NL East At A Glance
Miami Marlins: The team that essentially alienated whatever fan base they thought they had looks like an obvious 5th place team in this division. They do however have the best player in the division in Giancarlo Stanton. No matter what the rumors say, I still think Giancarlo is a Marlin for a very long time. If I’m wrong, I hope I’m apologizing on my way to buy a Giancarlo Mets jersey. They still have some talent in this lineup around Giancarlo but they are also relying on fairly older players like Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco to be every day players and I don’t know if that is realistic. The Marlins will push Adeiny Hechavarria to the big leagues. They acquired him in the major Toronto swap, and he is known for his defense but can his bat hang in the bigs? The pitching really is where this team is going to get killed. Mike Redmond is going to have to be very creative with how he manages this staff. Ricky Nolasco is their most reliable starter and he’s well, Ricky Nolasco. Steve Cishek is a nice reliever, and while I do not think he’s a true closer – he’s still going to win the Marlins a lot of close games. Overall though, it’s hard to imagine this being anything more than 72 wins for the Marlins.
Philadelphia Phillies: I have been a big critic of Ruben Amaro Jr’s, and until I actually his roster do something, I always will be. For all the jokes the Mets outfield get, the Phillies aren’t really that much better (if at all). The Phillies are going all in again with their aging core of Rollins, Utley and Howard. They added Michael Young who is coming off a horrendous 2012 for Texas. Young is expected to be their full time 3B, and he hasn’t done that since 2010, and he wasn’t very good at it. Their lineup has name recognition, there’s no denying that. However, if Howard and Utley are not MVP candidates, then their lineup doesn’t scare me one bit. The rotation conversation of course starts and ends with Hamels, Halladay and Lee. You know, for all the talk about them being the best rotation ever, they sure haven’t done anything to prove it. This team hasn’t won a World Series with Halladay and Lee together, and I don’t think they ever will. The reason I am picking them fourth has less to do with my faith in the Mets and more in a sense that I think Philadelphia will sell if things do not look promising. They gave us a glimpse of it last year, and I think if they can get some young talent back, we could see a key veteran on the move.
New York Mets: Today as I write this, the Mets announced about two hours ago that Johan Santana likely will miss the entire season. I have to be honest here. That doesn’t change a thing. It really doesn’t When Mets fans thought about Santana in 2013 it always started with “if healthy.” The Mets are full of players who are at a point in their careers where it is now or never. Players like Duda, Parnell and even Ike need to show that they can put together an entire season with quality performance. Many people will suggest that the offense is the key, but I disagree. I think it’s the bullpen. I think the Mets have enough talent to hang with most anybody in the NL if they play to their potential. I think the bullpen is what will make or break that. Is Bobby Parnell ready to take a step toward becoming a big league closer? Can Scott Atchison rebound from his injury and be the guy we hoped Ramon Ramirez would be? Then of course there is all the youth in the bullpen – what will we see from them? The most unpredictable aspect of a major league roster in my opinion is the major difference maker for the 2013 Mets.
Washington Nationals: Obviously I like taking risks with my predictions. The Nationals are clearly the favorite, so what fun is it to pick them? Look, you can’t deny their talent. But, I can question whether or not everything will go their way. There really isn’t anything wrong with their lineup to be honest. I think they have a nice mixture of power, some speed, and players who continue to rise like Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper. The rotation is lead by Stephen Strasburg, but let’s not forget Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez brings the Nationals a reliable starter, while Strasburg gives them a fragile starter. I still firmly believe Strasburg will not have a long career – and while I agree with the Nationals handling of Strasburg last year, I think it will haunt them. Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler are a big reason for this team’s expected success. When the Nats signed Rafael Soriano, I was pretty critical of it. I don’t like how they tossed their young closer Drew Storen aside after a rough playoff outing. I think they will regret that decision because I do not believe Rafael Soriano is a big game closer, and Storen could be one day.
Atlanta Braves: There is a lot of pressure on this team to prove that getting to the playoffs is only a piece of the puzzle, and not the only goal. When you look at the Braves infield, it’s not very impressive. Obviously McCann is one of the best catchers in the game, but if Freddie Freeman doesn’t take his game to the next level, McCann may be the only run producer in the entire infield. The outfield is obviously the major strength of this lineup. The Upton brothers will likely have more fun than any two players in the sport, and if Jason Heyward who is still just 23 years old can take a step toward being a top offensive player, this outfield will be one of the best in baseball for sure. Their rotation is still lead by Tim Hudson who never seems to age, but really the ace of this staff is Kris Medlen. The Braves have a lot of faith in Medlen, and if he can take the top spot in this rotation they could be really dangerous. The rest of the rotation has good but not great talent. Paul Maholm has averaged 30 starts a year since 2006. That’s not very easy in reality. Their bullpen is obviously their strength. They have the best relief pitcher in the game not named Mariano (Craig Kimbrel), and they have as good of a lights out 7th-8th inning combo as you can get with Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, plus Jordan Walden joins the bullpen which just adds to the amazing depth they have.
XtreemIcon: Nationals, Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
Jessep: Braves, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
Joe D: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins