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NL East Preview

March 22, 2010

1. Philadelphia Phillies  92-70 (2010 projected record)

2009 Review

Despite down years from several of their key players including Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, the Phillies were able to win their third straight East title on the way to their second pennant in as many years.  The Phillies used a combination of solid pitching and defense and an offense that led the NL in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage.  A mid-season trade for 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee helped push the Phils into the playoffs where Lee dominated almost leading them to their second straight world series title.

2010 Preview

Lee left by way of a winter trade and all G.M. Ruben Amaro jr. did to replace him was add who many believe to be the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay.  Amaro then turned around and signed Halladay to a contract extension that could keep him in Philly through 2014.  Philly also added 2007 Gold Glove winner Placido Polanco to replace third baseman Pedro Feliz.  Polanco will also provide a consistent bat to the back end of the lineup.  The rest of the roster pretty much remains intact for the up-coming season.  The roster will look much the same as it did last year and should be primed for yet another deep run in October.

Projected Line-up

  1. Jimmy Rollins  SS
  2. Shane Victorino  CF
  3. Chase Utley  2B
  4. Ryan Howard  1B
  5. Jayson Werth  RF
  6. Raul Ibanez  LF
  7. Placido Polanco  3B
  8. Carlos Ruiz  C

Outside of the Polanco for Feliz swap not much will change here for a club that finished at or near the top of most major hitting categories in the National League.  Rollins looks to rebound after his batting average dropped to .250 last year.  Rollins also had a career low On-Base Percentage and will look to improve that number to lighten some of the pressure on Victorino and Utley.  Utley and Howard remain one of the better 3-4 hitters in the game and provide the rest of this line-up the protection and opportunity to put up big numbers again this year.  Catcher Carlos Ruiz took another step forward offensively last year and Raul Ibanez and Jason Werth are very capable vets coming off career years.  The line-up can get a little left handed but switch hitters Rollins and Victorino make it difficult on opposing managers to set up their bullpen.  There really is no easy out 1-8 in this line-up and barring injury the offense should continue to terrorize National League pitchers and set the tone for this baseball team.

Rotation

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Cole Hamels
  3. Joe Blanton
  4. J.A. Happ
  5. Jamey Moyer/Kyle Kendrick

The Phils switched Lee out in favor of Roy Halladay and kept the rest of the rotation intact.  Halladay is a workhorse who will lead a staff that prides its self on working deep into games.  Hamels looks to rebound after his numbers regressed across the board.  If he gets back to pitching like he did in the 08′ playoffs the Phillies will have two legit aces at the top of their rotation.  Blanton has average stuff and isn’t overpowering but is consistent and can give the team lots of innings.  Happ broke into the majors last year with a splash finishing second in the N.L. Rookie of the Year standings.  It is unlikely he will repeat his 2.93 ERA and 12-4 record but he should stabilize the back half of the rotation.  Jamey Moyer will attempt to come back for his 24th season and I’m sure Kyle Kendrick and the Phillies hope it’s his last.  Average numbers and highs in the lower 80 mph range have made him into an expensive question mark at the end of their rotation.  The back end of the group won’t light the world on fire but they will keep them alive enough to win the East.

Bullpen

Brad Lidge not only lost his job last year it looked like he lost his mind.  Head games had him blowing saves last year just as they have in the past and the Phillies have to ask the question whether it will happen again.  Everyone says Lidge is ok and time will tell, luckily, Philly has a closer in waiting with Ryan Madson.  Either way the Phillies score enough runs to walk away from anyone else in the division.  J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin will be asked a lot of if Lidge struggles this year and it would be the only thing that ruins the 10′ season for the Philly Phanatic who loves to be ridiculous at the end of games.

Fantasy

Utley and Howard are no-brainers and Jimmy Rollins should be.  Expect a major rebound year out of Jimmy and similar production out of Werth and Ibanez (he won’t hit 34 dingers again though).  Ruiz becomes a solid catcher fantasy play if he get 450 ABs (he should) and consider him a deep sleeper in leagues (very deep, if Ruiz is your last hope you did something wrong earlier because I’m not sure you can win a single fantasy league without the catching services of Mauer, McCann, Martinez or Martin, in fact, just draft a catcher that has a last name starting with M and you should be ok…)

2. Atlanta Braves  89-73

2009 Review

The Braves surprised lots of people last year by running the wildcard race down to the last week in 09′.  They ran out of stream in the last couple weeks, as “transition” teams often do.  Caught in between a year where several young player were brought up and where several veterans were brought in to fill the gap before their top prospects are ready, they played somewhere in between for Bobby Cox who now says 10′ will be his last year.

2010 Preview

Bobby Cox’s last season should not disappoint Atlanta fans this year.  If Atlanta gets one last solid year out of Chipper Jones the Braves will be a tough team to beat this year.  They play solid defense to go along with a pitching staff that ranked 3rd in the league last year in ERA.  If the offense improves even a little bit from last year it’s not hard to see this team playing deep into October.

