- Associated Press - Thursday, March 18, 2021

Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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Atlanta Braves

2020: 35-25, first place, lost to Dodgers in NL Championship Series.

Manager: Brian Snitker (sixth season).



He’s Here: RHP Charlie Morton, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., SS Ehire Adrianza, 3B Jake Lamb, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Guillermo Heredia, OF Phillip Ervin.

He’s Outta Here: OF Nick Markakis, OF Adam Duvall, INF Charlie Culberson, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Mark Melancon, C Tyler Flowers, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Jhoulys Chacin, INF Adeiny Hechavarria, LHP Cole Hamels.

Projected Lineup: CF Ronald Acuña Jr. (.250, 14 HRs, 29 RBIs, 8 SBs), 2B Ozzie Albies (.271, 6, 19), 1B Freddie Freeman (.341, 13, 53, .462 OBP, NL MVP), LF Marcell Ozuna (.338, 18, 56, .431 OBP), C Travis d’Arnaud (.321, 9, 34), 3B Austin Riley (.239, 8, 27), SS Dansby Swanson (.274, 10, 35), CF Cristian Pache (.278, 11, 53 with Double-A Mississippi in 2019).

Rotation: LH Max Fried (7-0, 2.25 ERA), RH Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.74 with Rays; 3-1, 2.70 in postseason), RH Ian Anderson (3-2, 1.95), LH Drew Smyly (0-1, 3.42 with Giants), RH Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.21), RH Mike Soroka (0-1, 3.95, likely to begin season on injured list completing recovery from torn Achilles).

Key Relievers: LH Will Smith (2-2, 4.50, 7 HRs in 16 IP), RH Chris Martin (1-1, 1.00, 1 save), LH Tyler Matzek (4-3, 2.79, 43 Ks in 29 IP), LH A.J. Minter (1-1, 0.83), RH Luke Jackson (2-0, 6.84), RH Jacob Webb (0 ERs in 10 IP), RH Bryse Wilson (1-0, 4.02, 1 save).

Outlook: Even though the rest of the NL East bulked up, the Braves show no signs of slipping after winning three straight division titles. They finally won a postseason series - two of them, in fact - to break a drought going back to 2001. Then, the Braves came within one win of the World Series, taking a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series before the Dodgers rallied to win the last three games. That bitter disappointment only strengthened the Braves’ resolve; this season, it’s World Series or bust. Atlanta moved aggressively to bolster its thin rotation by signing veterans Morton and Smyly to one-year contracts. When Soroka (a 13-game winner and All-Star in 2019) is fully recovered, the rotation could be one of baseball’s best. Fried was fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting, while Anderson also has the makings of a future ace after a stellar rookie campaign. The hitters are a dynamic group, as well, with MVP Freeman and Ozuna providing a powerful 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup. If Acuña recaptures the form he showed in 2019, when he had 41 homers and 37 stolen bases, the Braves will have three of the game’s most feared offensive players. The only major question mark is the bullpen, where the Braves must find a replacement for Melancon’s 11 saves. No one in the current bullpen had more than one save in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, though Smith is a former closer for the Giants.

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Miami Marlins

2020: 31-29, second place.

Manager: Don Mattingly (sixth season).

They’re Here: GM Kim Ng, OF Adam Duvall, RHP Anthony Bass, LHP Gio Gónzalez, RHP John Curtiss, RHP Adam Cimber, LHP Ross Detwiler, C Sandy Leon.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Jose Urena, RHP Brandon Kintzler, LF Matt Joyce, RHP Drew Steckenrider, C Francisco Cervelli, RHP Brad Boxberger, LHP Stephen Tarpley, RHP Robert Dugger, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Nick Vincent, RHP Jordan Yamamoto, RHP Johan Quezada.

Projected Lineup: CF Starling Marté (.281, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs with Diamondbacks and Marlins), LF Corey Dickerson (.258, 7, 17), 1B Jesús Aguilar (.277, 8, 34), RF Adam Duvall (.237, 16, 33, .833 OPS with Braves), 3B Brian Anderson (.255, 11, 38), 2B Jazz Chisholm (.161, 2, 6) or Isan Díaz (.182, 0, 1 in 7 games), C Jorge Alfaro (.226, 3, 16), SS Miguel Rojas (.304, 4, 20, .888 OPS).

