlins in 2020 is slugger Giancarlo Stanton. His 13-year, $325 million pact with Miami could hamstring them financially, and new ownership will want to rid the club of it despite his talent.
New York Mets: 77-85
- Amed Rosario, SS
- Dominic Smith, 1B
- Michael Conforto, CF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Wilmer Flores, 2B
- Pete Alonso, RF
- David Thompson, 3B
- Thomas Nido, C
Starting Five: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, David Peterson
This Mets roster looks relatively similar to the one it has now, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Michael Conforto looks like he’ll be a star, and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard can both carry the team when healthy. But Yoenis Cespedes’ injury issues continue to nag his power and production, and his older age won’t help him return to 2015 form. Wilmer Flores has had a nice year, and I think the Mets will give him a team-friendly extension in the next year or two. Matz and Lugo can also be effective if they can stay healthy, but I wouldn’t be hopeful of that.
Amed Rosario was just called-up, entrenching him in shortstop for the foreseeable future. Rosario may have more hype, but I expect Dominic Smith to be a more productive player long-term. He is an elite hitter with an efficient approach, whereas Rosario has been vulnerable to strikeout more. Smith also features an elite glove at first base. Pete Alonso is currently a first baseman in the system but won’t be ready before Smith gets the call. The Mets would be foolish not to find a place for his bat, though, prompting a move to right field. Alonso has Mark Trumbo-like power.
Thomas Nido could receive a call-up as early as next year if Travis d’Arnaud continues to perform so poorly. Nido has a great work ethic, and his defense could help him stick in the big leagues. David Thompson is probably just a placeholder at third, similar to T.J. Rivera’s role now. David Peterson was the club’s first round draft choice this June. He could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter.
Some may wonder, “Why won’t the Mets sign anybody in free agency?” It’s a good question considering they don’t have many financial obligations for the future right now. At one point or another, though, the Mets will need to extend some combination of Conforto, deGrom, and Syndergaard, which will take a big chunk out of their spending money.
Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81
- Odubel Herrera, CF
- Nick Williams, RF
- Rhys Hoskins, 1B
- Dylan Cozens, LF
- Maikel Franco, 3B
- Scott Kingery, 2B
- Jorge Alfaro, C
- J.P. Crawford, SS
Starting Five: Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jared Eickhoff, Franklyn Kilome
Like the Braves, the Phillies future will depend on their plentiful farm system. Odubel Herrera is already under contract for 2020, and I don’t expect the Phillies to move Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, or Jared Eickoff by then either. I could see Philadelphia making a play for Gerrit Cole in free agency in a few years, making him their long-term ace.
Of the prospects in the lineup, the most notable is Rhys Hoskins. A 2017 Futures Game selection, Hoskins has 62 home runs since the beginning of his 2016 campaign. He is a legitimate impact bat who has patience at the plate and could become a hitter similar to Paul Goldschmidt. He’s that good. Dylan Cozens has some elite power as well, and he figures to hit in the middle of the order. Scott Kingery, a former Arizona Wildcat, has broken out with a 23 home run season. The 23 year-old reminds me of Chase Utley for his “gamer” mentality and offensive upside. Jorge Alfaro should provide pop from the catcher’s position, giving Philadelphia yet another impact bat.
J.P. Crawford is an interesting potential shortstop. His stock is way down as a prospect due to his lack of ability to hit upper-level pitching in the minors. However, his defensive skills are a plus, giving him the ability to stick as a big leaguer. Adeiny Hechavarria is a good comparison for Crawford moving forward. Franklyn Kilome is still a year or two away, but he could be a solid back-end starter.
Washington Nationals: 94-68
- Victor Robles, CF
- Trea Turner, SS
- Bryce Harper, RF
- Daniel Murphy, 1B
- Wilson Ramos, C
- Carter Kieboom, 2B
- Adam Eaton, LF
- Drew Ward, 3B
Starting Five: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Seth Romero, Tanner Roark, Erick Fedde
Of the 2017 roster, Adam Eaton, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg are already under contract through 2020. Trea Turner, Tanner Roark, and Erick Fedde will all still have less than six years of service time, meaning they will still be in Washington. Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom, Drew Ward, and Seth Romero are all Nationals prospects who I expect to have graduated to the big leagues by 2020.
The most intriguing aspect of the Nationals’ future lies with Bryce Harper. He will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, and he is set to receive a historically large contract from whatever team he opts to sign with. The Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers have all been talked about as possibilities, but I think Harper will wind up signing a long-term deal with the Nats. Harper’s legacy will forever be engraved in Washington, and the Nationals have enough money to reach a deal.
I also expect Daniel Murphy to resign after the 2018 season on another three year deal. Once Wilson Ramos becomes a free agent again, I expect the Nationals to pounce on him as well.
The shape of the division in 2020 isn’t all that different from the way the 2017 season has gone. The Nationals have the means to stay on top if they can retain the services of Bryce Harper. The Braves will just be tapping into their plethora of young prospects, who could form a dynasty similar to the 1990’s Braves. The Phillies are in the same boat as the Braves, except with less pitching and a more powerful lineup. The Mets have some pitching, but an overall lack of offensive firepower will hold them back. The Miami Marlins situation looks dreadful, but the inevitable selling of the franchise could help move things in a different direction.