The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

NL East Preview

Posted by Blake Murphy on March 26, 2008

This article has been submitted by Jack Forsayeth. With the MLB season just around the corner, you can expect the last two of these divisional previews in the next week.

I was going to rotate between AL and NL, but people seem to want the NL East next. This is good, because then I can end with the AL East and Central. This is probably the easiest division to predict but maybe not. Starting from the bottom…

Washington Nationals
It is tough to call who will end up at the bottom of the division but I think it will be the Nats. They are going to really struggle this year. They have some good young guys in the lineup with Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge but they lack at almost every other position. Christian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard are average middle infielders and Lo Duca behind the plate will help this year, but guys like Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, and Dmitri Young in the heart of the order around Zimmerman will simply not cut it in this division.

I have not heard of the majority of their lineup, which is saying something considering how much I love baseball. Shaun Hill is pretty good but is no where near ace quality yet. John Patterson and Tim Redding are not good enough as 4 and 5 pitchers, let alone the 2 and 3 they are on the Nationals. They do have a couple of young pitchers with upside such as Bergmann, Chico, and Lannan, but they are being rushed into the rotation and only two will make it. The closer, Chad Cordero, is really good and, outside of Zimmerman, the lone bright spot on this team. Even then, he may be on his way out of the capital so they can get some prospects before they lose him to a better team in free agency.

This team will struggle to get 70 wins and may be at the basement of the majors this year.

Florida Marlins
After losing Miggy and Dontrell, I gave some serious consideration to putting them last in the division, but tie goes to Hanley. Hanley Ramirez is one of the best five-tool ballplayers that has ever played, and he’s only 24. If he wasn’t born two days before Christmas, many would think he could be the second coming of the Messiah. After Hanley they actually have a decent lineup, even without Cabrera. They have the best power hitting 2B, after Utley and Phillips, in Dan Uggla, plus Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs, who also have some pop. Jorge Cantu is also only two years removed from his 28 HRs and 117 RBI season before his injury and is in the mix for the starting 3B job. He has looked good in the spring and I think he will get it. The player I love on this team is Jeremy Hermida. He can hit for average and power and will breakout this year hitting 4th behind Hanley. Their have also been rumors that 20-year old phenom CF Cameron Maybin may get some at-bats in the bigs. Don’t count on huge production, but that’s something to keep a look out for.

Their rotation is awful, however. Mark ‘I can’t make any other team’ Hendrickson is currently listed as their ACE. He is 33 and had a 5.21 ERA last season. The rest of their rotation is all 24 or under, which spells trouble in terms of consistency, and pitching in this division loaded with offensive firepower is dangerous as is. VandenHurk probably has the most upside of the bunch because he is such a strikeout specialist. If he can get his fastball down, look out.

Around 70 wins. They will not compete by any means and will likely allow the most runs in the majors. Look for some high scoring games in Miami.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves are always in the mix for the NL East but may not be this year. They may get up to second and challenge for the wildcard. I really like the mix of batters in the lineup. They’ve got guys that can hit homeruns but also hit the gaps such as Mark Teixiera, Jeff Franceour, Brian McCann and the great Chipper Jones. Add that to the young speed and average they have in the middle infield with Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar and you have a dangerous top six for any pitcher to get out. Their 7 and 8 spots are large holes with Matt Diaz and Matt Kotsay/Josh Anderson that could cause trouble if they are trying to have big innings.

Their staff just keeps on pitching, and pitching well. John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have been reunited at Turner Field and there have been rumors that they are trying to get Maddux back, too. I’m kidding, but wouldn’t that be awesome? Smoltz is still lights out with a 3.13 ERA and almost 200 Ks last year. Not bad for a 40 year old. Glavine is not as dominant, but is a decent 3rd on any team. Tim Hudson is the second best pitcher on this team and, in my opinion, one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball last year. He lead the club with 16 wins and 224 innings pitched - third most in the league only to AL Cy Young winner CC Sabathia and NL runner-up Brandon Webb. Pretty good company. In all of those innings he gave up just 10 HRs which was the best ratio in baseball. Mike Hampton is attempting to make a comeback and Cory James could be the next good Braves pitcher to round out the rotation. The bullpen is also decent with some solid middle relievers and an up and coming closer in Rafael Soriano. I look for him to get a lot of saves and emerge as a top tier closer in the next couple of years.

