Peter Morgan/Associated Press
After posting an .841 OPS as a 22-year-old rookie, Michael Conforto has the look of an emerging star.
|New York Mets
With the nastiest rotation in baseball, the New York Mets earn the title of "team to beat" in the Senior Circuit East.
It doesn't get any better than watching Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom throw darts, but don't sleep on the offense. With Yoenis Cespedes setting the tone, the Mets were first in the NL in runs following the Midsummer Classic.
Another Met who will play a crucial role in keeping the attack rolling is sophomore left fielder Michael Conforto. The 2014 top pick wasted no time adjusting to major league life last summer, hitting nine homers and putting up an .841 OPS in 56 games.
After losing to the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has big plans for the upcoming campaign.
“It absolutely, definitely, motivates us,” Conforto said, per Marc Carig of Newsday. “I know everybody on this team feels this pain when they’re getting ready for this season. We’ll just use it to motivate us moving on.”
For the Washington Nationals, the motivation will fall to skipper Dusty Baker. The new boss inherits a team that seriously underperformed in 2015 and was also undone by an onslaught of injuries to guys such as Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.
Of that group, Rendon has the potential to be a real game-changer. Health issues limited the right-handed hitter to just 80 games last season, but in 2014, he was No. 5 on the NL MVP ballot.
The Miami Marlins are another team with a new manager that could make some noise in the East. Don Mattingly takes the helm in South Beach, where the Fish are poised to play the dark-horse role.
Dee Gordon sparks the lineup and Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball harder than any other player in the bigs. In 2015, his average launch speed (99.1) was four miles per hour faster than the next-closest player, per MLB.com.
The Marlins will also have the electric Jose Fernandez from Day 1, and then there's the new guy, Wei-Yin Chen. The unheralded lefty doesn't generate much buzz, but he gets results. In 2015, Chen posted a 3.34 ERA, which ranked seventh in the AL.
Now we get to the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves, who are among the legion of NL teams tanking in 2016. The Phillies, losers of 99 a season ago, jettisoned star closer Giles this offseason in a seven-player swap with the Houston Astros, and the Braves sent out Miller and Andrelton Simmons.
For both of these teams, 2016 isn't about the win-and-loss record. It's rather geared toward building for the future and securing the best draft position for 2017.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com. All salary information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts on BaseballProspectus.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.