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Home / MLB / 2013 Season Preview: National League East

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The National League East features two of the best bullpens in baseball (Washington and Atlanta) and in general some nasty pitching–Stephen Strasburg, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kris Medlen, Rafael Soriano, Craig Kimbrel, and Jonathan Papelbon… Scary! The NL East also offers a plethora of exciting young talent with Giancarlo Stanton in Miami, Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Washington, and Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers in Atlanta. On the downside, it’s one of the most top heavy divisions in baseball as the Marlins and Mets are about as likely to end up with 100 losses as the Braves and Nationals are to reach 100 wins. This was the most challenging division for which to predict the champion. The Nationals are the defending champs, the Braves have improved on an already strong team, and the Phillies made some slick additions to a club that played very well down the stretch. With that being said, let’s get to it.

First Place: Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves won an impressive 94 games last season, and they’re a team I believe in, that is they didn’t over-perform. Freddie Freeman belted 23 home runs and I see him improving. Heyward hit 27 with a .269 batting average and 21 stolen bases, not an unrealstic bar for him to surpass in 2013. Kris Medlen posted some ridiculous numbers with a sub-two ERA, but he only tossed 139 innings due to injury, so even if his ERA nearly doubles, his contributions will be greater if he is healthy all year.1ATL

The Braves lost Michael Bourn, Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, and of course Chipper Jones from last year’s squad. They added B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Jordan Walden, and Chris Johnson to replace them. I’d call that a slight improvement and with with progression–not regression–from the returning players they should make the playoffs as a division champion.

Projected Lineup

  1. Andrelton Simmons (SS)
  2. Jason Heyward (RF)
  3. Justin Upton (RF)
  4. Freddie Freeman (1B)
  5. B.J. Upton (CF)
  6. Dan Uggla (2B)
  7. Brian McCann (C)
  8. Chris Johnson (3B)

Projected Rotation

  1. Tim Hudson
  2. Kris Medlen
  3. Mike Minor
  4. Paul Maholm
  5. Julio Teheran

Second Place: Washington Nationals

The Nationals added Rafael Soriano to their bullpen by doling out a hefty $28 million contract, a fortune for a reliever. While Yankee GM, Brian Cashman, was thrilled to take the compensating draft pick, Nationals fans have to be happy to to have an all-star closer in addition to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, both who are capable closers. Imagine Strasburg to Clippard to Storen to Soriano? Opponents will have to jump on pitchers early before they settle in, because there is no soft underbelly to this bullpen.

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Michael Morse was sent to Seattle and Edwin Jackson signed with the cubs, but in to replace the departures are Denard Span, a speedy center fielder coming over from Minnesota, and Dan Haren, who struggled last year but is due for a bounce back. We can expect some regression from Adam LaRoche who belted a career-high 33 home runs and Ian Desmond who posted a 25-21 (home runs-steals) season. The more steep regression though may come from the rotation where neither Gio Gonzalez nor Jordan Zimmerman can be expected to repeat their sub-three ERAs. A full season with a healthy Ryan Zimmerman (he struggled before a mid-season cortisone shot), maturation from Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, power production from Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth, and limited regression from last year’s pitching standouts will determine who wins the National League East.

It was painful not picking the Nationals to win the division (the perfect example of why there should only be one Wild Card per league). I copy and pasted this section above and below the Braves a few times before finally settling on the Nationals as a Wild Card team because the Braves have a more imposing lineup and I’m still not sold on Bryce Harper being as good as Justin Upton or Jason Heyward.

Projected Lineup

  1. Denard Span (CF)
  2. Jayson Werth (RF)
  3. Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
  4. Adam LaRoche (1B)
  5. Bryce Harper (LF)
  6. Ian Desmond (SS)
  7. Danny Espinosa (2B)
  8. Wilson Ramos/Kurt Suzuki (C)

Projected Rotation

  1. Stephen Strasburg
  2. Gio Gonzalez
  3. Dan Haren
  4. Jordan Zimmermann
  5. Ross Detwiler

Third Place: Philadelphia Phillies

After an ugly 37-50 start (before the all-star break) in 2012, the Phillies began dismantling their failing team. They sent Victorino and Blanton to the Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the Giants. Ironically, they played much better after the sell-off, closing out with a very strong 44-31 record after the all-star break. They were able to use the saved money to ink Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million contract.

