NL East Roundup: Mets, Braves, Phillies Fight for Playoff Spot

If the season ended today, three NL East teams would make the playoffs.

With about a month and a half left to the 2022 regular season, we have some interesting developments. New York maintains a slim lead in the NL East. Atlanta came into Wednesday with an eight game winning streak. Philadelphia is hanging on and hoping to add a healthy Bryce Harper to their roster soon. If the season were to end today, all three teams would have a spot in the playoffs.

Like I’ve done for previous division roundups, I’ll recap the latest developments for each team and touch on a surprise, disappointment, and recent injury news.

 

NL East Standings — August 18, 2022

 

 

New York Mets

 

Mid-way through August, the Mets have the second-best record in all of baseball. They’ve got both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer healthy. At the plate, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil are all raking. Despite this, they dropped the first two games in their current series against Atlanta and have just a 3.5 game lead in the division.

Biggest surprise: Daniel Vogelbach.

The Mets traded for Vogelbach shortly before the deadline and he seems to have become a fan favorite, changing his walk-up song to “Milkshake” by Kelis during the Mets’ Women’s Day at the ballpark, hitting grand slams, and going first-to-home on doubles in the gap. In 20 games with New York, he’s slashing .276/.400/.500 with a 160 wRC+.

Biggest disappointment: Injuries.

In back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker were each lifted after just two innings due to injuries. Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are more than capable of holding down the top end of the rotation, but the Mets’ starting pitching depth will take a hit if both Carrasco and Walker miss extended time.

Injuries:

 

Atlanta Braves

 

Atlanta is putting together another stretch of impressive baseball. They entered Wednesday with an eight-game winning streak which has helped the team make up ground in the NL East. The names you know — Ronald Acuña Jr., Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Michael Harris II — are all playing well, but there are a few players you might not be familiar with who are contributing to the team offensively. Vaughn Grissom, who made his big league debut with a bang, has gone 10-for-28 with two doubles and two home runs over the past week. Newly acquired outfielder Robbie Grossman is also hitting well since joining Atlanta at the trade deadline, and for the most part, their pitching has been solid over the last few weeks.

Biggest surprise: Michael Harris II’s 8-year, $72 million contract extension.

Michael Harris II is no stranger to my “biggest surprise” section, but this time he earns the nod for more than his impressive rookie campaign. On Tuesday, Atlanta announced they’d signed Harris to an 8-year, $72 million contract extension. Through 71 games and as the youngest player in the big leagues, Harris is slashing .287/.325/.500 with a 126 wRC+.

Biggest disappointment: Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna has struggled in the second half. In 19 games, he’s slashing .184/.192/.329 with a 36 wRC+. That’s not a typo, he’s creating 64% fewer runs than the league average hitter. Despite the clear struggles, Atlanta is still feeding Ozuna consistent at-bats. He has the sixth-most plate appearances on the team since the All-Star break.

Injuries:

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

Philadelphia, even in the absence of Bryce Harper, is still in this thing. They made a few moves at the deadline, trading for outfielder Brandon Marsh and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Phillies have won 10 of 14 games this month, and are in line for the second of three NL Wild Card spots.

Biggest surprise: J.T. Realmuto.

Realmuto’s first half wasn’t all that great. He slashed .252/.323/.399 with a 101 wRC+. Since the break, he’s really kicked it into gear when the Phillies needed it the most. His .296/.367/.606 line with a 165 wRC+ makes him the team’s most productive hitter while Harper’s been on the injured list.

Biggest disappointment: Didi Gregorius.

Gregorius signed with the Phillies in 2020, putting up solid numbers during the covid-condensed season. The veteran shortstop battled injuries and underperformed in 2021, and those struggles carried over into 2022. Despite the clear drop in production, I was still surprised to see them release Didi earlier this month.

Injuries:

 

Miami Marlins

 

Miami’s offense has been sparse lately. The team came into Tuesday’s game with a streak of scoring three or fewer runs in each of the past 16 games. They finally broke the streak, scoring four runs in a win against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night. One thing that hasn’t changed is Sandy Alcantara’s brilliance. He’s continuing a fantastic season that has him on track to win the NL Cy Young Award.

