2013 MLB Preview: NL East
The Major League Baseball season is just days away.
1. Washington Nationals (2012: 98-64, First Place)
Why they'll win: All the pieces are in place, at least on paper. The lineup is complete from top (Denard Span) to bottom (Wilson Ramos). The rotation is so deep that Dan Haren is projected as a fourth starter (career K:BB Ratio- 1585:395). Also, let's not forget the fantastic bullpen featuring the nearly unhittable combo of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
Further helping their cause is the fact that the rest of the East is almost comically bad, save for maybe the Braves and Phillies, who could be slightly above average.
Why they won't win: Bryce Harper easily could fall into a sophomore slump. The 20 year old wunderkind his not shown any signs of a struggle thus far, but the National League can be tough on sluggers and pitchers now have a year of tape on him as well.
Albatross: Jayson Werth's gigantic beard came with a gigantic contract and so far has been a gigantic bust for the Nats in right field. In just under 1,000 plate appearances Werth has batted just .256 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI while striking out 217 times.
All Eyes On: Catcher Ramos was acquired from the Twins in exchange for Matt Capps in the summer of 2010. Ramos placed fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011 and was off to a hot start in 2012 before injuring his knee. This is an important season for Ramos to establish himself as a MLB catcher. There is added pressure on him defensively as well, as he is asked to handle a young and explosive pitching staff.
2. Atlanta Braves (2012: 94-68, 2nd Place)
Why they'll win: Their outfield goes into the Beast Mode, which is entirely possible. Justin Upton, BJ Upton and Jason Heyward are all potential All-Stars and could combine to form a dynamic lineup. Adding fuel to the offensive fire are second baseman Dan Uggla, catcher Brian McCann and rising star first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Why they won't win: All three of the stud outfielders have shown flaws in their young careers, so they aren't sure things. The rotation is fragile with aging Tim Hudson still being relied upon as the ace until Kris Medlen can take the throne. The middle infield is suspect as well, defensively.
Gas: Atlanta's bullpen is ridiculously stacked. Headlined by nearly unhittable closer Craig Kimbrel (62 IP, 27 H, 7 ER, 166 K, 1.01 ERA, 42 SV) and bolstered by Johnny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty and former All Star Jordan Walden, the starters don't need to go deep for the Braves to win.
The Dutch: Andrelton Simmons will get the first crack at the starting shortstop job for Atlanta in 2013. The Mundo-Novo native batted .289 with a .987 fielding percentage in 2012 and will be expected to handle leadoff duties as well.
3. Philadelphia Phillies (2012: 81-81, 3rd Place)
Why they'll win: Roy Halladay pulls a Roy Hobbs and regains the magic that made him a top pitcher for the better part of the past decade. So far this spring he has been anything but awesome, and it's beginning to look like the beginning of the end for ol' Doc. If he can get it together the Phils will have one of the best top-of-the-rotations in baseball with Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Why they won't win: They are relying on the aging Chase Utley and the fragile Ryan Howard to carry the offense. Their biggest offseason acquisition, both literally and figuratively, was Delmon Young. That is never a good thing.
Spring Chicken: How bad has Halladay been this spring? The formerly untouchable righty has allowed nine runs in twelve innings of work with an ERA of 6.75. Those numbers are a far cry from the types of seasons Halladay is used to having. In his most recent spring start, against the Blue Jays' Triple-A lineup, Halladay only retired 7/18 batters he faced while allowing three doubles, two singles, two walks and even plunking one batter. Not good.
4. New York Mets (2012: 74-88, 4th Place)
Why they'll win: Quick, name three current members of the New York Mets. Go ahead, I can wait... Yeah, that's what I thought. Outside of David Wright, this is a team that might as well be called the "Mets?" officially. The only reasonable way this team could contend would be for each and every one of their unknown quantities (and there are MANY) to step up huge and suprise. Not going to happen.
Why they won't win: How much time do you have? Johan Santana has been a fragile shell of his past self the past couple seasons and is a long way from living up to the gigantic contract the team bestowed upon him after
stealing trading for him from the Twins. Shawn Marcum is also going to be relied upon for big innings, something he has not been able to contribute the past couple seasons due to arm injuries. The bullpen is remarkably thin as well.
5. Miami Marlins (2012: 69-93, 5th Place)
Why they'll win: Glenda the Good Witch could come down from the heavens and bless the team with the ability to play well. Maybe MLB will rearrange some rules and allow Giancarlo Stanton to play "Bugs Bunny-style" and play all nine positions simultaneously while at the same time running the bases and assuming all nine spots in the batting order.
Why they won't win: Because they already got their gaudy, publicly funded new stadium and did what the Marlins are known to do: dumped all their players in a comically lopsided trade. The ownership does not care about the fans or product on the field, only in the bottom line. The fact that MLB does not intervene is sickening at best.