Just one more week, everyone. The 2013 Major League Baseball season officially kicks off next Sunday, March 31. As spring training wraps up, it is important to note how the teams in the National League East have been preparing for the start of the season.
Last week, I covered the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. At the time, Atlanta had a 13-11 record, while Washington sat at 10-10. B.J. Upton was impressing early on for the Braves, posting a .408 average with 20 hits in 17 games. Paul Maholm was shining on the mound, going 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
No surprise here: Bryce Harper has been the Nats' best player this spring. Harper, through last week, was batting .409 with 3 homeruns and 8 RBIs (through 16 games). Gio Gonzalez was impressive early on for the defending NLE champs; the 27-year-old lefty was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA (8.0 innings) through last week.
It is obvious, at least early on, that the Nationals and Braves will be locked in a year-long battle for first place in the NL East. But what about the Phillies, Marlins, and Mets?
Since last week, things have turned around drastically. Atlanta is still at the top (18-13), but it's the Mets who have impressed the most since last Sunday. New York is now 12-12, good enough for second in the East. Ike Davis is stepping up his offensive production in the absence of David Wright. The Mets' first-baseman is hitting .341 with 15 hits over 17 games. Davis is going to be a key part of the Mets' success this season, so he'll have to continue to put up numbers like these.
The Philadelphia Phillies sit right beneath New York in the standings at 13-14. Yuniesky Betancourt has dazzled for the Fightin' Phils thus far. Betancourt has 21 hits through 18 games, good enough for a .447 average. With players like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard having passed their prime, it is important for the Phils to get production where they least expect it.
Washington has dropped in the standings, having gone 2-4 in their last six games. The Nats are now 12-14 and fourth in the division. Bryce Harper continues to impress.
The Miami Marlins are in the basement yet again with an 11-14 record. First base-man Casey Kotchman has a .459 batting average through 14 games. Sam Dyson has been the team's best pitcher to date; Dyson hasn't given up an earned run through five innings over four games, while also picking up a win. The Marlins might not be a great team this year, but their future is bright.
I am not going to lie, writing about spring training baseball is a little frustrating. It is hard to write when superstars aren't seeing a regular number of innings and teams are involved in meaningless games with players that no one has ever heard of. With the regular season set to begin next week, things will start to heat up on MLBInsideTheNumbers.com. Guaranteed.
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