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Friday, March 27, 2009

NL East Division Preview

The National League East is going to be one of the best divisions in baseball in 2009, much like their American League counterpart. There is a ton of talent in the division, including the reigning world champs, so whoever comes out of the NL East will likely be the team to beat in NL playoffs. It also wouldn't surprise me to see the top 3 teams (Mets, Phills and Marlins) all finish within a few games of each other.

1st Place, New York Mets
Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes
LF Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Carlos Delgado
RF Ryan Church
C Brian Schnieder
2B Luis Castillo

Pitching:
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Mike Pelfrey
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP John Maine
RHP Livan Hernandez
SU: J.J. Putz
CL: Francisco Rodriguez

DL: RHP Tim Redding (late-April/early-May)

The Mets are bringing back the exact same lineup that ended the season for them last year and are hoping they all can stay healthy. If they do so, they should have one of the better offenses in the league. I'm still waiting for David Wright to become a worthy MVP candidate after predicting him as the NL's MVP last season. He and Jose Reyes are still going to get even better. The only thing I worry about offensive wise with them is that they are pretty stacked with left-handed hitters and could be exposed against some of the better left-handed pitching in the NL. Johan Santana leads an above average starting rotation followed by youngsters Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez. The real strength of the team this season though lies in the bullpen. The Mets have two closers to shorten games and their ninth inning guy could be the best in the business. They'll play solid defense as well.

2nd Place, Philadelphia Phillies (NL Wild Card Winner)
Lineup
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Shane Victorino
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz

Pitching:
LHP Cole Hamels*
RHP Brett Myers
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Joe Blanton
RHP Chan Ho Park
SU: Ryan Madson
CL: Brad Lidge

*Hamels will miss at least first 2 weeks of the season.

The Phillies are once again going to be an offensive juggernaut, as their 1-4 hitters are probably the best in baseball. Ryan Howard is a perennial MVP candidate and Chase Utely has become the left-handed version of Jeff Kent when Kent was in his prime with San Francisco. They are a pretty sound defensive ball club as well, especially adding Ibanez and losing Burrell. The pitching has a lot of question marks though, and that's whats going to hold this team back in my mind. Their ace and the key to their success, Cole Hamels, is having issues with his elbow and if he goes down for any long period of time, their playoff hopes will likely go with him. Also, I respect the heck out of Jamie Moyer and call me cynical, but I just can't see him repeating what he did last season. The Phills still have plenty of talent up and down the roster though and a solid add to the starting rotation (Roy Oswalt and Erik Bedard are two guys who could be available mid-season) could push them over the top, but I like New York at this point for the division.

3rd Place, Florida Marlins
Lineup:
CF Cameron Maybin
C John Baker
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Jorge Cantu
2B Dan Uggla
LF Jeremy Hermida
RF Cody Ross
1B Gaby Sanchez/Dallas McPherson

Pitching:
RHP Ricky Nolasco
RHP Josh Johnson
RHP Chris Volstad
RHP Annibal Sanchez
LHP Andrew Miller
SU: Leo Nunez
CL: Matt Lindstrom

The Marlins have a load of talent on their roster and if they gel, they can certainly make some noise this season. Hanley Ramirez is one of the best young players in baseball. In fact, if I had to select one position player to start building a franchise around right now, it would be HanRam. Cameron Maybin is as elite as they come, prospect wise, and the Marlins are hoping for a huge rookie season from the 22 year-old. I also really like the potential of their starting rotation. None of their starters are older than 26, and all of them have huge upside. Nolasco, Johnson and Sanchez have already proven what they can do if healthy and Volstad had a terrific rookie season last year compiling a 2.88 era in 14 starts over the second half of the year. The big question with the Marlins outside of the lack of experience, is their bullpen. Lindstrom should be a fine closer, but he's had some arm issues this spring and he isn't exactly surrounded by the best bunch of relievers. Still, the Marlins have talent and a lucky break here or there mixed with some bad luck for either the Phills or Mets (like Hamels missing an extended period of time or the Mets once again underachieving) could put the Marlins right into the thick of things.

