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2015 Preseason All-NL East Team

As the 2015 season is right around the corner, take a look at the best players at each position in the National League East. For some positions it’s clear who the starter is, and who takes the reserve spot. But for some positions it’s a close call between the top two players, and in a few positions there are three or more players who are worthy of this honor, but somebody has to be left out. Photo: Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports 

Originally published by FOX Sports  http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/lists/atlanta-braves-miami-marlins-new-york-mets-philadelphia-phillies-washington-nationals-030615

By Jason Lewis
FOX Sports Digital Content Producer (2014- present)

First Base- Freddie Freeman, Braves; Lucas Duda, Mets

Freeman gets the start here, but it’s not by much, and it's partially due to his reputation. Duda had a breakout year this past season, belting 30 home runs, knocking in 92 base runners, and he had a .253/.349/.481 slash line. That’s pretty good for a guy who had to battle for the position last year. But he does not trump Freeman yet, who was named to the last two All-Star Games and has been consistently good over the past four seasons. He hit 18 home runs and had 78 RBI last season. He had a slash line of .288/.386/.461. His power numbers were slightly down last year, but that was due to him being walked a career high 90 times. Freeman is one of the better defensive first basemen in baseball, which goes unnoticed. Duda’s defensive efforts greatly improved when he made the move from the outfield.

Second base- Chase Utley, Phillies; Daniel Murphy, Mets

With Dee Gordon signing in Miami, the NL East has three All-Star second basemen. Unfortunately for the newcomer, he’s the odd man out. Gordon led the majors with 64 stolen bases and 12 triples last year, but baseball insiders question if he can reproduce his breakout year. Utley gets the start here, as he has been one of the best second basemen over the past decade, and he was one of the hottest hitters in the first half of last season. He cooled off in the second half of the year on the offensive side, finishing the year with a .270 batting average, but defensively he was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award. Murphy finished the year with a .289 batting average, and he made his first All-Star Game appearance of his career. The Mets’ new hitting coach believes that Murphy can compete for the batting title this year. Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images 

Third base- Anthony Rendon, Nationals; David Wright, Mets

Rendon is arguably the best third baseman in baseball, and he received NL MVP consideration last year after finishing with 21 home runs, 83 RBI, and 111 runs scored. His slash line was .287/.351/.473, and he won the Silver Slugger Award. He accomplished all of that in just his first full season in the majors. He’s only 24 years old, so he should continue to get even better. He dethroned Wright, who used to be considered the best third baseman in baseball. Wright had a great run, as he is a 7x All Star, 2x Gold Glove Award and 2x Silver Slugger Award winner. But an injury riddled 2014 knocked him down a few notches. Even with his numbers taking a dive last year, he’s still the second best third baseman in the NL East, and he has focused on strengthening his body this offseason to stay healthy this coming season. Photo: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Shortstop- Andrelton Simmons, Braves; Ian Desmond, Nationals

The NL East has three really good shortstops, but somebody had to be the odd man out. That’s the Marlins’ Adieny Hechavarria. He made a number of specular plays last season on his way to being a Gold Glove finalist, but Simmons and Desmond are simply better. Determining the starter out of these two is tough. Simmons is a defensive genius. But Desmond is a monster on offense. Simmons is a 2x Gold Glove Award and Fielding Bible Award winner, and he won the NL Platinum Glove Award once. But his offense is nothing to write home about, while Desmond has won the Silver Slugger Award three times. Shortstops are generally judged on their defensive abilities, and Simmons laps the field, so he gets the start over Desmond. Photo: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Catcher- Wilson Ramos, Nationals; Travis d’Arnaud, Mets

Ramos holds this spot for now, but he may not be able to hold off d'Arnaud for long. Both players missed chunks of last year, as Ramos had an Opening Day injury, and d’Arnaud was sent back to the minors in June of his rookie season after starting the year with a .180 batting average. When he was called back up after a few weeks, it seemed like he figured out how to hit big league pitching. He hit .272 the rest of the way, and he hit .313 in the month of September. He finished the year with a .242/.302/.416 slash line, and hit 13 home runs with 41 RBI in 108 games played. Ramos, in 88 games, had a slash line of .267/.299/.399, with 11 home runs and 47 RBI. Ramos gets the nod here simply because of experience, but d’Arnaud is one breakout season away from becoming the best catcher in the division. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Left field- Christian Yelich, Marlins; Jayson Werth, Nationals

