NL East Preview

Last week, I covered the AL East; now we’ll take a look at the Senior Circuit’s Eastern Division. We’ll begin with the pennant winning Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies

Key additions: SP Roy Halladay; 3B Placido Polanco; RP Danys Baez

Key losses: SP Cliff Lee; SP Brett Myers; 3B Pedro Feliz

It’s not as if the two-time defending pennant winners needed to do a lot of tinkering. But Philly made arguably the winter’s biggest move, acquiring Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay in a three-way deal. The Phils also bid adieu to 3B Pedro Feliz and welcomed Placido Polanco back to the fold, a high contact / high average player who will slot nicely hitting in front of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth. While this squad remains the class of the NL, there are some question marks. The loss of Lee and Myers puts pressure on J.A. Happ to reproduce his stellar ’09 campaign. One pitcher that DOESN’T want to repeat ’09 is Brad Lidge, the-flawless-stopper-of-2008-turned-beleaguered-BP-pitcher in 2009.  And who is the #5 starter? Kyle Kendrick? Jamie Moyer? Nevertheless, the Phils have to be considered the favorites in this division and the entire National League entering the season.

Atlanta Braves

Key additions: 1B Troy Glaus; CF Melky Cabrera; RP Billy Wagner

Key losses: RP Mike Gonzalez; RP Rafael Soriano; SP Javier Vazquez; 2B Kelly Johnson

I really don’t get their offseason. They came out of the chute fast, doling out a $7 million dollar deal to Wagner, a once dominant closer who is now 38 years old and only pitched 15.2 innings last year. Gonzalez and Soriano made a lights out duo at the back end of the ‘pen last year; when Wagner lands on the DL in mid-May, Braves brass will be kicking themselves for letting them go. If that weren’t bad enough, Javier Vazquez — he of the 2.87 ERA and the 238 strikeouts — was shipped out for a banjo-hitting CF. The move supposedly freed up more cash for the club, which Frank Wren then used to acquire Glaus, a former slugger who logged all of 32 plate appearances in 2009. If the goal is to reassemble the 2003 All-Star team, you’re well on your way, Frank. This spring, all eyes are on super prospect Craig Heyward, a five tool stud who should be a fixture in RF for the next decade. I’m not sure the Braves will be healthy enough to contend with Philly all season, but I hope Bobby Cox can field a contender in his final hurrah.

New York Mets

Key additions: LF Jason Bay; C Rod Barajas

Key losses: RP J.J. Putz

Where do you start with this mess? The move to Citi Field and injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado led to an offensive nosedive; only five MLB clubs scored fewer runs than the Mets and no team hit fewer home runs. The pitching was awful, too — every Met starter saw their ERA rise over their 2008 performance, but none was more pronounced than Oliver Perez, whose ERA of 6.82 was a full 2.5 runs more than the previous season. The addition of Bay should help the offense a little, but this pitching staff is still a mess. On the bright side, the Mets have to be healthier this year than they were in ’09. Right?

Florida Marlins

Key additions: None

Key losses: 1B Nick Johnson; RP Matt Lindstrom; OF Jeremy Hermida

Did you remember that this young team finished 2nd in the NL East last year? Did you know they were sixth in the league with 87 wins last season? The Marlins had a quiet winter with no major additions coming in from outside. But here are the reasons I think this team could contend for the NL Wild Card: 1. Hanley Ramirez. The guy is a singular talent and he’s entering his prime. 2. Josh Johnson & Ricky Nolasco. With this one-two punch, the Marlins can compete with any pitching tandem in the league. Seriously. 3. CF Cameron Maybin. Maybin emerged in the second half with improved plate discipline and a .293/ .353 / .500 line over his final 28 games with the parent club. If he can come close to producing those kinds of numbers over a full season, this offense will thrive.

Washington Nationals

Key additions: RP Matt Capps; SP Jason Marquis; C Ivan Rodriguez

Key losses: OF Austin Kearns; C Josh Bard

First, the good news: Stephen Strasburg is going to be a good one. And the offense — with Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham in the heart of the order — shouldn’t be terrible. Now the bad news: the growing pains are going to continue this season in the nation’s capital. The rotation — John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen — could be the worst in the league. And the bullpen, outside of Pirates castoff Matt Capps, is equally nondescript. But all anyone will really be interested in D.C. this year is the arrival of Strasburg. I imagine he’ll get the call sometime mid-summer, just in time to sell some tickets in what promises to be an otherwise lackluster season for the Nats.

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5 Responses to NL East Preview

  1. Matt Wimberley says:

    Craig Heyward was nicknamed Ironhead and played for the Saints I think.

    The Heyward you’re referring to is Jason. Got to see him play in AA last year and he was a man among boys. If he ends up a bust it will be devastating. In the useless info department, he took two walks in his first spring training game, which is one more than the Braves former right fielder took over a 2 month period last season.

  2. Jason says:

    Nice catch. My mistake. Heyward’s platoon partner, Bo Diaz, is a pretty nice little player, too. 🙂

    I need a new editor.

  3. Matt Wimberley says:

    Did you hear that we got Miguel Cabrera to be our 4th outfielder? I didn’t even know he played outfiled!

  4. Jason says:

    I thought Cabrera played shortstop for the Expos.

  5. Pingback: AL Central Preview « already & not yet

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