Divisional Preview: NL East

Not much of a prelude here, the NL East by far is the best division in the National League. The Braves and Phillies are probably the best two teams in the league, and Marlins would be competing for the divisional title in the other two divisions.So lets get to the predictions.

1) Philadelphia Phillies (93-69)

They are the best team in the league, easily in my opinion. Between Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt I just don’t see how they can falter, even if the Braves have a great season. That’s three probable HOF pitchers, still on the top of their game, and another AS-caliber pitcher. They will be contending in just about every single game they play this season. The bullpen may be the team’s weakest point, but it’s not bad enough to be of major concern. Brad Lidge may be Mr. Inconsistent, but Ryan Madson is a good reliever who will make important appearances late in games.

The biggest blow to their title run is the probable loss of Chase Utley. It’s such a shame because Utley has probably been the best player in baseball outside Albert Pujols the past half decade. Yet he never got the MVP hardware he deserved and more than ever it looks like we will never see the 7+ WAR Utley again. Don’t me wrong, the skill is still there, but he has the body of a 70 year old man. I don’t want to say his career is over, because that’s quite dramatic, but it’s on life support in my opinion. Losing Utley is devastating because Polanco and Rollins and Ibanez aren’t young doves anymore, and replacing Jayson Werth with Ben Francisco and a raw Domonic Brown isn’t going to lead to more runs. The offense has been a strong point for the Phillies during their recent power grip on the NL East, but the 2011 version could be their worst offense of the past few seasons.

That said, the Phillies should win the division once again.

Players to watch: Domonic Brown, Shane Victorino

2) Atlanta Braves (90-72)

Although the Phillies appear to be the easy favorites, the Atlanta Braves have a real chance of winning the division. The rotation isn’t as good as the Phillies ungodly rotation, but it’s still one of the best in the NL. Tommy Hanson is a stud, and as long as their healthy, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Jair Jurrjens make a good 2-4. Moreover, Mike Minor should be a big asset for the Braves at the bottom of the rotation. Last year in nine starts, he had a K rate above 9, a BB rate in the 2s, and an FIP of 3.77. Are those numbers he would have kept up across a full season? Probably not, but the point is the kid is the real deal and I expect big things from him. And despite the loss of Billy Wagner, the bullpen will be a strength once again with Johnny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Scott Linebrink, etc.

Now here is where I make a bold prediction. The Braves offense will be better than the Phillies offense. Brian McCann is a severely underrated catcher, Freddie Freeman is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, Uggla is one of the best hitting second baseman in baseball, Chipper Jones can still produce with the bat, Martin Prado is an above average bat, and Jayson Heyward is already an MVP candidate in just his sophomore season.The Braves can get on base, they can slug, and they can score runs.

I don’t think they’ll catch Philadelphia, but they sure will give Philly a run for their money.

Players to watch: Jayson Heyward, Mike Minor

3) Florida Marlins (84-76)

The Marlins will be 2011s biggest surprise. In the NL East they are overshadowed by Philadelphia and Atlanta, but they have a winning roster capable of contending and winning in the NL West and NL Central. The staff is led by Josh Johnson, a stud pitcher who should have won the 2010 Cy Young award if he had not hurt his back. After him, the Marlins have a pair of solid pitchers in Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez. Rounding out the rotation are question marks in Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad, but if they work out the Marlins will have a tough rotation. Florida also completed a bullpen overhaul in the off-season and now have several good arms to complement Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley, and Burke Badenhop.

The Marlins have a very young offense that has the potential to be scary good in the future, and possibly 2011. They are led by Hanley Ramirez who is already one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball history. Also leading the attack are young players in Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan, and power hitter Mike Stanton. They may not have the firepower to hang with Philly and Atlanta, but make no mistake, Florida is a good team.

Players to watch: Mike Stanton, Josh Johnson

New York Mets (79-83)

Ah, the poor old New York Mets. Between the mistakes of Omar Minaya to the Ponzi Scheme, the Mets have become a giant joke in baseball. But with the hiring of Sandy Alderson, the Mets seem serious about making a return to prominence. Unfortunately for Mets fans, that return won’t be in 2011. First off, the rotation is shit considering Johan Santana will miss most of the season. That means the Mets will have to rely on the likes of Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Chris Capuano, Pat Misch, etc. I actually like Jon Niese, but he is not a top of the rotation pitcher. And outside K-Rod, the bullpen isn’t good either.

The lineup is a little bit more potent, but it’s not exactly good. Ike Davis is an up and coming first baseman, and even with “struggles” the past couple years, David Wright is a star player at third. Even Jason Bay could have a good offensive season. But what can they expect from Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Angel Pagan? Was Pagan’s 2010 season a fluke? Can Beltran still play? Will Jose Reyes return to his old self? If not, 2011 could be a long and dreary season in Queens.

Players to watch: Jose Reyes, Ike Davis

5) Washington Nationals (69-93)

The future is bright in DC. 2011- not so much. With Bryce Harper figuring to make his debut in 2012 and with Stephen Strasburg ready to return in 2012, the Nationals could soon be a contender. But for now, they are still a last place ball club.

Without Strasburg, the rotation is not good. Jordan Zimmerman has a future, and Tom Gorzelanny is okay, but they will be giving lots of starts to the likes of Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, and Jason Marquis. On a positive note, the bullpen is good, led by Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Sean Burnett.

The lineup should be more potent than the past with the acquisition of Jayson Werth to team up with Ryan Zimmerman, but as a whole the lineup is nothing special. The Nationals are hoping Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa can emerge as good everyday players, but they may still experience growing pains in 2011.

Players to watch: Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmerman

 

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2 Comments on “Divisional Preview: NL East”

  1. carloscollazo06 Says:

    I would have to agree with you on all of these except I am a little lower on the Marlins and a little higher on the Nationals. Nice post though, I like the blog.

    • Disco Says:

      Thank you.

      I do like the Nationals as well, I just don’t think 2011 will be the year. Between the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins for me, I think wins will be hard to come by for in-division series.


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