NL EAST: Early Spring Training Battles

Hot on the heels of the excellent Bat flips and Nerds podcast previewing the NL East, here are a few things we have picked up over the first week of spring training.

Atlanta Braves: The fifth rotation spot is up for grabs and 22-year-old Huascar Ynoa is certainly catching the eye. He has given up four earned runs on three hits with two walks, but is tied for the spring training lead with eight strikeouts.

Ynoa made his MLB debut as a 21-year-old after striking out at a rate of 10.2 SO/9 across three minor league levels in 2019.

The vacancy in the rotation is due to Mike Soroka‘s absence as he continues to recover from the Achilles injury he sustained in August. Although Braves’ manager Brian Snitker hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Soroka being ready on Opening Day, it seems unlikely.

Favourite to take the fifth-starter job is 6-foot-4 right-hander Kyle Wright. The 25-year-old has 63⅔ big league innings to his name, but with an ERA of 6.22. We know ERA isn’t everything, but Wright’s ERA is actually lower than his FIP – which isn’t a good look. He has started spring training allowing three earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts over 4⅓ innings. This battle has a way to run and there will be many other contenders.

Miami Marlins: The battle for the closer role is off to a one-sided start. New signing, and favourite to begin the season in the ninth-inning role, Anthony Bass, has tossed three scoreless innings. Although he only has 12 saves to his name, Bass was the Blue Jays closer last year when he stepped in after Ken Giles went down with a season-ending UCL injury.

Bass’s main rival, Yimi Garcia, has one solitary career save to his name. So far in spring, he has only thrown two innings but has already given up four earned runs, including two homers.

New York Mets: Jeff McNeil was hit by pitches on three occasions during the 2020 season. He has already been hit three times in spring training.

In fact, McNeil has been hit more times than the two Mets second base candidates have put the ball into play.

All-Star McNeil is off to a miserable start with the bat, going 1-for-8 which is almost identical to Jonathan Villar, who has managed just one hit in nine at-bats.

Philadelphia Phillies: In September 2018, in his last MLB appearance, Bryan Mitchell struck out seven Giants over 8 ⅔ scoreless innings. To say that the next two years didn’t go to plan is an understatement.

The non-roster invitee is back on the mound and looking good, striking out six over four scoreless spring training innings. He will need to keep this impressive start going to force his way onto the 40-man roster. 

Washington Nationals: Despite opting out of 2020, veteran first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman is showing there is still plenty of pop in his bat. The 36-year old, who is vying for playing time against new signing Josh Bell, has gone deep twice in spring training and has only struck out once in 10 at-bats.

Bell, who was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates in December for Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean, has gone 4-for-11 with two doubles and a home run.

This is only spring training. Don’t take it too seriously.

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

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