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Tag:Florida Marlins
Posted on: March 3, 2010 10:52 am
Edited on: March 3, 2010 1:04 pm
 

Atlanta Braves Preview and NL East Outlook

Here is my full Atlanta Braves preview. For the rest of the NL East teams, here's my previous entry.

Atlanta Braves (2009 – 3rd place; 86-76 record)

2009 Recap
– The Braves were in the wild card running until the final week until the Rockies clinched the spot. A four-game sweep by the Nationals to end the season regulated the Braves to 3rd place in the NL East. The Braves started off slowly, especially offensively, but picked up late in the year during their wild card push in August and September. Their center field problem, aka Jordan Schafer, was solved thanks to a mid-season move to get Nate McClouth from the Pirates. Martin Prado was a huge surprise for Atlanta, with his play earning the starting 2B job over Kelly Johnson and his bat keying the Braves 2<sup>nd</sup> half run. Brian McCann and Chipper Jones anchor the Braves batting order and Derek Lowe leads a formidable pitching staff.

Projected Rotation – Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kenshin Kawakami, Kris Medlen

Projected Bullpen – Closer, Billy Wagner; Set-up, Saito; Medlen, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty

Projected Lineup/Batting Order – [1/CF] Nate McLouth, [2/SS] Yunel Escobar, [3/3B] Chipper Jones, [4/C] Brian McCann, [5/2B] Martin Prado, [6/1B] Troy Glaus / Eric Hinske, [7 & 8/OF] Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz, Jason Heyward

Projected Bench – C David Ross, IF Omar Infante, F Gregor Blanco

Best off-season move – First Base –Troy Glaus / Eric Hinske – While the Braves could have signed Adam LaRoche to a deal, they decided to make a couple of value moves and bring some utility depth to their roster. Glaus plays third base as well and can spell Chipper and Hinske can also take some days in the outfield.

Worst off-season move – Javier Vazquez – I didn’t have a problem with the trade itself, but if Melky Cabrera isn’t starting for the Braves somewhere in the outfield then this was a terrible trade for the Braves. I know the Braves had a surplus of starters last year, but if Javy is in the Braves rotation and Medlen and Kawakami are in the bullpen for long relief, is anyone complaining about a Lowe-Vazquez-Jurrjens-Hudson-Hanson
rotation? I don’t think so.

Move that needs to pan out – Closer. If Billy Wagner pitches like he did to end last season, then this could be an improvement over the Soriano/Gonzalez platoon of seasons past. If it doesn’t work out then the Braves could be in for a long season of heartburn and indigestion in the late innings.

Player to Watch – OF Jason Heyward – How could it not be him? I already want to nickname him the “The Junkyard Dog” after reading about his batting practice sessions during spring training. Everywhere I hear about this kid I only hear positive things and that he is worth the hype. This means I expect a long contract extension for him when Chipper retires.

They’ll make the playoffs if…everything comes together. The Braves as an organization have been on the outside looking in at the playoffs. But in recent years it seems that the Braves have just been missing one thing or one injury breaks their season. This year the Braves seem to be set up to make a run at the playoffs and the Phillies for the NL East title.

NL EAST OUTLOOK

Projected Wins
– Phillies (90-95), Braves (85-90), Marlins (80-85), Mets (75-80), Nationals (65-70)

I expect the Phillies to remain the class of the division. Atlanta and Florida will be in the hunt for the Wild Card. I think the Mets will take a step forward, but they don't have enough pitching to make a playoff run. I think the Nationals will be improved but are still a couple of years away from contending.

NL East Pitcher of the Year – Phillies Roy Halladay – I know, it's a layup, but still, how can you pick against him? He's dominated the AL forever and now he's facing NL lineups that are considerably weaker.

NL East Player of the Year – Braves Brian McCann – Last year he started slow after having vision problems. This year I expect him to start strong and hit cleanup in a fully protected and deep lineup in Atlanta.

NL East Rookies of the Year – Braves Heyward / Nationals Strasburg – There's so much hype behind these two guys, all they have to do is contribute to win these awards in the National League, barring another rookie somewhere having a career year.

ODDS

Phillies World Series Berth (10-1) – I don't think they'll three-peat in the NL. Teams exposed their bullpen flaws last year and there's only so long that offense can carry this team.

NL East Wild Card Berth (5-1) – Between the Braves, Marlins and even the sleeper Mets, the NL East has a great chance to have a team win the wild card. Assuming the division doesn't completely tear each other up, which I'm sure will happen.

Nationals .500 division record (50-1) – I'd take this bet. Last year the Nationals were just awful but usually they play the division tough. At the very least, they'll be much improved against the NL East from last year.

Braves O/U 150 HRs in 2010 – They only hit 149 as a team last year (much less if you take away the one McLouth and LaRoche hit with other teams). So can this year's team put together some power numbers?

Well, that's all folks. As always the comments are appreciated. I'll be back with the baseball in-between March Madness and conference tourneys and of course for April and the start of the regular season. Again, here's the link to my previous entry and the rest of my NL East team previews. Thanks for reading everyone.

