NL East Power Rankings: Phillies take a stranglehold on the division

The Phillies surged to the front of the pack in May and don't seem to be slowing down.
St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies
St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The National League East saw a major shake-up in the standings in May. The Philadelphia Phillies took over sole possession of first place from the Atlanta Braves and now hold a 7.0-game lead in the division.

This past month saw the Braves lose another major star to a season-ending injury, the New York Mets continue to implode, the Miami Marlins trade away talent, and the Washington Nationals perform better than most initially expected. It's a long season, but May didn't disappoint with providing drama in the NL East.

NL East Power Rankings: Phillies take the top spot

Currently sharing the best record in MLB at 43-19 with the New York Yankees, the Phillies had a field day with a weak schedule in May. Will that success translate to this month?

No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies (prev. No. 2)

The Phillies began May as one of the hottest teams in MLB and remained hot through the entire month. Minus a three-game losing streak on their last West Coast road trip, the Phillies looked nearly invincible as they ran the table against an admittedly weak slate of opponents.

The offense was a well-oiled machine, with NL Player of the Month Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm leading the charge from the third and fourth spots in the batting order. Toss in a 17-game hitting streak from J.T. Realmuto and Edmundo Sosa doing a great job filling in for injured shortstop Trea Turner, and the bats continued to pour on runs against rival pitching staffs.

The pitching staff also remained hot, with Ranger Suárez and Zack Wheeler currently in the early Cy Young discussion. Aaron Nola and Cristopher Sánchez have also impressed, with Nola now just three wins away from his 100th victory as a Phillie. Outside of Taijuan Walker's struggles, the Phillies pitching staff has been one of the best for two months and counting.

No. 2: Atlanta Braves (prev. No. 1)

The Braves have suffered some serious bad luck in the first two months of the season. After coming in No. 1 in these power rankings last month, they drop a spot after mediocre play and injuries have started to take a toll.

In addition to losing ace Spencer Strider, 2023 NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. was recently lost for the rest of the season following an ACL tear in his right knee. For the second time in three seasons, the Braves will try to stay competitive without their young superstar in the lineup.

Prior to Acuña's injury, the Braves were somehow keeping it together, and that's impressive considering the loss of Strider, an injury to third baseman Austin Riley and a slow start from slugging first baseman Matt Olson.

Offseason addition Chris Sale may be the front-runner for NL Comeback Player of the Year after starting the season 8-1 and looking healthy for the first time in nearly four seasons. OF/DH Marcell Ozuna is in the midst of a career year, and his 17 home runs and 53 RBI have been just what the Braves have needed as they try to stay competitive after a rash of devastating injuries.

No. 3: Washington Nationals (prev. No. 4)

The Nationals are in year two of a rebuild following the franchise-altering trade of Juan Soto to the Padres in 2022. The Nationals were forced to watch another young superstar leave town without signing a long term contract. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner ring a bell?

That trade returned a haul of top prospects. A few of those players, CJ Abrams and Mackenzie Gore, are helping the surprising Nationals stay in the middle of the pack in the NL East. Currently 27-33, the Nationals have leapfrogged the Mets. Their combination of quality young starting pitching and a reliable bullpen has made them a tough team to match up with in a close game.

No. 4: New York Mets (prev. No. 3)

The Mets fall one spot in the power rankings after finishing May with a 24-34 record and losing ground to the Nationals in the division. Very little has gone the Mets' way this season so far, with ace Kodai Senga yet to make an appearance.

They held a team meeting after losing three out of four to the Phillies last month. It appears it will take more than a meeting to fix this club if they hope to compete for a Wild Card spot this season.

The Mets offense has also disappointed, with Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil currently off to lukewarm starts. The once-electric Edwin Díaz has blown four saves in nine opportunities and recently was removed from the closer role. That fancy light show for his over-the-top entrance was the only success the Mets have had all season, and now that's gone too.

You can never count out a team that has the resources like the Mets. It's possible they could jump in and make a big splash to try to save their season. Or maybe they have accepted their fate as a mediocre team in 2024?

No. 5: Miami Marlins (prev. No. 5)

The Marlins' season was over before it started following severe elbow injuries to starting pitchers Sandy Alcántara and Eury Pérez. With both lost for the entire 2024 season following Tommy John surgery, Miami's chances of making it to the playoffs for a second consecutive October hit a major roadblock. Now 21-40, they're back to rebuild mode.

The Marlins will be major sellers at the trade deadline, and the team got the fire sale started early, dealing reigning batting champion Luis Arráez to the San Diego Padres on May 4. The Phillies will sure to be one of the teams checking in with the Marlins in July when more players become available. Expect the Marlins to remain at the bottom of the NL East for the remainder of the season.