Yelich is only one full season into his big-league career, but that was enough to get him the start here. Part of the reason why he gets the nod is because the Nationals’ Bryce Harper has been moved from left field to right, but a big part is that Yelich won the Gold Glove Award last season, and he was pretty good from the plate. He had a .284/.362/.402 slash line, and he stole 21 bases. Even with Harper changing positions, Yelich still has to compete with Werth, who switched from right field to left. Werth put up better numbers than Yelich at the plate, as he had a .292/.394/.455 slash line, with 16 home runs and 82 RBI, compared to Yelich’s nine home runs and 54 RBI. Because of Yelich’s defensive skills, he gets the start here. Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Center field- Juan Lagares, Mets; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins

This is another position that’s log jammed with talent. Lagares and Ozuna have been in the big leagues for only two years each, but they are already two of the best center fielders in the game. The Nationals’ Denard Span had a very good season last year, as he was a Gold Glove Award finalist and he was pretty good at the plate, but the kids of this division make this list. Lagares won the Gold Glove Award last year, and he’s regarded as the best defensive center fielder in baseball. He makes difficult catches look routine. Ozuna was not recognized for his defensive efforts, but he has a cannon for an arm, and base runners did not have much success challenging him. His power numbers are what puts him on this list, as he had 23 home runs and 85 RBI. Photo: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Right field- Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins; Bryce Harper, Nationals 

Two of the most talented and popular players in baseball play right field in the NL East. The one thing that sets them apart is that Stanton has arrived as a superstar, while Harper is still trying to reach his potential. This past season, Stanton finally played like a superstar, and he is now an MVP-caliber player. He could very well become the face of baseball if he continues to hit monster home runs, and if he can put his team on his back and carry them to post-season glory. Harper is certainly a polarizing figure, but there is no question that he could very soon be competing with Stanton for MVPs. Harper has had his struggles early in his career, just like Stanton, but Harper has shown glimpses of greatness. He just need a season where he is healthy from start to finish, and he shows that he can live up to the hype. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Starting pitchers: Max Scherzer, Nationals; Cole Hamels, Phillies

The Nationals are loaded with pitchers, and the division on a whole is too. Picking two out of this bunch can be tough, but division new comer Scherzer is the guy right now. It can be argued that he’s not even the best pitcher on his team, as teammate Jordan Zimmermann’s 2.66 ERA from last year was better than Scherzer’s 3.15. But there is a reason why the Nationals gave Scherzer a $210 million contract while Zimmermann may have to look elsewhere to get paid. While Hamels is still in the division, he’ll be on this list. Even though the Phillies were a last-place team last year, he still had a 2.46 ERA. This list can change, because this division also features Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), and Cliff Lee (Phillies), and aces Matt Harvey (Mets) and Jose Fernandez (Marlins) are returning from Tommy John surgery. Photo: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports  

Middle relief- Ken Giles, Phillies; Jeurys Familia, Mets

Two young relievers are making names for themselves in the NL East. Giles is a fire baller who has a fastball that has reportedly hit 103 mph on the radar gun. He was called up from the minors last June, and he instantly lived up to the hype. He had a 1.18 ERA and he struck out 64 batters in 45.5 innings, for a 12.6 K/9. Those numbers earned him a fourth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year Award voting. One of the Phillies’ few strengths is their bullpen, and Giles has a lot to do with that. Bullpen is also a strength for the Mets. That unit let the ball club down for years, but the emergence of Familia has helped the Mets late in games. He finished the season with a 2.21 ERA, he struck out 73 batters in 77 innings, and he received NL Rookie of the Year consideration. Photo: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Closer- Craig Kimbrel, Braves; Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies

Kimbrel is simply the best closer in baseball. That’s not just based on this past season, when he had a 1.61 ERA and he struck out 95 batters in 61 innings. Over the past four years he has a 1.51 ERA, and 436 strikeouts in 268.1 innings (14.6 K/9). He has led the NL in saves in each of those seasons and he became the first pitcher in history to strike out at least half of the batters he faced in a full season when he struck out 116 of 231 in 2012. There is no reason to believe that he will not dominate the competition again, as he has now added a changeup to go along with his high 90s fastball and his curveball. Coming in a distant second in the NL East is Papelbon. He may be a headache to deal with, and the Phillies are trying to get rid of him, but there is no question that the 5x All Star can still pitch. Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Manager- Matt Williams, Nationals; Mike Redmond, Marlins

To some degree the jury is still out on Williams, even though he was named NL Manager of the Year after his debut season at that position. He inherited a great roster, which he led to a league-high 96 wins. He landed in the perfect position, and he made the most out of it…through the regular season. He made some highly questionable late-game pitching decisions that were costly against the Giants in the NLDS, which contributed to their series loss. This year it’s pretty much World Series or bust, so his reputation will be built in the post season. Redmond is in a different position. He took over one of the worst teams in baseball in 2013, and he has turned a young and talented ball club into a respectable team that may be one season away from being contenders. The playoffs is a possibility this year. Photo: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

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