4th Place, Atlanta Braves
Lineup:
2B Kelly Johnson
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
1B Casey Kotchman
RF Jeff Francoeur
LF Garrett Anderson
CF Jordan Schafer

Pitching:
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Jair Jurrjens
RHP Javier Vazquez
LHP Tom Glavine
RHP Kenshin Kawakami
SU: Rafael Soriano
CL: Mike Gonzalez

The Braves are in partial rebuilding mode. They still have their centerpiece, Chipper Jones, but the only other 30-something year-old player in the everyday lineup is the newly-acquired Garrett Anderson. I am expecting a rebound season out of Francoeur, who struggled mightily last season. I also like McCann, Johnson, Escobar and Kotchman as a nice core of position players that they're building around, but they need some more pop in the lineup. The rotation is so-so, not great, but good enough to keep them in games on most nights. Lowe and Vazquez were nice additions, but they don't really have a clear-cut ace. The bullpen should be pretty solid if they're healthy. They could have a two-headed monster at closer with Soriano and Gonzalez and solid set-up man in Manny Acosta. The Braves are a nice team, but this division isn't an easy one and they don't have quite the all-around talent as the three teams I have ahead of them.

5th Place, Washington Nationals
Lineup:
SS Christian Guzman
2B Anderson Hernandez
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Adam Dunn
CF Lastings Milledge
RF Elijah Dukes
1B Nick Johnson
C Jesus Flores

Pitching:
LHP John Lannan
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Scott Olson
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
RHP Shairon Martis
SU: Joe Beimel
CL: Joel Hanrahan

The Nationals are kind of like the Marlins, except they haven't developed the pitching that the Marlins have yet. However, they may have something in the works. John Lannan had a nice rookie campaign (9 wins, 3.91 era, 117 k's in 182 IP's) last season and the 'Nats are handing him the ball opening day. They also have the young phenom, Jordan Zimmermann, set to make his major league debut in a few weeks and some people feel he has a great shot at taking home the NL Rookie of the Year award this season. Cabrera and Olson also still have some upside, although both need to gain more consistency to the strike zone. Their lineup is a pretty exciting one and should put up some fireworks this summer. Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge are building blocks in the outfield and Ryan Zimmerman looks like the franchise third basemen for years to come. They also added 40 home run/100 RBI machine Adam Dunn at a bargain basement price (2 years, $20 million). The bullpen is thin though, and they don't have nearly enough starting pitching yet to start competing with the Mets and Phillies. They are getting close though.

Giants Notes: In Scottsdalle, Bruce Bochy started the Giants' projected opening day lineup in Thursday nights game vs. the Cubs (who also had most of their regulars in the lineup) and the first unit impressed. Barry Zito got the start and had a strong outing, going 5 innings, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits while striking out 7 batters. It was Zito's second positive start in a row and it looks like he's buckling down with the regular season a little over a week away. The offensive charge was led by Fred Lewis (2-2, RBI, 2 runs) and Pablo Sandoval (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs). Edgar Renteria got on base twice, and Travis Ishikawa and Aaron Rowand each had RBI's in the 5-3 victory as well. Emmanuel Burris got the start in the game at second base and hit 8th in the lineup, which is where he'll probably be on April 7th vs. the Brewers. The win improved the Giants spring record to 16-14, but they're also laying a beating on Indians as I type. Jonathan Sanchez got the start in the game and has gone 5 strong, allowing 1 run while striking out 5. The reason why I mention the spring record is because over the last few springs the Giants have had pathetic Cactus League showings and they've ended up sub-par regular seasons as well. Not saying a winning spring will mean a winning regular season for the Giants, but the fact that they are winning games period is a step in the right direction. Spring training or not, this team is learning what it takes to win ballgames.
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4 Comments:

  • At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Florida could be this years Rays. Same state, ton of talent and no fan base and tough division. Should be a good division to watch this year!

     
  • At 1:49 AM, Anonymous P. Richardson said…

    Santana for Cy Young this season, wins 23 games, KRod saves 65 and the Mets win the World Series. You heard it from me first folks!!!

     
  • At 2:50 AM, Anonymous Bleacher 138 said…

    LOL, The Phillies now have Jack Taschner. That's pretty funny. He even knew he was going to be dealt. Anyone know anything about this Hector Correa kid? I have found nothing.....

     
  • At 7:14 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Yeah, Hector Correa is a 21 year-old right handed starting pitcher. He had a dominating year at low-A in 2007 then was hurt most of last year. I'll talk a little more about him in Sunday's post.

     

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