MLB Season Preview – NL East
This division is weak and it is a division where I just can’t see much changing from what I have predicted here. Last year I tried to get cute and claim the Phillies would make one last charge into the playoffs, but that was flat out stupid! Not getting cute this time around with it. The Braves are a safe pick, and I’m going to say the only team that can knock them off at the top are the Nationals. Nats have more talent, but the Braves are one of the top 2 or 3 run organizations in MLB.
The defending division champs are immediately off to a brutal start with ace Kris Medlin going down for the season with Tommy John surgery. Couple that with the departures of Tim Hudson and Brian McCann and it isn’t good. But I’m going against the grain and sticking with them to win the division yet again. They’re just so consistent and I trust them more than the Nationals.
Pitching: I still think they’ll get solid pitching. I don’t know how, but I just believe they’ll get it. Ervin Santana was a good pickup and he should be solid in this division, and he’s only on a 1 year deal so he has a lot of incentive. The pressure will be on Julio Teheran to be the ace now with Medlin out. He is capable as he has great stuff. But the strength of this club is the bullpen. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball, Jonny Venters is back later this season, David Carpenter, it just goes on and on. A major league best 2.46 ERA last season for this group and they might be even better.
Hitting: They need to get all they can out of this lineup with the pitching staff banged up. I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting that B.J. Upton needs to hit better than .184! Justin was real solid, but B.J. desperately needs a bounce back season. What is worse than .184 is .179, which is what Dan Uggla hit. And while his BA wasn’t that bad, Jason Heyward is capable of a lot more than .254. Obviously though he needs to stay healthy. Freddie Freeman is a stud but will now have that fat new contract to live up to. The talent is there for this lineup to be lethal.
Defense: While Braves fans would like to see more out of Heyward at the dish, they can’t complain out his play in the field. Between him and the Upton brothers they can cover a ton of ground in the OF. Then of course last year’s NL gold glove winner at SS Andrelton Simmons and it goes without saying how great he is. Overall they’re real solid with only 85 errors and a respectable .986 fielding percentage.
I wish this was still their symbol. Although the Expos would have dealt Strasburg, both Zimmerman’s, and Harper a long time ago! Matt Williams is the new manager. The talent can’t be questioned. They have the arms and the bats to get the job done not only in the AL East but to go to the World Series. But they have to prove they can put it all together.
Pitching: Maybe the best staff in baseball. When Doug Fister is your number 4 man in the rotation I would say you’re pretty good, but I don’t like hearing that a guy has elbow inflammation. Obviously Strasburg has the best stuff in baseball and I expect him to put it all together one of these years. Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez would be staff aces on most other teams. The bullpen could be pretty good too but will Drew Storen ever be able to get back to his 2012 form? That game 5 against the Cardinals would be tough to shake off.
Hitting: Much like Strasburg, one of these years Bryce Harper is going to put it all together. I thought it was going to be last year as he was my pick for NL MVP, and that pick looked good early on. But he’s still extremely young. This is a nicely balanced lineup. Ton of power, and quite a bit of speed throughout as well. Wilson Ramos is their number 8 hitter, he went .272/16/59 last season, that not only is good production from you catcher, but great production from your number 8 bat.
Defense: Definitely the weakness of the ball club. Not good to be over 100 errors on the season and they had 107, 23rd in the majors. It’s not as though there isn’t talent in the field though. Both Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche are former gold glove winners. They brought in Mark Wiedmaier to clean up the clubs defensive short comings this season, so we will see if that makes a difference.
3. Miami Marlins
I still hate their owner. He is scum. But I have to admit they look primed to have a pretty good season. I still would be shocked if they were much better than .500, part of the reason I have them 3rd is no Matt Harvey for the Mets and half the Phillies being born during the Jimmy Carter administration, but never the less 3rd would still be a great season.
Pitching: Here is another reason why I like them to finish 3rd. While I rolled my eyes when he was voted ROY over Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez was ridiculous. He’ll likely have set backs this season, but I still expect an ERA under 3.25 and a K/9 around 9. Henderson Alvarez is going to be a stud simply because that is how it goes for Jays fans. It’s a solid bullpen, with Steve Cishek coming off a real good 34 save season, and a combined ERA of 3.42.
