Washington Nationals: Five potential pitfalls for 2018

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Bryce Harper
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Bryce Harper /
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NL East Cinderella

None of the Mets, Phillies, Marlins, or Braves look like contenders on paper, but every year across baseball, teams unexpectedly rise from the bottom of the pack. Just last year, no one would have expected Arizona, Colorado, and Minnesota to make the playoffs with Milwaukee also knocking on the door.

After the Marlins’ outfield exodus, New York’s starting rotation is probably the most talented positional crop in the division outside of D.C. However, no one expects the Mets to stay healthy, and its not like the offense, now aided by the recently-signed Adrian Gonzalez and his 69 OPS+, figures to be part of the solution.

If any team could make the massive leap, it’s probably Philadelphia.

The Phillies won just 66 games in 2017, but the roster is dotted with plenty of young, intriguing talent. The front office has paired youngsters Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, and J.P. Crawford with veteran free agent Carlos Santana to give last year’s 26th-ranked offense a much-needed boost.

On the mound, there isn’t much after Aaron Nola, but Jerad Eickhoff is only a year removed from a 33-start season with a 3.65 ERA, and Vince Velasquez has limitless potential if he can stay healthy and limit the free passes.

Philadelphia also signed Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter to shore up the bullpen. This is certainly a flawed team, but if you squint hard enough, you can see the outlines of a future contender. That future could start now if a few things break right.

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