Rotation: RH Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.00 ERA), RH Pablo López (6-4, 3.61, 59 Ks), RH Elieser Hernández (1-0, 3.16 in 6 starts), RH Sixto Sánchez (3-2, 3.46), LH Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.11 in 7 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Anthony Bass (2-3, 3.51, 7 saves for Blue Jays), RH Yimi García (3-0, 0.60, 1 save), RH Dylan Floro (3-0, 2.59), RH James Hoyt (2-0, 1.23), LH Ross Detwiler (1-1, 3.20 with White Sox), RH John Curtiss (3-0, 1.80, 2 saves with Rays), RH Adam Cimber (0-1, 3.97 with Indians), LH Richard Bleier (1-1, 2.16 with Orioles and Marlins).

Outlook: After a surprising run to their first playoff berth in 17 years, the Marlins are widely projected to backslide and finish below .500 this season. They could exceed expectations if one or more of their hitting prospects breaks out. Pitching is the team’s strength, thanks to a group of eight starters all 26 or younger. Sánchez and Edward Cabrera are considered potential future aces, and 2020 first-round draft pick Max Meyer could crack the rotation later this year. Small crowds will be back at Marlins Park, with attendance initially limited to about 25% capacity, or around 9,300 spectators.

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Philadelphia Phillies

2020: 28-32, third place.

Manager: Joe Girardi (second season).

He’s Here: RHP Archie Bradley, RHP Chase Anderson, LHP Matt Moore, LHP Jose Alvarado, RHP Sam Coonrod, INF C.J. Chatham, RHP Brandon Kintzler, OF Matt Joyce, LHP Tony Watson.

He’s Outta Here: OF Jay Bruce, RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP Brandon Workman, INF Phil Gosselin, RHP Heath Hembree, RHP David Phelps, RHP Blake Parker, LHP Adam Morgan, LHP Cole Irvin, OF Kyle Garlick, RHP Victor Arano.

Projected Lineup: LF Andrew McCutchen (.253, 10 HRs, 34 RBIs), 1B Rhys Hoskins (.245, 10, 26), RF Bryce Harper (.268, 13, 33, .420 OBP), C J.T. Realmuto (.266, 11, 32), SS Didi Gregorius (.284, 10, 40), 3B Alec Bohm (.338, 4, 23), SS Jean Segura (.266, 7, 25), CF Odubel Herrera (.222, 1, 16 in 2019) or Scott Kingery (.159, 3, 6).

Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (5-5, 3.28 ERA, 96 Ks in 71 1/3 IP), RH Zack Wheeler (4-2, 2.92), RH Zach Eflin (4-2, 3.97), RH Chase Anderson (1-2, 7.22 for Toronto), LH Matt Moore (6-3, 2.65 in Japan).

Key Relievers: RH Archie Bradley (2-0, 2.95, 6/7 saves for Arizona and Cincinnati), RH Hector Neris (2-2, 4.57, 5/8 saves), LH Jose Alvarado (0-0, 6.00), RH Brandon Kintzler (2-3, 2.22, 12/14 saves for Miami), LH Tony Watson (1-0, 2.50, 2 saves), RH Connor Brogdon (1-0, 3.97).

Outlook: Seeking their first winning season since 2011, the Phillies are determined to end a nine-year postseason drought. They have a strong offense that tied for fifth in scoring last season and returns everyone in the starting lineup. Harper, Realmuto and Gregorius anchor the middle of a deep batting order. Nola and Wheeler are a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation and Eflin is solid in the No. 3 spot. Anderson and Moore strengthen the back end with top prospect Spencer Howard providing depth. A dismal bullpen that had a 7.06 ERA is much improved with the additions of Bradley, Alvarado, Kintzler and Watson. Girardi hasn’t named a closer but has several options. If key players stay healthy, the offense lives up to expectations and the pitchers perform well, a return to October baseball is a realistic possibility. The Phillies will allow up to 8,800 fans to attend games at the start of the season.

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New York Mets

2020: 26-34, tied for fourth place.

Manager: Luis Rojas (second season).

