The final Division in our baseball preview. The East has the potential to be the best division in the National League and probably in all of baseball. It’s stacked with talent all the way across the board. With the exception of the Mets, there is a ton of young talent. The Phillies have a great veteran team looking to make one more run at the world championship. This should be an exciting race to watch.
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
Starting Rotation: Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado
Starting Eight: Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Chipper Jones, Tyler Pastornicky, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward
The Braves season ended in heartbreaking fashion last season. The inability of McCann, Uggla, Bourn, and Heyward to inject any life into an anemic offense caused them to lose a cushion that seemed unlosable. It made the efforts of a very deep pitching staff futile.
The Braves management decided to tighten their belts and didn’t go after any new bats or pitching. Instead, the Braves have decided to turn to their farm system to fill in the rotation and hole at shortstop. There are high hopes for Pastornicky, Minor, Beachy, and Delgado. This is a young team that will rely on Heyward coming back to his rookie form, Prado hitting like he used to, and Uggla getting off to a better start than last season.
Two problems hampered the Braves run down the stretch last year. They lacked power – something Uggla, Heyward, and Freeman will have to produce, something they should be able to produce now that they are all healthy again. The second problem was the health of their pitching staff. They had to use a lot of young guys to fill in and their bullpen wore down.
This Braves team should be better than it was in 2011 and should compete for a Wild Card spot….especially now that there are two of those. The only concern is the health and durability of the pitching staff.
Prediction: 92-70, 3rd NL East
Manager: Ozzie Guillen
Starting Rotation: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano
Starting Eight: John Buck, Gaby Sanchez, Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Logan Morrison, Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Stanton
The Marlins moved to Miami, spent a bunch of money, brought in a lot of talent, and they have some high hopes. This pitching staff is going to be good. Johnson, Buerhle, and Sanchez eat up a lot of innings. The bullpen is much improved, and they added a dynamic hitter in Reyes.
The concerns I have seem to be the same ones that anyone else has. Zambrano is a head case. Reyes has hamstrings that strain easier than anything I’ve ever seen, and there isn’t a ton of power in this lineup. Stanton is young and coming into his own. If anyone can control all of these egos, it’s Ozzie Guillen. The Phillies have owned the East for the last five years, but they’re getting older and they’ll be without Ryan Howard. If Guillen can get these players to mesh and everyone stays relatively healthy, this could be the best team in the East. I think it’s going to take at least one more season though, and they’ll win about the same amount of games as the Braves.
Prediction: 94-68, 2nd NL East
New York Mets
Manager: Terry Collins
Starting Rotation: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee
Starting Eight: Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Lucas Duda
The Mets are in a state of transition. There isn’t a ton of talent on this roster and the pitching staff doesn’t impress much beyond Santana. There is a ton of talent in the East and the Mets don’t have enough to compete.
Their farm system is broken. Ownership sucks. They can’t compete with the New York Yankees for popularity or spending power. It’s going to be a long road back for the Mets and it isn’t going to be pretty in 2012.
Prediction: 75-87, 5th NL East
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Starting Rotation: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Vance Worley
Starting Eight: Carlos Ruiz, Jim Thome/Ty Wigginton, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, John Mayberry Jr., Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence
Depending on which depth chart you trust, either Thome or Wigginton will be playing a lot of first base until Ryan Howard is back from his injury. Chase Utley and Rollins aren’t the same player they used to be. Polanco is probably the fourth best third basemen in the division. The outfield is probably the only steady part of the offense. Pence is young and can provide a decent amount of power. Mayberry has been a Phillies’ project for years and has been coming into his own.
The best part of the Phillies offense is the ability to run the bases better than anyone else. They can steal a lot of bags and they’ll beat you with small ball better than any other team.
The rotation and bullpen are the best in baseball. The Phillies don’t need to score a ton of runs in order to stay competitive. If they can stay in the race for the East until a healthy Howard returns, they’ll probably be able to win close to 100 games. I think that’s exactly what they’ll do. However, the amazing run will be coming to a close after this season if they can’t bring in some young talent – much like the Yankees were able to do this offseason.
Prediction: 99-63, 1st NL East
Manager: Davey Johnson
Starting Rotation: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan
Starting Eight: Wilson Ramos, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina, Jayson Werth
The Nationals are heading the in the right direction. The pitching staff got much better with the addition of Gonzalez and Jackson. Strasburg is back to 100 percent. Zimmerman pitched very well last year. This has the potential to be the best rotation in the National League in the next couple of years.
The lineup is full of good hitters. LaRoche has found his own since bouncing around at the beginning of his career. Desmond, Morse, Espinosa, and Ramos are all good, young hitters. Werth is the key veteran who should provide good production. If they can add Bryce Harper sometime around midseason, this team could be the surprise team in the National League. I still think they might be one or two years away.
Prediction: 81-81, 4th NL East.
That wraps up our divisional preview. Coming up this week, we’ll take a look at the new playoff format for the Major’s. See ya then.