Biggest surprise: Jacob Stallings has been raking at the plate since the All-Star break. 

Although the catcher’s line this season is dismal, Fish Stripes recently pointed out that Stallings has been one of the best hitting catchers since the All-Star break. Coming into Wednesday’s game, he’s slashing .364/.435/.509 with a 172 wRC+.

Biggest disappointment: The first base conundrum. 

Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar have held down the first base position for the bulk of the season. Cooper had a strong first half that earned him his first All-Star nod, but he’s struggled in the second half and is better suited as a designated hitter. Aguilar, after being a productive hitter for Miami the past two seasons, has been disappointing at the plate and below average on defense. Enter: Lewin Díaz. The Marlins are finally giving him a shot to prove himself by penciling him in the lineup every day. He’s by far their best defender at first base but has gone just 9-for-65 with two extra-base hits and 18 strikeouts. With Aguilar’s 2023 option likely to be declined and Díaz underperforming, the Marlins suddenly have a gaping hole at first base.

Injuries:

 

Washington Nationals

 

The Nationals are waving the white flag and signaling they are going into full rebuild mode. Juan Soto and Josh Bell are gone, leaving Patrick Corbin, Victor Robles, Sean Doolittle, and Stephen Strasburg as the only players from the 2019 World Series Champions team that remain in D.C.

Biggest surprise: The Nationals are sticking with Patrick Corbin

This might sound like an exaggeration, but bear with me: Corbin is having one of the worst seasons a pitcher has ever had. He has a league-worst 6.96 ERA and 16 losses, 101 runs allowed, and 167 hits allowed. The surprise here is that manager Dave Martinez said this about the southpaw: “I want to leave this year with a positive moving forward next year because, regardless of what anyone thinks, he’s going to be one of our starters next year, and the year after that.” Although Corbin has two years and nearly $60 million left on his contract, fans have wondered whether the Nationals would continue relying on the 33-year-old. From what the manager said, they will.

Biggest disappointment: The blockbuster of the trade deadline. 

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the Washington Nationals traded Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres for MacKenzie Gore, Luke Voit, CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana. The disappointment Nationals fans are feeling is one I, as a Marlins fan, know all too well. As for the return, the Nationals have rebuilt their farm system with some top prospects. Pitcher List’s very own Steve Drumwright did a fantastic job analyzing every transaction from the 2022 trade deadline. Here’s what he said about this deal:

What do the Nationals get? Gore, formerly the Padres’ top prospect, made his MLB debut this season and has been a solid part of the Padres’ rotation, with a 4.50 ERA and 37 walks and 72 strikeouts in 70 innings covering 16 appearances (13 starts). He went on the 15-day injured list last week due to left elbow inflammation and is expected to return in September. Voit replaced Hosmer in the deal. Traded by the Yankees just before Opening Day, Voit slashed .225/.317/.416 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs. Abrams also made his MLB debut this season and has shuttled between Triple-A and the majors. The sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft has a career slash line of .334/.388/.522 in the minors with 12 homers and 73 RBIs over 106 games. Hassell, a center fielder, is the Padres’ No. 1 prospect and No. 21 overall in MLB. The 20-year-old was the eighth overall selection in the 2020 draft and was slashing .299/.379/.467 at High-A this season with 10 homers and 55 RBIs. Wood, like Hassell a left-handed hitter, was a second-round pick in 2021 and is slashing .321/.439/.565 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 55 games at Low-A, his first full season as a pro. Susana was signed as an international free agent in January and has a 2.91 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 29⅓ innings in the Arizona Complex League.

Injuries: 

 

Artwork by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

Nicole Cahill

Nicole Cahill is a freelance writer who focuses on mental health and sports. She recently founded a nonprofit that helps youth athletes living with mental health challenges. When she's not fighting stigma or exploring Baseball Savant visuals, you can find Nicole enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Portfolio: NicoleCahill.com.

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