He’s Here: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco, C James McCann, RHP Marcus Stroman, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Trevor May, LHP Aaron Loup, LHP Joey Lucchesi, OF Kevin Pillar, INF Jonathan Villar, OF Albert Almora Jr., RHP Jordan Yamamoto, OF/1B José Martínez, RHP Jacob Barnes, LHP Stephen Tarpley, LHP Mike Montgomery, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Yennsy Díaz, RHP Sam McWilliams, OF Khalil Lee, RHP Arodys Vizcaíno, LHP Jerry Blevins, INF/OF José Peraza, OF Mallex Smith, RHP Jerad Eickhoff, INF/OF Brandon Drury, SS Wilfredo Tovar, owner Steve Cohen, president Sandy Alderson, acting GM Zack Scott.

He’s Outta Here: GM Brodie Van Wagenen, 2B Robinson Canó, C Wilson Ramos, SS Amed Rosario, INF Andrés Giménez, RHP Rick Porcello, RHP Michael Wacha, LHP Justin Wilson, LHP Steven Matz, LHP Chasen Shreve, OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Brad Brach, 3B Todd Frazier, OF Yoenis Céspedes, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Jared Hughes, INF Eduardo Núñez, C René Rivera, RHP Erasmo Ramírez, RHP Paul Sewald, RHP Hunter Strickland, RHP Ariel Jurado, C Ali Sánchez, OF Ryan Cordell, INF Jed Lowrie.

Projected Lineup: CF Brandon Nimmo (.280, 8 HRs, 18 RBIs, .404 OBP, .888 OPS), SS Francisco Lindor (.258, 8, 27, .750 OPS with Cleveland), RF Michael Conforto (.322, 9, 31, .927), 1B Pete Alonso (.231, 16, 35, .817 OPS), LF Dominic Smith (.316, 10, 42, .993 OPS), 2B Jeff McNeil (.311, 4, 23, .836 OPS), 3B J.D. Davis (.247, 6, 19, .761 OPS), C James McCann (.289, 7, 15, .896 OPS with White Sox).

Rotation: RH Jacob deGrom (4-2, 2.38 ERA, NL-high 104 Ks, 18 BBs, 68 IP), RH Marcus Stroman (did not pitch last season; 10-13, 3.22, 184 1/3 IP with Blue Jays and Mets in 2019), RH Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.91, 82 Ks, 68 IP for Cleveland; will miss start of season with injury), RH Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.70 with Seattle and Toronto), LH David Peterson (6-2, 3.44 as rookie) or LH Joey Lucchesi (0-1, 7.94, 5 2/3 IP with Padres) or RH Jordan Yamamoto (0-1, 18.26, 8 HRs, 11 1/3 IP with Miami).

Key Relievers: RH Edwin Díaz (2-1, 1.75, 6/10 saves, 50 Ks, 25 2/3 IP), RH Trevor May (1-0, 3.86, 2 saves, 38 Ks, 7 BBs, 5 HRs, 23 1/3 IP with Minnesota), RH Seth Lugo (3-4, 5.15, 3 saves, 47 Ks, 10 BBs, 8 HRs, 36 2/3 IP in 16 games, 7 starts), RH Jeurys Familia (2-0, 3.71, 19 BBs, 26 2/3 IP), RH Miguel Castro (2-2, 4.01, 1 save, 38 Ks, 24 2/3 IP with Orioles and Mets), RH Dellin Betances (0-1, 7.71, 12 BBs, 11 2/3 IP), LH Aaron Loup (3-2, 2.52, 22 Ks, 4 BBs, 25 IP with Rays).