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In one of the quiet but strong moves of the offseason, the Phillies added Ben Revere from Minnesota. He’ll take Shane Victorino’s old spot in center field and do so as a more affordable, younger option. To replace Hunter Pence, Delmon Young was signed and if healthy is expected to start in right field. Finally, Michael Young was acquired on the cheap from Texas, who is chipping in to pay his salary, and will start at third base.

The Phillies now enter 2013 coming off a strong second half with a team that doesn’t look too different from the one that finished 2012 on a high note. Their infield (Howard, Utley, Rollins, Young) is getting rather old, but if healthy they could score a ton of runs. It’s funny to think that Ryan Howard is still the highest paid first baseman in baseball. Beyond the aging lineup, the team will be led by their $144 million man, Cole Hamels, his fellow star lefty, Cliff Lee, and one of the great pitchers of the last decade, Roy Halladay. They’ll need a bounce back year from Halladay, major contributions from young left fielder Domonic Brown, and more than anything else, a healthy lineup to keep up with the big dogs in the division.

Projected Lineup

  1. Jimmy Rollins (SS)
  2. Ben Revere (CF)
  3. Chase Utley (2B)
  4. Ryan Howard (1B)
  5. Michael Young (3B)
  6. Delmon Young (RF)
  7. Carlos Ruiz (C)
  8. Domonic Brown (LF)

Projected Rotation

  1. Cole Hamels
  2. Roy Halladay
  3. Cliff Lee
  4. Kyle Kendrick
  5. John Lannan

Fourth Place: New York Mets

SportsLogos.Net

Although true New Yorkers don’t cheer for the Mets, their fake New Yorker fans should be happy about trading away their best player, R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays. Obviously moving your best player for what amounts to a prospect package stings, but a little investigation and one sees that it is actually a haul. John Buck, a solid, but not breathtaking ballplayer comes over and will likely start at catcher (last year’s starting catcher, Josh Thole, will head to Toronto to serve as Dickey’s personal catcher). The bigger additions are Travis d’Arnaud, who will soon be hyped as the second coming of Mike Piazza and hard-throwing Class A right-hander Noah Syndergaard. To acquire such a strong prospect package for a 36-year old who has really only had one great season is pretty impressive.

After that though, Mets fans won’t have much to look forward to in 2013. It’ll be 2015 before they can seriously contend. David Wright will be the lineup’s anchor and Ike Davis very well may grow into a solid .250, 30 home run first baseman. Beyond that, this team will struggle to scratch across runs and the bullpen is wretched. Shaun Marcum was a nice signing though, so there’s that.

Projected Lineup

  1. Ruben Tejada (SS)
  2. Daniel Murphy (2B)
  3. David Wright (3B)
  4. Ike Davis (1B)
  5. Lucas Duda (LF)
  6. Mike Baxter (RF)
  7. John Buck (C)
  8. Kirk Nieuwenhuis (CF)

Projected Rotation

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Jonathan Niese
  3. Shaun Marcum
  4. Matt Harvey
  5. Dillon Gee

Fifth Place: Miami Marlins

The Marlins are to major league baseball as the person who takes unemployment benefits without searching for a job is to society. The Marlins suck money from the teams that invest in winning and the local community who funded their new stadium and give nothing back to their fans or the league. Jeffrey Loria has replaced George Steinbrenner as the most hated owner in baseball, ironically for the polar opposite reasons.SportsLogos.net

Otherwise, the only thing worth mention about the Marlins is their star right fielder, Giancarlo Stanton. He has slowly and steadily improved each season and last year slugged 37 home runs in only 127 games. Despite the lack of lineup protection, he has a legitimate shot to reach 40 home runs for the first time in his career. The Marlins may be even further from contention than the Mets.

Projected Lineup

  1. Juan Pierre (LF)
  2. Placido Polanco (3B)
  3. Giancarlo Stanton (RF)
  4. Logan Morrison (1B)
  5. Justin Ruggiano (CF)
  6. Rob Brantley (C)
  7. Donovan Solano (2B)
  8. Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)

Projected Rotation

  1. Ricky Nolasco
  2. Henderson Alvarez
  3. Wade LeBlanc
  4. Nathan Eovaldi
  5. Jacob Turner

Ryan Kantor is an author at Reading Between the Seams. He is a life-long Yankees fan and a proud Clemson alumnus, residing in North Carolina, where he works in marketing research. For more stories like this, you can visit his personal blog at RyanKantor.com and follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Kantor.

Credit to RotoChamp.com (assistance projecting rosters), SportsLogos.net (team logo images), FormerlyFausto.MLBlogs.com (slider image)


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