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Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: NL East

Ah, finally out of the AL and into the teams the Giants will actually be facing with regularity this season, starting in the East

The NL East is one of the easier divisions in the league (although you may find some argument for who finishes second) and much more predicable than pretty much all of the AL divisions were. The consensus favorite is obviously Washington, but after that, things could go a few different ways. This is how we see things shaking out:

NL East

1st Place, Washington Nationals
Will Bryce finally break-out?

Lineup:
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
LF Jayson Werth
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
SS Yunel Escobar
C Wilson Ramos

Rotation:
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Stephen Strasburgh
RHP Jordan Zimerrmann
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Doug Fister
SU: RH Casey Janssen
CL: RH Drew Storen

Key Reserves: OF Nate McLouth, IF Danny Espinosa

This team is the one that many have representing the NL, and taking the World Series this fall. They've been close the last few years, but always seem to run into injury problems or have their stars slump at the worst possible time down the stretch. This year, they're hoping things come together and that the huge addition of Max Scherzer puts them over the top. That rotation is now the best in the game, hands down, and the bullpen is no joke either. Stras and Z-man are aces on most staffs and Gio and Fister are legit #2 options, so that just shows you a little about their crazy depth. It's probably gonna come down to lineup health and Bryce Harper stepping up. They need Werth and Zimmerman healthy all year and for Harper to be that .300/25/20 with RBI's and runs and terrific d, basically doing it all like he's proven able before in spurts (still extremely young ballplayer though, keep in mind). If these guys play up to their potential, they have the most talent in the NL, but they've had a hard time doing that that last couple years when they've had pretty much the same squad. Scherzer could be the missing link though, we'll see.

2nd Place, Miami Marlins *NL WILD CARD*
Stanton my pick for '15 NL MVP

Lineup:
2B Dee Gordon
LF Christian Yelich
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Michael Morse
CF Marcel Ozuna
3B Martin Prado
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Adeiny Hechavarria

Rotation:
RHP Matt Latos
RHP Hector Alvarez
RHP Jared Cosart
RHP Tom Koehler
RHP Dan Haren/Jose Fernandez*
SU: RH A.J. Ramos
CL: Steve Cishek
*Fernadnez out until June/July recovering from Tommy John Surgery

Key Reserves: OF Ichiro Suzuki, IF Jeff Baker

The Marlins are another dark-horse team that probably can't overtake the Nats just yet, but should be very much in the Wild Card mix, especially if Fernandez comes back strong in June/July. Even without him, that rotation is sturdy but they really could use him at the top and drop everyone down a rung to make things even deeper. Pen is decent, not overpowering and maybe their one spot where they could improve at the deadline. THe lineup though, I think is going to surprise some people. They have some very good talent all 26 years of age or younger and those guys are just getting better. I think if he plays 155 games, Stanton will win an MVP this year, he's that good and in that much of a zone the last year or so. They have speed, power, average and are all young and not even in their primes yet in that order. So long as Latos stays healthy and Hernandez can return to form for them for AT LEAST half the season, they should have as good a shot at any for an NL Wild Card spot! If Hernandez doesn't come back in a timely fashion or is a shadow of his former self and/or that lineup has injuries (mainly to one of those top-5 hitters or front-3 starters, but especially Stanton, Latos and Alvarez MUST avoid any significant DL time), they're gonna be the same old Marlins. They can make a deal for an arm if need be though. They'll have plenty of time to assess what to expect from Fernandez this year before the deadline and always have trade ammo. but they have to keep the rest of the bunch on the field and I like this squad and their depth.

3rd Place, Atlanta Braves

Lineup:
LF Eric Young Jr.
2B Jace Peterson
RF Nick Markakis
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Chris Johnson
SS Andrelton Simmons
C A.J. Pierzynski/Christian Betancourt
CF Cameron Maybin
Teheran a true ace

Rotation:
RHP Julio Teheran
LHP Alex Wood
RHP Shelby Miller
LHP Mike Minor*
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
SU: RH Jim Johnson
CL: RH Jason Grilli
*Minor to start year on DL

Key Reserves: IF Alberto Callaspo, OF Jonny Gomes, IF/OF Kelly Johnson

The Braves bullpen may be the best in the game and that's going to keep them in he hunt, especially if that solid young staff stays healthy. This is one of the weaker Braves lineups I've seen maybe in 10 years. Losing Martin Prado, Bryan McCann and Justin Upton is basically losing their middle of their order (sans Freeman), but they fell like they'll still score enough to compete with that strong pitching. That rotation is led by Teheran, is one of the best young righties in the game, and Alex Wood who isn't too far behind. Losing Kimbral was huge though and makes this pen much more vulnerable now. Plus they have a decent bench, which always comes into play during the long season. Who knows, if Simmons has a breakout year and puts up Ian Desmond-like numbers (which they're hoping for), Freeman has an MVP-type year and vets like EY Jr. and Pierzkyski prove to play big roles, then they could be compete. They don't have a ton of offense, but have some pitching and a few breakout years or five, plus some breaks their way could have them in the mix come late-September.

4th Place, New York Mets

Lineup:
CF Juan Lagares
2B David Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
LF Michael Cuddyer
1B Lucas Duda
C Travis d'Arnaud
SS Wilmer Flores
Harvery's return huge for NY

Rotation:
RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Jacob deGrom
LHP Jonathan Niese
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: RH Jeurys Familia
CL: RH Jennry Mejia

Key Reserves: OF John Mayberry Jr., IF Ruben Tejada

The Mets are certainly on the up, but took a huge hit early on in Spring that really diminished their hopes. Right after getting ace Matt Harvey back from season-ending surgery last year, expected number two, Zach Wheeler, will undergo the same process this year and miss the entire 2015 campaign. Big blow to a team who expected the kid to be a 15-game winner and give that rotation three young front-line guys atop the five. They still have an OK rotation, good if Harvey throws like he has this spring. Their lineup lacks balance and speed though so they're gonna have to hit the long ball to score a lot of runs, which they're capable of doing. They could surprise and hang around the hunt into August, but I see the mas a .500 team at absolute best. More like a .470 squad. 

5th Place, Philadelphia Phillies

Lineup:
LF Ben Revere
CF Odubell Herrera
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
RF Domonic Brown*/Grady Sizemore
3B Cody Asche
SS Freddy Galvis
Hamels the one real value in PHI

Rotation:
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Aaron Harrang
RHP Jerome Williams
RHP David Buchanan
RHP Kevin Slowey
SU: RH Ken Giles
CL: RH Jonathan Papelbon
*Brown to start year on DL

Key Reserves: IF Cesar Fernandez, OF Grady Sizemore

The Phills have taken such a downward spiral since their 2010 NLCS appearance, and for some reason are still sticking with the same core that's gotten them nowhere the last 5 years (Howard, Utley, Hamels, Papelbon, Brown, Ruiz etc...). I thought this would be the winter they cleaned house, but apparently they just weren't able to find takers for their aging vets, or decided to throw one more last go at it with them. Either way, I think this team is going to struggle mightily and probably start dealing off their players in June and July to start that rebuilding mode. There's really nothing I like about this team outside of set-up man Ken Giles, who is lights out, and ace Cole Hamels. The rest are average-at-best ballplayers. Granted, if Joey Panik has a bad sophomore slump and Utley is raking in July, I wouldn't mind rolling the dice on him for a couple of months cause of all their vets in the lineup, he seems to have the most left.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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