Posted on: March 3, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: March 3, 2010 11:54 am
 

NL East Team-by-Team Previews

Okay, I fibbed a little with my title. I’m saving my full blown Atlanta Braves preview for my next entry, which will be up as soon as I format it. My Atlanta preview will also have my NL East outlook where I may or may not predict things that will definitely end up being wrong.

 I’m trying to get the NL East Preview before March Madness begins because I’m going to forget about baseball for three weeks. Plus I’m going to have Metro Atlantic (MAAC) and Big East conference tournament entries for basically the next week and a half starting Thursday.

Basically I split my huge, amazing and epic NL East preview into two parts, covering the Phils, Fins, Mess and Nats now and the Bravos later with my NL East Outlook/Predictions. So, here are the other four teams in the NL East and how their seasons are shaping up for 2010.

Philadelphia Phillies (2009 – 1st place; 93-69 record)

2009 Recap – The Phillies made a valiant defense of their 2008 World Series title by losing to the NY Yankees in the 2009 version. Not much has changed for this team which is very close to establishing a mini-NL dynasty with their play.

Best off-season move – P Roy Halladay – Any time you can get the best pitcher in baseball, that’s a good thing. Yes, they had to give up Cliff Lee and other pieces to make the trade, but a Halladay-Hamels combo at the top of your rotation isn’t a bad thing. Honorable mention to 3B Placido Polanco.

Player to watch – P Cole Hamels – Hamels had a poor 2009 campaign after leading Philly to the World Series as the ace of the staff. Now he’s the No. 2 starter looking to regain his top form from two years ago. The Phillies bats were able to carry them last year, but if Hamels struggles again it doesn’t bode well for the Fightin’ Phils.

They’ll win the NL East if…their bullpen doesn’t implode. I know the Phillies rotation and batting lineups will probably be solid all year. The one question on this team will always be the bullpen. Can Brad Lidge (recovering from off-season surgery) reclaim his 2008 championship form or will he and the Phillies pen struggle? If that happens, that could blow enough games to either cause the Phils to miss the playoffs or lose a playoff series in October.

Florida Marlins (2009 – 2nd place; 87-75 record)

2009 Recap – The Marlins stayed in Wild Card contention for most of the season, rallying past the Braves in the final week of the season to finish 2<sup>nd</sup> in the NL East. This is a young team that I personally thought would go away at some point, but they never did and the same team is pretty much back for 2010.

Best Off-season move – Locking up P Josh Johnson long-term. Florida doesn’t give out a ton of big contracts, but signing their ace starter is huge. Johnson (15-5, 3.23 ERA in ’09) signed a 4-year, $39 million extension to keep playing in South Florida.

Player to Watch – 2B Dan Uggla – Trade rumors swirled around him all off-season, but Uggla is back with Florida after a disappointing 2009 season for him. His HR and RBI numbers were fine, but only hit .243 for the season and a paltry .225 with RISP. Look for him to turn it around in 2010.

They’ll make the playoffs if…continue to play well beyond their years. This is a staggeringly young team that most felt overachieved last year. But there’s a lot of talent there as well, both in the batting order and the rotation. If the pitching staff has a solid year across the board, the Marlins should be right in the thick of it again in September.

New York Mets (2009 – 4th place; 70-92 record)

2009 Recap – Last season was pretty much a debacle for the Mets as injuries hampered this team all year. The Mets weren’t able to fill the gaps with their major league or minor league farm talent, leading to a very disappointing 2009 campaign.

Best Off-season move – OF Jason Bay – Bay offers the Mets a little more power out of a team that struggled to hit homers last season in general. With Bay hitting in the middle of a healthy lineup with David Wright and Carlos Beltran, the Mets have the line up to contend in the East.

Player to Watch – 1B Daniel Murphy – If this kid can start swinging the bat a little, it could be a difference maker for this team. The Mets struggled offensively all season, much of that due to injuries and constant lineup shuffling and some consistency from their former prospect with the bat would be a welcome change of pace.  Just don’t put him in the outfield and I think he could have a decent all-around season.

They’ll make the playoffs if…they can pitch the ball. After Johan Santana, the Mets are less than impressive in their rotation with Pelfrey, Maine, Perez and Nieve. They’ll need consistent outings from the back of the rotation especially and probably great years from Pelfrey and Maine. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this team but also a lot of players looking to prove the doubters wrong.

Washington Nationals (2009 – 5th place; 59-103 record)

2009 Recap – Yikes, the Natinals (intentional typo) were about as bad as you can be, bring up the rear in all of MLB last year. But that means the No. 1 overall pick (more on him in a second) and a Nationals begin a new season with a 0-0 record.

Best Off-season move – C Ivan Rodriguez – Why? Because I’m assuming they brought in I-Rod to help out this guy…

Player to watch – P Stephen Strasburg – Rumor has it that he’ll start the season in the minor leagues. Not a bad idea given the Nationals first month of games (6 games out of 9 with Philly to start the year). Either way, he’ll be pitching in the majors early in the season and can establish himself very quickly for a team that desperately needs to find a positive direction.

They’ll make the playoffs if…Strasburg channels his inner Cy Young and pitches every day. Probably won’t happen but the Nats are always feisty, and the rest of the division knows that taking two out of three in DC won’t be as easy as it was last year.

For my Atlanta Braves preview and a quick glance at the NL East in 2010, click here.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com