Outlook: A whirlwind offseason began with Cohen buying the franchise from the Wilpon and Katz families for $2.42 billion in November. Cohen brought back Alderson, the Mets’ general manager from 2010-18, as team president and he immediately fired Van Wagenen and several top aides. Canó was then suspended for 162 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug for the second time in his career. He’ll sit out the entire season. Following a flurry of moves, the Mets have 18 newcomers on the 40-man roster. They focused on building depth and landed a big star in Lindor as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade with Cleveland that netted Carrasco as well. The addition of McCann also makes a dangerous lineup even longer, but the Mets need to deliver in the clutch. They ranked second in the majors in on-base percentage last year and third in OPS, yet finished 13th in runs. The defense is shaky at several spots, and questions remain in middle relief. The rotation is led by deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of baseball’s most dominant arms. Stroman accepted an $18.9 million qualifying offer to return for one year after missing the start of last season with a calf injury and then opting out because of coronavirus concerns. The team hopes to get starter Noah Syndergaard back from Tommy John surgery in June, but the Mets’ new depth will be tested early. Carrasco will be sidelined for a while after tearing his right hamstring in spring training - he had already been slowed in camp by elbow soreness. That could open opportunities for Lucchesi and maybe even Yamamoto. Lugo is likely out until at least May following surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. Martínez, a new bench bat, is expected to miss about four months with a knee injury. New York looks talented enough to end a four-year playoff drought, but it won’t be easy in a tough division ruled by three-time defending champion Atlanta. Expectations are high and there is pressure to win now. Lindor, Conforto, Syndergaard and Stroman can all become free agents after the season. Meanwhile, deGrom turns 33 in June and can opt out of his contract after 2022. The team is in talks with Lindor about a long-term deal, but he says he won’t negotiate during the season. Conforto could be on deck. Citi Field will welcome back fans at 20% capacity (capped at 8,492 seats) early in the season.

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Washington Nationals

2020: 26-34, tied for fourth place.

Manager: Dave Martinez (fourth season).

He’s Here: 1B Josh Bell, LF Kyle Schwarber, LHP Brad Hand, LHP Jon Lester, C Alex Avila, C Welington Castillo, OF Gerardo Parra, LHP Sam Clay, 1B Ryan Zimmerman, RHP Joe Ross.

He’s Outta Here: INF Howie Kendrick, RF Adam Eaton, RHP Aníbal Sánchez, LHP Sean Doolittle, C Kurt Suzuki, CF Michael A. Taylor, 1B Eric Thames, INF Wilmer Difo, RHP Wil Crowe, RHP James Bourque, LHP Roenis Elías.

Projected Lineup: CF Victor Robles (.220, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs), RF Juan Soto (.351, 13, 37, 1.185 OPS), SS Trea Turner (.335, 12, 41, 12 SBs), 1B Josh Bell (.226, 8, 22 with Pirates), LF Kyle Schwarber (.188, 11, 24 with Cubs), 2B Starlin Castro (.267, 2, 4 in 16 games), C Yan Gomes (.284, 4, 13), 3B Carter Kieboom (.202, 0, 9).

Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA, 92 Ks, 67 1/3 innings), LH Patrick Corbin (2-7, 4.66), RH Stephen Strasburg (season-ending surgery after 5 innings in 2020; 18-6, 3.32 in 2019), LH Jon Lester (3-3, 5.16 with Cubs), RH Joe Ross (opted out in 2020; 4-4, 5.48 in 2019).

Key Relievers: LH Brad Hand (2-1, 2.05, AL-leading 16/16 saves with Indians), RH Daniel Hudson (3-2, 6.10, 10/15 saves), RH Will Harris (0-1, 3.06, 1 save), RH Tanner Rainey (1-1, 2.66), RH Wander Suero (2-0, 3.80).

Outlook: After a big step back from World Series champions in 2019 to tied for last place in the NL East in pandemic-shortened 2020, a lot of familiar faces are gone, and the Nationals are counting on their potentially best-in-baseball starting staff - if healthy - and a beefed up batting order to get them back to the postseason. The offense revolves around reigning NL batting champ Soto and Turner, both of whom Washington would love to sign to long-term deals, and the hope is the additions of - and bounce-backs by - Bell (via trade) and Schwarber (free agency) will offer help to the two holdover stars. Scherzer is entering the final season of his seven-year, $210 million deal and turns 37 in July, but still seems capable of the sort of form that earned three Cy Young Awards. Strasburg, the 2019 World Series MVP, will try to rebound after right wrist surgery; Lester is hoping the removal of a parathyroid gland in March will alleviate the sluggishness he felt in his last season with the Cubs. Hand helps the back end of a bullpen that already included a trio of potential closers in Hudson, Harris and Rainey. A big question mark is Kieboom, a first-round draft pick who has struggled at the plate in limited opportunities in the majors. Another is whether Robles can get on base enough to bat leadoff. Zimmerman, who transitions to a bench player and pinch hitter at age 36, and likely fifth starter Ross return after opting out of 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns. The D.C. city government cleared the way for 5,000 fans per game at Nationals Park; the team is hoping that number can increase at some point.

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