Projected Line-up

  1. Nate McLouth  CF
  2. Martin Prado  2B
  3. Chipper Jones  3B
  4. Brian McCann  C
  5. Troy Glaus  1B
  6. Matt Diaz  RF
  7. Yunel Escobar  SS
  8. Melky Cabrera  LF

The heart of the lineup and success of the team will hang on two former all star third baseman in Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus.  Chipper’s numbers dropped across the board last year and he looks to rebound to take some of the offensive pressure on McCann.  Glaus missed most of the year in 09′ with shoulder and back injuries (a reoccurring theme with Glaus).  Once considered the top offensive corner infield forces the Braves are hoping for just a little bit of what once was to help score enough to keep the teams solid pitching always out in front.  Melkey Cabrera came over from the Yankee’s in the Javier Vazquez trade and will have him and Matt Diaz hold the fort down in the outfield until the team’s top prospect Jason Heyward is ready for an everyday job.

Rotation

  1. Derek Lowe
  2. Jair Jurrjens
  3. Tommy Hanson
  4. Tim Hudson
  5. Kenshin Kawakami

The rotation, while all right handed, is balanced nicely with young talent and savvy veterans with experience winning baseball games.  Derrick Lowe hopes to rebound after posting his highest ERA and WHIP totals since 04′.  Jurrjens and Hanson were exceptional last year and should continue to post solid numbers as budding stars.  Hudson brings solid numbers and control to the mound when healthy and is hoping to put the injury bug behind him this year.  Kawakami is a solid #5 arm and completes a very good Atlanta rotation.

Bullpen

Billy Wagner was signed in the off-season to help stabilize the ninth inning after the Braves blew 36% of their save opportunities last year.  The once dominating closer Wagner is not the triple digit flame-thrower he once was and sticking with a reoccurring theme with the 10’ Braves they will look to recapture a little bit of his former self.  In case Wagner falters Atlanta also brought Takashi Saito over from Boston.  Saito also has closing experience and looks to lock down the eighth for Wagner.  The rest of the pen looks for more consistency this year but if the Braves have a weakness it’s here.

Fantasy

The only lock in the everyday lineup is C Brian McCann.  He will be a top 3 catcher once again this year posting above average HR, Avg., and RBI totals.  The rest of the lineup doesn’t do enough in the 5 major hitting categories for you to rely heavily on them.  The wildcard is 3B Chipper Jones.  An improved and healthy year from Jones will increase the value of the entire Braves line-up.  Keep an eye on Jason Heyward during the early months.  The outfielder has a good speed and power blend and is another future fantasy stud in Atlanta.  His time may be a year or so away but you won’t want to be caught sleeping on this kid.  Pitching is the key to this team’s success as it will be your fantasy teams.  Look for Tommy Hanson to hit 200 innings this year and be among the league leaders in K’s this season with very good ERA and WHIP numbers.  Don’t expect another 2.60 ERA out of Jurrjens in 2010.  He should be solid again but the K totals are not enough to overbid this year.  If healthy look for Wagner to pitch well in his 9th inning role and should produce 30-35 saves with solid ERA and K totals.

3.  Florida Marlins 87-75

2009 Review

The Florida Marlins continued to cut payroll again in 09’ yet continued to stay competitive with a slew of young homegrown players performing well last year.  With Hanley Ramirez leading this young team and finishing second in the NL MVP race the Marlins were able to win 87 games and finish runners-up to the Phillies.  The offense and the pitching were solid for much of the year but the Marlins ranked 26th in fielding percentage.  Rookie Chris Coghlan was named NL Rookie of the Year and Florida debuted a handful of promising youngsters they hope to build the future around.

2010 Preview

While the always cost-cutting Marlins didn’t add much to their roster in the off-season, they are looking forward to an improvement in 10’.  Florida trimmed some fat from the roster including Nick Johnson, Jeremy Hermida and Matt Lindstrom.  This should open the door to promising rookies like First Baseman Gaby Sanchez and Outfielder Cameron Maybin. Two players who have perform well in the minor leagues, their transition to the big leagues could ultimately decide the fate of this team.  Leo Nunez took over for Lindstrom last year and performed well in the closers role.  He’s young and throws hard the marlins look for big seasons from him and the rest of the pitching staff to have a chance in the competitive NL East.

