Top takeaways from first week in NL East

April 5th, 2018

accomplished and heard plenty in the first week of the 2018 season.

He smashed four home runs through seven games. He thrived in the villain role as the Braves' brilliant organist played Star Wars' "The Imperial March" and "Go Cubs Go" before his plate appearances at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

It has been a fun week in the National League East. The Nationals are living up to the hype. The Mets' starters look legit. The Braves are playing well. The Phillies? Well, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has been a big story, but not for the right reasons. And everybody knows the Marlins are facing expected challenges after clearing their roster in the offseason.

Here is a look back at the first week in the NL East:


What we know: Sure, will not hit .429 the rest of the season, but if the injury he suffered in Thursday's home opener vs. the Mets isn't serious and he remains a force atop the lineup, and Harper stays healthy and crushes baseballs like he has in the first week, the Nationals' offense is going to be scary good.

What we still don't know:A.J. Cole had a dreadful start Tuesday against the Braves, allowing 10 hits and 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings. Cole could be looking over his shoulder if he does not get things going. If he struggles, the Nationals could turn to veteran .

The bottom line: The Nationals look like the heavy NL East favorites everybody predicted them to be. It is difficult to imagine any other team in the division giving them a serious run for the money.


What we know: It is amazing how a healthy and talented rotation can improve a team's outlook. The Mets' starters have been as good as advertised. They have struck out 38 and walked 10 in 30 2/3 innings. Oh, they also have enough depth to fortify a bullpen that has impressed, too.

What we still don't know: Can the Mets' rotation do what it has been unable to do the past few seasons and stay healthy?

The bottom line: The Mets are talented. There are reasons to be optimistic, but skepticism remains until they prove they can stay healthy. If they can, it is easy to see the Mets clinching a postseason berth.


What we know: Is Freddie Freeman good or what? Everything in the Braves' lineup looks so much better when he is healthy and hitting in the middle of the order. If he can stay healthy, the Braves could give NL East teams a few headaches.

What we still don't know: Everybody wants to know when is going to join the team. Assuming he is promoted April 14 or later so the Braves can maintain an extra season of team control, it will be great to see him team up with Freeman.

The bottom line: The Braves, like the Phillies, could be interesting to watch if a few things break their way. Mike Foltynewicz and would help the team's fortunes immensely if they find consistency on the mound.


What we know: Kapler promised the Phillies would "be bold," and they have been. It is just that few of those bold moves have worked. From pulling after 68 pitches on Opening Day to 18 pitching changes in a three-game series against the Braves to aggressive defensive positioning to not starting -- the team's best player the past three seasons -- in two of the team's first six games, Kapler at least has made things interesting.

What we still don't know: Can Kapler find a balance between trusting the numbers and the players on the field? He has talked a lot about the team's ability to read and react during the game, but so far, it seems the analytics have won most decisions.

The bottom line: Phillies general manager Matt Klentak emphasized this week that Kapler needs more time to prove himself and that his philosophies will work in the long run. In the meantime, the fan base grows impatient.


What we know: Marlins manager Don Mattingly entered the season in a tough spot, but so far, he has his team battling. They forced the Red Sox and Cubs to play 65 innings in six games, pushing three games into extra innings.

What we still don't know: Where will the Marlins' power come from? J.T. Realmuto, JT Riddle and are expected to return soon from the disabled list, but they are more quality at-bat guys than big-time run producers.

The bottom line: It is going to be a struggle this season, but the Marlins will use 2018 to develop their young pitching. That pitching has shown promise, particularly with its ability to miss bats. The Marlins could see more of their talented young pitching in the system later in the season, too.