OK, we took care of the American League yesterday. Now it's time to move on to real baseball and tackle the National League East. Remember, the United Cardinal Bloggers are doing this all week long and you can keep up with everyone's posts right over here
The NL East promises to be an interesting division this year, with a lot of young talent and some changing of the guard. Oh, and the Marlins are there as well.
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--The Nationals laid claim to the division title last year and there doesn't seem any reason to think they'll relinquish that anytime soon.
Then there's the bullpen. Drew Storen
still too young to be considered a closer? The Nationals went out and got Rafael Soriano
. So if one slips, the other is there. The middle of the bullpen may be the only soft spot and even that's not as bad as many teams.
2) Atlanta--Have they cleaned off the field yet? After a wild card game that got wilder than expected, Atlanta went home and made some changes to try to make sure that wouldn't happen again.
Chief among those changes were importing in the Upton brothers. B.J. Upton
came via free agency while Justin Upton
was shipped in from Arizona in a deal everyone saw coming, though not many saw Atlanta on the other in. Putting them in an outfield with Jason Heyward
and in a lineup that includes Heyward and Freddie Freeman
gives Atlanta a solid punch. If Brian McCann
can get healthy and Andrelton Simmons
continues to develop, there's going to be some runs scored in Atlanta.
The rotation isn't much of a problem either. Old hand Tim Hudson
still seems to have plenty in the tank and there are some young guns in the rotation behind him. How far Atlanta goes probably depends on whether Kris Medlen
, Mike Minor
, and Julio Teheran
can make adjustments and develop their stuff at the big league level.
The bullpen locks down at the back end with Craig Kimbrel
, probably the best closer in the game. Johnny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty have been strong in the past as well, meaning Atlanta can shorten games considerably once they get a lead.
--The team of the late 2000s isn't necessarily the team of the early 2010s. Philadelphia has gotten older, as was emphasized last year in the injuries of Ryan Howard
and Roy Halladay
and the fact that they missed the playoffs.
Things don't look a whole lot stronger now. The team brought in Michael Young
, who can play a lot of positions but isn't making the team any younger. Chase Utley
isn't what he used to be. Delmon Young
was actually added in the offseason. The brightest point may be that Domonic Brown
should finally get a regular shot at playing, but that may not be enough for the Phillies.
The pitching staff should ensure they don't have to score just a ton of runs, though. There's still Cliff Lee
and Cole Hamels
and Halladay will be back, though there have been some concerns about his velocity in camp this spring. Still, Halladay's the closest thing to Chris Carpenter
left in the league. If he can go out there, he'll get it done.
should make sure that most any lead that gets to the ninth is safe and there are a number of solid if unspectacular relievers to get those leads to him.
4) New York
--The Mets are, well, the Mets. They were able to keep David Wright
and gave him a captain's C as well, but he can't do it alone. Ike Davis
should be able to help and John Buck
can keep the catcher's spot warm for Travis d'Arnaud, but otherwise there's not a whole lot in the lineup. When your GM is even acknowledging in humorous tones
that the outfield is a mess, that's probably a sign of something.
The Mets also traded off their Cy Young
Award winner, which typically doesn't help a rotation. Johan Santana
will start the season on the disabled list and there's no real timetable for when he might come off of it. Dillon Gee
and Matt Harvey
might have to grow up quickly in the big leagues, because there's not a lot around them to take off the burden.
It looks like Frank Francisco
will be the closer for the team. I'm not sure what it says that looking at their roster didn't give me any hints there and I had to go find a depth chart.
--Is there anyone still there, besides Giancarlo Stanton
? Well, OK, Ricky Nolasco
is there, but no one expects that to be the case come August. You can make all the arguments you want about the baseball rationale behind the fire sale this winter, but I think it's telling that the only people that want to make those are the Marlins' owners. I can't think of a more derided move in the last 20 years (at least, not one that doesn't involve the Marlins in some way) than the Blue Jays trade from this winter.
Stanton will have a slew of intentional walks this year, because the only other bat in the lineup looks to be Logan Morrison
, who isn't bad but is not necessarily the guy you want protecting your biggest bopper. On the upside, old friend Placido Polanco
has a job, as does former Cardinal farmhand Donavan Solano.
It's Nolasco and then a lot of unproven commodities. Jacob Turner
and Nathan Eovaldi
might be able to turn into something, but it seems unlikely that this is the year for it. They'll take their lumps as they learn how to be productive big leaguers. There doesn't appear to be any truth to the rumor that the team reached out to Charlie Hough
to try a comeback, only to turn him down when he wanted more than the minimum.