NL East preview: Nationals are wire-to-wire favorites

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It seems like ages ago that the Phillies and Mets were vying for an NL East crown. Since those fantastic races for the division in 2007 and 2008, the Mets have moved on and appear to have their rebuilt on the upswing. And the Phillies, well, they have hung on way too long.

Washington is a clear favorite to win the East for the third time in four seasons, with the Marlins and Mets dark horses for a Wild Card spot. The Braves are depleted, and the Phillies are expected to be at the bottom of the entire league.

Washington Nationals, last year: 96-66, first place

Just listen to the Nationals pitching staff:Max Scherzer,Stephen Strasburg,Jordan Zimmermann,Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. That’s as solid as any in baseball.

Pair that with their lineup, boasting the vigorous and still young Bryce Harper and a hopeful Ryan Zimmerman, and you have the 2015 World Series favorite.

Miami Marlins,last year: 79-83

If Jose Fernandez can stay healthy and pitch the way he did last year, he could be the staff ace Miami has been aching for. It will also be interesting to see if the money has gotten to Giancarlo Stanton’s head.

The offense also boast under-the-radar sluggersChristian Yelich,Michael Morse and Martin Prado.

New York Mets, last year: 79-83

They have lost a lot of pitching talent and depth to the disabled list this offseason, but should have enough to float around the .500 mark, with a reasonable shot at competing for an NL Wild Card berth.

Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom continue to develop into top of the rotation arms, but the offense will be the big question mark — particularly which David Wright shows up to work each day.

Atlanta Braves, last year: 77-85

Well that escalated quickly. The Braves, two years ago were deeply invested to “win now.” But seemingly all of a sudden, the squad is looking to rebuild and content at the bottom of the NL standings, for now.

Freddie Freeman is a bright spot on what will probably be a struggling offense.

Philadelphia Phillies, last year: 73-89

The Phillies still have Cole Hamels, but the rest of the roster is made up of players past their prime (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Chad Billingsly, Aaron Harang), and never weres (Jerome Williams, Domonic Brown, Grady Sizemore).

The most interesting thing about watching this team won’t be found in the standings, it will be found in the trade rumors leading up to an inevitable high-profile fire-sale in July.

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