The NL East was a joke for a long time. The Marlins would rise up every 5 or 6 years and become a force but for the most part they were the joke that they are today. The Mets have had a few good seasons in the last 15 years, but for the most part they’ve been terrible. Of course forever it was Atlanta dominating a terrible division, and then the Phillies stepped up with 5 straight division titles. But now it’s the Nats on top and it’s not the joke it once was, although the Marlins are doing their best trying to keep that tradition alive.
1. Washington Nationals – If only they had let Stephen Strasburg pitch in the postseason, had they not blown a 6-0 lead in game 5, had Drew Storen not blown a 2 run lead with 2 out’s and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 9th….yes, if only. But they have a great chance for redemption this season, and they’re loaded! The sky is the limit for Strasburg. This kid is living up to the hype. If they let him actually go this season he will easily get 200 K’s (had 197 last year in just 159.1 IP) and I think 20 wins should be a lock with this offense. But this staff is far from just Strasburg. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and now the addition of Dan Haren makes it one of the best rotations in all of baseball. And they’ll get run support. I might be in the minority on this, but I believe Bryce Harper has a bigger year this season than Mike Trout. Both are unreal, but I really believe Harper has that crazy competitivness streak and will work his ass off to become the better player. Like Strasburg the sky is the limit for Harper and he is living up to the hype too. Adding Denard Span in CF should also help Harper, he’ll be a lot more comfortable in left. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, its not as scary good as the pitching staff, but not far off! The big question of course will be the bullpen and how will Drew Storen bounce back from that nightmare that cost his team advancing to the NLCS? Tyler Clippard had 32 saves last season while Storen was down so if he can’t bounce back, Clippard can do the job. They’re simply loaded. Going to be awfully tough to knock them off the top of the division.
2. Philadelphia Phillies – This predicition may surprise some people, but it surprises me how many people all of a sudden want to write off the Phills. Much like I wrote about the Texas Rangers, this is more about what they still have. This prediction was made prior to spring training so I will start this by saying I do admit Roy Halladay’s major struggles are a big concern. Mitch Williams has said Halladay’s velocity has never been above 91-92 MPH since going to Philadelphia, and he also said its not uncommon for pitchers to get a dead arm during spring training. Doc is the type of guy who will still figure out a way to get hitters out no matter how bad his velocity is, but I would bet weather he goes this week or takes a stint on the DL to start the season, when he takes the mound he will be back up to at least 90 on the gun. He only has to be the number 3 guy on this staff with Hammels and Lee there. The pen is much improved with Mike Adams now being the setup guy for Jonathan Papelbon. The rest of the pen isn’t great but the backend is always the key, you can go out and find the anything else you need, plus they’ll take pressure off the other guys. The lineup isn’t what it was in 08 and 09, but I wouldn’t write them off like many people are. If they can stay healthy, they’ll be one of the best lineup’s in baseball. Of course that’s a big IF. This might be a really stupid pick over the Braves for 2nd in the division, but they came on strong in the 2nd half last season and I just think if they stay healthy they have too much talent not to be in the race.
3. Atlanta Braves – Most if not all experts love the Braves to finish 2nd in the division. I fully admit some of having the Phills ahead of the Braves is “everyone going 1 way so I’ll go the other”. I don’t deny for a second how much talent the Braves have on their ball club. But I have other reasons I’m not a big believer in the Braves for 2013. This might be the only team in the majors in which I want to start talking about their bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is one of the league’s top closers, just lights out last season. Jonny Venters would close for most teams. Then they added Jordan Walden by deal the Angels Tommy Hunter. Eric O’Flaherty is one of the best LH relievers in baseball and he might be the 4th guy in that pen, it’s just ridiculously good. Best in the bigs by a mile. But while I love their pen, I really dislike their rotation. I would be shocked if Kris Medlen gave them another season like he did last year. A 1.57 ERA ain’t happening again. And after him they have Tim Hudson who had a solid year but is getting on in years. After Hudson they’re very thin. I like the new look outfield with the Upton boys. They’ll cover some ground between them and Jason Heyward. But both Upton brothers are overrated. Great talent, but just overrated. That will happen when guys get picked high in the draft (Justin was 1st overall in 05). Nobody in this lineup stands out as a big bat, but it’s very solid 2-6. I think they’ll really miss Chipper Jones a lot more than some think. He was such a great leader and icon for this franchise. The kids in that clubhouse will really notice he is gone. While I have them finishing 3rd in the division make no mistake they’ll be in the hunt for a wildcard spot again. I just think the Phillies bounce back.
4. NY Mets – The Mets may as well setup shop in 4th place for the next 2 or 3 seasons because its going to be pretty difficult for them to go any higher….or lower with the way the Marlins are run! There just isn’t much about this team to like let alone love. They seem to be waiting for Zack Wheeler to emerge. Wheeler and Matt Harvey should give them a great 1-2 at the top of their rotation in another year or two. Jon Niese is a solid guy but nothing special, I like the Shaun Marcum signing but he’s just a number 3, and now Johan Santana has another torn rotator cuff and his career is likely over (his career as a Met is over for sure). The bullpen might be worse than the rotation. Last season they went with Frank Francisco as their closer and of course he failed in that role just as he’s failed in that role throughout his career. Bobby Parnell will get a look as their guy, he does have good stuff. David Wright will have a lot of pressure on him with his new deal to carry this franchise. I’m a big David Wright fan, but that’s an extremely tall order for anyone. They’re simply awful behind the plate, John Buck can’t hit at all. He’s solid defensively, but you need at least a LITTLE offense from that spot. Travis d’Arnaud can’t get to the bigs fast enough, and since he was the key piece in the R.A. Dickey deal he will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders when he does make it (likely by June). Ike Davis has a big bat, but he needs to get his average up to at least .240 to be anything threatening for opposing pitchers. Things don’t look great for the Mets, but at least for Mets fans….they aren’t the Marlins!
5. Miami Marlins – Ah here we are, my favorite team in the division! What a joke of an organization. As a Jays fan I’m extremely greatful that they are such a joke, but hard not to feel for the few Marlin fans that are actually out there. Scott Stapp, huge Marlins fan. For Stapp first he lost Creed, and now he’s lost Buehrle, Johnson, Reyes, and Bonifacio. Maybe that was HIS sacrifice? HEY-O!!! Ok, enough “Tom-foolery”, lets talk Marlins ball! They suck. We may as well get #freeGiancarlo trending on twitter if it hasn’t been already. This kid wants out and for damn good reason. I hear some scouts and other baseball people talk about how the trade with the Jays, and before that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, were good baseball deals. Yeah they got some talent back and drastically shed payroll. But owner Jeffrey Loria screwed the city of Miami and the Marlins fans (like Stapp). This guy is total scum. He screwed over Montreal and now he’s screwing over Miami. Ok I’m getting off topic again but it’s just so difficult to talk about this team on the field when they’re such a disgrace of an organization. I’ll just try to wrap this up, it’s way off the rails. Henderson Alvarez has absolutely filthy stuff but needs to learn how to pitch. Prospect Jose Fernandez is on the way and he absolutely tore apart Class A ball last year. Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison are far and away there only threats at the plate and as I said earlier Stanton wants out. I’m sure they have a bullpen and a manager too but I don’t want to give them anymore respect than I have. If they don’t lose 110 games this season I’ll be very disappointed.
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