Let the process continue. After 24 rookie-eligible players saw time in 2018 for the Marlins in the first year of a rebuild, Miami aims to see progress from its core in ’19. CEO Derek Jeter has preached building a sustainable winner by infusing young talent into all levels of the organization. Some — like former top prospect Lewis Brinson — are hoping for bounce-back seasons, all while rocking a new look. The Marlins have ditched the former ownership’s rainbow color scheme for a more Miami feel.
But what matters most is what happens on the field. The Marlins avoided a 100-loss season by going 63–98. In the process, they saw Brian Anderson blossom into a National League Rookie of the Year candidate. Starting pitchers Trevor Richards and Pablo Lopez showed promise after being called up. Time will tell whether they take the next step in their development.
Anyone who has ever done a long highway drive has had that moment. You realize that, somehow, you have driven 20 miles from where you last remember being, but you have no recollection of how you got there. It felt like that in Atlanta. The Braves, who were coming off three consecutive 90-loss seasons, are suddenly good again, winning 90 games in 2018, and it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. The Braves enter 2019 as not only one of the best teams in the National League, but also the veterans of a surprise playoff appearance last fall.
The problem with “prospects” (and Atlanta has plenty of them) is that they are like bread in an old toaster. You’re pretty sure that they’ll eventually pop up, but sometimes they don’t, and even when they do, you’re not entirely sure what the results will be. Fortunately for the Braves, there was a lot of good toast to go around at SunTrust Park, and there’s likely to be more popping up soon.
New York Mets
The Mets went looking for a new general manager last season, and some candidates recommended a roster teardown. That’s not what the Wilpon family wanted to hear, so they hired Brodie Van Wagenen, a charismatic agent who promised he could make the Mets a winner, both now and for years to come. We’ll have to see it to believe it with this offense, but the Mets’ pitching talent, that includes 2018 Cy Young recipient Jacob deGrom, at least gives them a shot.
Despite an inconsistent offense and the worst defense in the majors, the Phillies put together four good months — followed by two horrendous months — and improved by 14 wins in 2018.
Management promised a busy offseason as it looked to take the next step in 2019, but vaulting from 80 wins into the playoff picture will depend largely on the improvement of a returning core that surrounds a few newcomers. The Phillies do have a star in right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola and a couple of potential stars in Rhys Hoskins and Seranthony Dominguez. But unless they add another one before Opening Day, the Phils are probably a middle-of-the-pack club in the National League East.
The Nationals thought they needed big changes after their 97–65 first-place finish in 2017, firing manager Dusty Baker following the NLDS flameout and replacing him with Dave Martinez. But after the Nats finished 15 games worse in 2018 and lost their stranglehold on the NL East, we can definitively say the manager wasn’t the problem.
This offseason was focused on a central question, with a corollary: Could the Nationals afford to keep Bryce Harper? And did they really want him? Even as those questions were playing out, GM Mike Rizzo continued building a roster meant to contend again in 2019, with or without Harper. And with a rotation headed by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and newcomer Patrick Corbin, they’re a good bet to do so.