Wednesday, March 27, 2013

National League East 2013 preview

Now, we turn our attention to the National League, and start again in the East.

The Philadelphia Phillies fell to 3rd place last year, and to .500 (81-81), their string of five straight division titles snapped. What was strange was that the Phils' management seemed to give up a wee bit too early, shipping outfielder Shane Victorino to the Dodgers (now with Boston) and Hunter Pence ended up winning a World Series with San Francisco. The shuffling continued in the offseason, but it looks like Philadelphia can contend again. Placido Polanco was cut loose and signed with Miami as a free agent, but the Phillies picked up Michael Young (Texas) to take his place. In the outfield, Philadelphia picked up Ben Revere (Minnesota) while saying farewell to reserve Ben Francisco (now with the Yankees). However, catcher Carlos Ruiz begins the season finishing out a suspension for PED's that started at the end of last season, and ace Roy Halladay hasn't looked sharp in recent outings. It won't be easy.

Everyone sees Miami finishing last again. After gutting the roster, leaving only Giancarlo Stanton as their only legit power threat and Ricky Nolasco as their #1 starter, the Marlins are back in rebuilding mode with a former player, Mike Redmond, as their new manager. This will not be fun at all. The Mets, meanwhile, have the usual injury issues. David Wright may be ready for the opener vs. San Diego, but Johan Santana won't, as he still has shoulder issues that just won't go away. Shaun Marcum, picked up in the offseason to be the #2 starter, also has arm issues. Chris Young was recently cut by Washington, so there's a chance he could return after all. However, the Mets may be relying way too much on Wright, Ike Davis, & Lucas Duda to supply the bulk of the power. Super-sub Scott Hairston and catcher Rob Johnson are in Chicago with the Cubs. In fact, all 4 of the catchers the team used last year are gone, as minor leaguer Lucas May was let go and ended up in Pittsburgh, where he'll back up Russell Martin. Mike Nickeas & Josh Thole ended up packaged with R. A. Dickey to Toronto, and Thole was just sent to the minors. For what it's worth, the Mets moved their Triple A franchise from Buffalo to Las Vegas, and the Bisons are now Toronto's top farm team. Go figure. It's going to be a long year, and likely the last for manager Terry Collins.

Atlanta said goodbye to retired slugger Chipper Jones after last season, then shipped his backup, Martin Prado, to Arizona, as part of the deal to get Justin Upton. The Braves also gutted 3/5 of their rotation, dumping Randall Delgado (Arizona), Jair Jurrgens (Baltimore), & Tommy Hanson (LA Angels of Anaheim). If the balance of the offense consists of the law firm of Upton, Upton, & Heyward, with a heaping helping of Freddie Freeman (no Captain Marvel jokes, please), the Braves will be happy.

That leaves the defending division champs, the Washington Nationals. Almost everyone is back. Edwin Jackson (Cubs) has been replaced in the rotation by Dan Haren, and Rafael Soriano, late of the Yankees, will be the closer. Mike Morse is gone, but the Nats are fortunate to retain first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had a career year last year. Better still, the reins are being taken off ace Stephen Strasburg, so that he'll be able to pitch throughout the season, including a presumptively likely playoff return.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Atlanta.
3. Philadelphia.
4. Mets.
5. Miami.

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