86 wins, maybe second in the division, maybe Wildcard.

Philadelphia Phillies
Any team with three MVP candidates in their lineup has to be a wildcard or division contender and the Phillies are. Rollins is the best leadoff hitter in baseball, Utley is the best second baseman. Howard may have the most power. Add any other five guys to that lineup and it is one on the best in the league. Shane Victorino was a nice surprise last year and will likely bat second with veteran power hitter Pat Burrell hitting 5th. Rounding out the order, Pedro Feliz was a nice glue-guy acquisition who can hit some dingers, Geoff Jenkins no longer has nothing left, and last, and probably least, Blake’s man Carlos Ruiz.

The staff is not great but should be good enough for this team to win a lot of games. Cole Hamels is all that and a bag of anything. He is the best young lefty in baseball and will win a lot of games with this lineup’s production, not that he needs it. Bretty Myers is listed as second but is converting from closer last year. He was a starter before who consistently pitched close to 200 innings with 200 Ks so I am not too worried about his endurance or adapting. He’s also only 27. They also had another young stud last year who went pretty unnoticed because of Hamel’s success. That is Kyle Kendrick, who is an unflashy control pitcher. He won 10 games last year in only 20 starts and posted a 3.87 ERA. Inconsistent veteran Adam Eaton and uber-consistent uber-veteran Jamie Moyer fill out the rotation. Moving Myers from closer means they are putting a lot of eggs in newly acquired Brad Lidge’s basket. He was once the most dominant closer in the game but injuries have changed that recently. If he returns anywhere close to his old form this will be a great bullpen because they have a nice righty-lefty setup combo in Flash Gordon and JC Romero to compliment him.

88 wins and will fight hard with the Cubs for the Wildcard spot.

New York Mets
They somehow blew the division to the Phillies last year but will not make the same mistake again because they added Johan Santana. The best pitcher…ever? In the lineup, it all starts with All-American man David Wright. I apologize to Hanley fans, but he is the most COMPLETE player in baseball today. Mix him with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and you have the second best three-some in the division, but also maybe the majors. Luis Castillo will hit second and has a nice average and good bunting skills to move Reyes over to probably third (because he will likely have already stolen second). Carlos Delgado is also in this lineup, although he is currently injured. The rest of the lineup is pretty poor, however. Ryan Church is decent, Schnieder is a good defensive catcher, and left field has yet to be determined after Moises Alou’s injury.

Santana is what the Mets needed to become a World Series contender and they got him. Add him to young guns John Maine and Oliver Perez as well as great veterans Pedro Martinez and El Duque. That’s a pretty good rotation that will need to stay healthy, especially Pedro. If he does, look for this team to win a ton of games and just enjoy watching arguably the two best pitchers of this era on the same team. Their ‘pen is also pretty reliable with Billy Wagner closing and Aaron Heilman as the setup.

This team should win 90+ games and win the NL outright. The also may be the World Series favorite right now if health permits.

This article has been submitted by Jack Forsayeth. With the MLB season just around the corner, you can expect the last two of these divisional previews in the next week.

3 Responses to “NL East Preview”

  1. Blake Murphy Says:

    I agree with most of this, though I think the division as a whole is highly overrated. The Fat Nats suck, the Marlins are just too young (and don’t have a single starter they’re confident in), and the Braves are loaded with question marks. At the top, the Phillies are relying to heavily on repeat performances from Rollins and Howard and a Cy Young-esque season from Hamels, and the Mets are riddled with injury question marks already. That said, the Mets and Phillies are stacked regardless and should each claim a playoff spot, though I like the Phils to win the division crown.

  2. Erik Says:

    All I can say is watch out for the Braves, they have a great mix of arms and bats, many of which are seriously underrated.

    Another solid preview, looking forward to how you weigh in on the AL East, that will be a debate for sure.

  3. Stu P S Says:

    Can’t believe I just saw “young gun” and “Oliver Perez” in the same sentence. At least the Buccos got Xavier Nady for him, who we’ll turn into some sort of middle of the road prospect.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>