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Here are the future aces of the NL East

@mlbbowman
April 3, 2020

With the presence of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta, the National League East possesses each of the past five NL Cy Young Award winners. The division is also enriched by the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Aaron Nola and Mike Soroka. But while the NL East already possesses some

With the presence of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Jake Arrieta, the National League East possesses each of the past five NL Cy Young Award winners. The division is also enriched by the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Aaron Nola and Mike Soroka.

But while the NL East already possesses some of the game’s top rotations, the division’s star power could soon be enriched by the arrival of some of the game’s top young arms. Here’s a look at who has the best chance to become the next ace for each of these clubs:

Braves: Ian Anderson
Yeah, Soroka already stands as the club’s ace, and the 22-year-old right-hander could hold that distinction for a while. But it’s more interesting to look toward the ceilings possessed by Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright, who rank No. 37 and No. 52 respectively on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. Wright’s slider has the potential to be an elite pitch for many years to come. But until he more consistently commands his four-seamer, which has generated a limited spin rate, Anderson will be more widely considered the club’s future ace.

Armed with a pitching IQ that at least rivals Soroka’s, Anderson is at a telling stage of his career. The 21-year-old right-hander recorded 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and issued 3.8 walks per nine while producing a 2.68 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Mississippi last year. He showed some fatigue while making five August starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. But the 2016 first-round Draft pick impressed veteran catchers during Spring Training, and he could soon get his first taste of the Major League level.

Marlins: Sixto Sanchez
Marlins fans already were having this debate in Spring Training -- Sixto Sanchez or Edward Cabrera? Sanchez is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 1 prospect and No. 22 on the Top 100 overall. Cabrera is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and 85th overall. If all goes to plan, these two are expected to front the rotation for years to come. Both are 21. Sanchez gets the edge based on more consistent fastball command. Before Spring Training was halted because of the coronavirus outbreak, Sanchez was being eased into his throwing program. Cabrera, meanwhile, impressed in big league camp, sporting a 100 mph fastball and 94 mph changeup. But Spring Training is hardly a tell-all indicator. Sanchez threw a career-high 114 innings last year and will open at Triple-A Wichita. From there, it is a matter of when he will reach the big leagues. That very well could be in 2020. The same holds true for Cabrera, who was optioned to Double-A Jacksonville. The Marlins envision the day these two are together in Miami. -- Joe Frisaro

Mets: Matthew Allan
If the Mets have their way, deGrom will remain their ace through the life of his contract, which runs through his age-36 season in 2024. At that point, right-hander Matthew Allan will be 23 years old, perhaps ready to make his own mark as the Mets’ next frontline starter.

Widely considered the top high school arm in last year’s Draft, Allen fell to the third round due to signability concerns. But the Mets did their homework and, confident they could sign him, sacrificed slot money throughout the first 10 rounds to nab Allan with the 89th overall pick. In so doing, they received a 6-foot-3, 225-pound pitcher with an upper-90s fastball and a hammer curve, who already ranks as the Mets' No. 5 prospect and their top pitching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Allan has appeared in just six games so far as a pro and is still likely a minimum of three years away from the big leagues. But once he arrives, Allan has the potential to lead the Mets’ rotation throughout the back half of this decade. -- Anthony DiComo

Nationals: Andry Lara
Right-hander Andry Lara is only 17 years old, giving the baseball world a pretty big window to watch his development. This season, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Venezuelan ranks as Washington’s No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, with a Major League debut ETA in 2024. The Nationals signed Lara for $1.25 million as their top pitching prospect in last year’s international class. His fastball clocks in the range of 92-94 mph, and it can reach 95 mph. MLB Pipeline also noted the effectiveness in his changeup's sinking action and described his breaking ball as "hard and slurvy." The Nats’ rotation is stacked with strong arms, and Lara could follow in that line. -- Jessica Camerato

Phillies: Spencer Howard
The last time Phillies fans got this excited about a homegrown pitching prospect? Think back to Cole Hamels in 2006. Yeah, it has been a while. But Spencer Howard is worthy of the hype. He is the No. 34 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He has four out pitches: a fastball that touched 99 mph in the Arizona Fall League, a curveball, a slider and a changeup, which took a big step forward in the AFL. The Phillies know Howard can be a stud, which is why this spring they brought the 23-year-old right-hander along slowly. They wanted to be careful with his workload early in the season, so he could help them later in the season. But with games on hold for the foreseeable future, an innings limit might no longer be a consideration. Howard could be a big weapon for the Phillies in a potential postseason push. -- Todd Zolecki

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.