Hitting: A lot of pressure on Giancarlo Stanton to carry the load for the fish. The guy can mash, but there isn’t a ton of incentive to pitch to him if a team doesn’t want to. Garrett Jones is a solid bat, but nothing special. So they definitely need a guy to emerge. It’ll probably be OF prospect Jake Marisnick, again just because that’s how it goes for Jays fans.
Defense: Not that bad for such a young team. I would be lying if I said I knew a ton about these guys and their fielding ability with how young they are and that you simply don’t see much of the Marlins at all up here. But again, former Jay Adeiny Hechavarria is tremendous in the field, and combined with Marlins defensive player of the year Donovan Solano they’ll make a heck of a double play combo.
Who doesn’t love Mr. Met?! This was never an official symbol of the team, but I’ll take secondary ones like this that are deadly! This year I’m not expecting much out of this team, but I do believe they’re on their way. Next season they’ll get Matt Harvey back to likely join Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard and that could be the makings of an elite 1/2/3.
Pitching: It really sucks that we won’t see Matt Harvey this season. The kid was awesome last season. I’ll make a prediction right now….Bartolo Colon is going to be a huge bust. He won’t finish the year with the Mets and this will be his last year in the show. I’ve just seen the A’s get so much out of guys who are over the hill and then go on to do nothing elsewhere. In my opinion this teams best bet for an ace would be Zack Wheeler. Also I expect Noah Syndergaard to come up at some point and put up huge numbers…..because that’s how it goes for the Jays.
Hitting: Just like in the mid 90’s when Norm McDonald did Weekend Update, the answer was always Frank Stallone. Well for me, the answer is always the Jay who shouldn’t have been let go but was. Travis d’Arnaud. I’m expecting Mike Piazza circa 1999 type numbers out of d’Arnaud….because that’s how it goes for the Jays. On a serious note the lineup needs work. Granderson was a great add, and Wright is always solid. Calling Ike Davis a wildcard is a massive understatement. You just have no idea at this point what he is going to give you.
Defense: Probably the 2nd best defensive club in the division. Similar numbers to the Phillies last season, but Granderson will be a big upgrade in the OF as long as he stays healthy. David Wright will never be what he was when he won the gold glove in 2008, but he’s no slouch either. Ruben Tejada is a huge concern for this team at SS. They may have to go looking for an upgrade, as Tejada is just much to erratic.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
Let’s blow this up already. Like I said off the top, I thought they may have 1 more run left in them going into last season. Now, Roy Halladay has retired, Jimmy Rollins and Ryne Sandberg hate each other, and their core is 3 or 4 years past their prime. Those contracts aren’t easy to move, but Ruben Amaro has to start moving them.
Pitching: While I don’t believe both of them will be in Philly for the entire season, Lee and Hamels give them a ridiculous amount of innings (of course Hamels is out a month to start the season). It is a great top of the rotation, and Lee especially was great last season. A.J. Burnett is a wildcard as he usually is. You just never know what you’ll get from the guy, but if they get the Burnett from Pittsburgh they’ll be happy. Papelbon is a solid closer but after that it’s not pretty and they really didn’t do much to improve a bullpen that had an ERA of 4.19 last season.
Hitting: Well they were big names, but the key word there is “were”. Howard is over the hill. Utley is over the hill. Rollins is over the hill. Dykstra is over the hill. Schmidt is over the hill. Oh, apparently the latter 2 did actually retire. Actually in fairness they have implemented some youth in the last few seasons, namely Dominic Brown. It’s a great lineup IF they stay healthy, but asking them to stay healthy at this point is ridiculous.
Defense: Their double play combo is a combined 70 years old. That ain’t good! 97 errors last season, so they need to clean things up a bit. Marlon Byrd is pretty solid in RF, Dominic Brown was ok in RF so he should be a big upgrade in LF, and while Ben Revere doesn’t have a good arm, he covers a ton of ground in CF. And Carlos Ruiz is a stud behind the plate, but around the horn they won’t be getting to many balls.
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