By Nicole Hansen
As spring training comes to a close and the MLB prepares for the start of the regular season, there have been players who’ve shown up, and players who have shown up. I’m going to count down the five players you need to watch for in the NL East as spring training wraps up and the regular season kicks off.
1.) Matt Harvey, New York Mets Starting PitcherEmbed from Getty Images
After being out for the entirety of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, Mets fans were anxious to see what kind of performance Harvey would put on in spring training. And this man did not disappoint.
Harvey has a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched with only 2 earned runs so far, much improved from his 2.96 ERA in 27.1 innings pitched during spring training in 2013. His ERA that year improved once the season started, going down to 2.27, and Mets fans can only hope this trend will repeat itself this year. With the loss of Zach Wheeler to a torn UCL still a fresh wound, the rest of the Mets’ starting pitchers needs to step up their game to make up for his absence.
2.) Michael Morse, Miami Marlins First BasemanEmbed from Getty Images
One probably wouldn’t assume there’s a player to watch from a team that hasn’t had a record above .500 since 2009, but Michael Morse has been having a really good spring training and looks like he could be a good contributor to the Marlins this year, maybe even getting them closer to a .500 record this season.
Morse has a .344 batting average and 11 hits in his 14 games so far. Four of those hits have been home runs and he also has 14 RBIs and 7 runs. There’s only one person on the active roster with a higher batting average than Morse, but combined with the home runs and runs he’s put up thus far, a couple points in the batting average won’t make a difference. Marlins fans will definitely have their eyes on Morse as the regular season begins and the team tries to have a respectable season.
3.) Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals Starting PitcherEmbed from Getty Images
One of the Nationals’ aces has proven worthy once again by putting up spectacular numbers so far this spring training. With the Nationals having what’s most likely some of the best pitching in the NL East (Jordan Zimmerman has also been doing well this pre-season and fans still have high hopes and a lot of love for Stephen Strasburg), Scherzer is just going to be another asset to get the team to a hopeful divisional title and playoff spot.
Scherzer has a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings pitched, only giving up 3 earned runs so far. He has the lowest ERA out of any of the team’s projected starting pitchers, with Zimmerman being the only one to come close. With starting pitching proving itself to be such a valuable part to any team’s tool belt, Scherzer is sure to make a great impression as the Nationals enter the regular season.
4.) Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves CatcherEmbed from Getty Images
Braves fans must have a good feeling about Bethancourt after the numbers he’s put up thus far in the pre-season. With not a lot of good starting pitching for the Braves so far in spring training, the offense needs to step up to produce runs in order to have a chance at winning the games. Bethancourt could be a leader for this team in that direction.
Bethancourt has a .357 batting average so far with 10 hits in his 28 at bats over 10 games. He also has 5 stolen bases and 6 RBIs. All of these numbers are drastic improvements to his 2013 and 2014 spring training numbers, so things are already looking up for the Braves catcher. Hopefully he can bring his respectable numbers to the regular season and help the Braves put up a decent record this year.
5.) Juan Lagares, New York Mets Center FielderEmbed from Getty Images
For our last player, we return to where we started to look at the Mets’ speedy outfielder with a insane arm and even crazier numbers this pre-season. Lagares is known for chasing down even the craziest of fly balls in centerfield and somehow always making the perfect throw to home plate to make the play, but he’s also showing he has the same power at the plate to get the big hits when the Mets need them.
Lagares has a .383 batting average with 18 hits in 47 at bats over 15 games. He has 3 home runs and 6 RBIs, as well as 9 stolen bases. With numbers like these and his fielding skills, Mets fans have to be jumping for joy with the potential he has and what he’ll be bringing to the team this season. Maybe the Mets will even make the playoffs for the first time since 2006 with a player like Lagares leading them there.
All stats and information from mlb.com