Projected Line-up

  1. Chris Coghlan  LF
  2. Dan Uggla  2B
  3. Hanley Ramirez  SS
  4. Jorge Cantu  3B
  5. Cody Ross  RF
  6. Gaby Sanchez  1B
  7. Cameron Maybin  CF
  8. John Baker  C

The top five from this lineup all return from a team that finished 3rd in the NL in batting last year.  Hanley Ramirez has turn into one of the best hitters in baseball.  He can hit for average and power and blends in some real speed on the bases.  The rest of the team feeds off his presence.  If Coghlan and Uggla bring their high OBP to the table again this year, Ramirez and Cantu will have lots of chances with runners in scoring position.  The wild cards are Sanchez and Maybin.  The Marlins are banking that the numbers these two put up in the minor will translate to the majors this year.  It’s a gamble that has worked out in the past for them and is vital to the team’s success.  If they falter, look for more chances from utility man who played four different positions last year.  He brings speed and a glove to the lineup but little else.  Veteran Wes Helms returns to backup first and third base as well as provide leadership and strong pinch-hitting to a team short on both.

Rotation

  1.  Josh Johnson
  2. Ricky Nolasco
  3. Anibal Sanchez
  4. Sean West
  5. Chris Volstad/Rick VanderHurk/Andrew Miller

Johnson was signed to a contract extension this off-season after posting one of the best pitching seasons in Marlins history.  His first full season after Tommy John surgery was spectacular posting a 15-5 record with 191 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA.  Healthy and confident Johnson hopes to lead a young and promising staff this year.  Nolasco really struggled last year before a brief trip to minors set his head and mechanics straight.  He returned to post solid numbers and looks to build off his second half momentum.  Sanchez has been good when healthy but he has failed to log even 100 innings in each of the past 3 seasons.  Sean West should benefit from any and all experience.  West was called up after only 12 AA starts last year and while the results were not terrible, there is room for improvement that should come with more experience.  A three way battle for the 5th rotation spot (and 3rd if Sanchez is hurt or inconsistent coming back) is between Chris Volstad, Rick VanderHurk and Andrew Miller.  All young and at one point promising prospects Florida’s success this year will depend on one or two of these guys making the jump to be a reliable pitcher every 5th day.

Bullpen

When Lindstrom went down with an injury mid-season the Marlins were in search of someone to pick up the slack. Enter Leo Nunez.  Nunez converted 24 of 28 save opportunities and stabilized the back end of a very young bullpen.  Nunez will lead those guys again this year with a pretty balanced pen that features 3 left handed pitchers.  Repeating strong seasons from last year will be key for Brian Sanches, Renyel Pinto and Dan Meyer as they look to again make Florida’s relief pitching a strength in 10’.

Fantasy

Hanley Ramirez is a five tool talent that has blossomed into one of the top 3 hitters in the league.  He should be drafted anywhere in the top 3 of your draft and hope he steals a couple more bases this year.  His move to the 3 hole last year improved his RBI totals dramatically and those numbers should only improve as he becomes more comfortable in that spot.  Uggla remains a top power option at 2B with decent RBI and runs scored numbers.  The batting average will kill you and his strikeouts (averaged 165 past three seasons) take away some of his run producing.  Cantu was a nice surprise last year as he drove in 100 runs at the 3B position.  His 16 HRs and 69 runs scored however were not exactly what you look for out of your corner infielders.   The bottom part of the lineup is iffy so don’t expect a huge uptick in runs.  The home run totals should rebound a bit into the 20-25 range though while he brings a solid .290 avg. to the table.  Not worth a top pick but you could do worse if you look around late in your draft and your team is without a third baseman.  Coghlan had a great season for the Marlins, his avg. and runs scored were solid but he offered little else to fantasy owners.  Power and speed are the name of the game in the outfield and Coghlan is only average in both.  It will be tough for him to hit .320+ again but with 600+ at bats this year expect the run totals to be there and watch for sudden outbursts in speed or power.  Josh Johnson looks to solidify his name amongst the top 10 starting pitchers in the league providing solid splits in wins, ERA, WHIP, and K’s.  Nunez should be good for saves again but not worth a very high pick.  Closers often come with lots of risk as the job comes with a very high turnover.  Nolasco is a prime comeback option as his final 09’ numbers did him little justice to the type of fantasy player he has become.  His K ratio went up last year and his wins stayed on par from his breakout 08’ campaign, trends that bode well for a much improved 2010 from Nolasco and warrant a pick just a couple rounds behind Johnson.

4. New York Mets  81-81

2009 Review

The Mets opened Citi Field in 09’ with a thud.  Plagued by injuries to several of their key run producers (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes), or down years from much of their pitching staff (Johan Santana, Oliver Perez), the Mets managed to win only 70 games last year with a payroll that reached almost 150 million.  With much of the lineup missing the Mets were out homered 81-49 at Citi Field, troubling numbers from a team that used to hit the ball with authority.   Santana was ok by his standards last season before being shut down to have surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.  Even single season saves recorded holder Francisco Rodriguez, who was signed to a huge multi-year deal, had what is being called his worst season as a major leaguer.  The perfect storm of injuries and poor performance left Mets fans leaving their brand new stadium with a sour taste.

2010 Preview

Reyes and Beltran will unlikely be ready for the beginning of the year which could mean a slow start to 10’ might be in the mix.  The team signed Jason Bay in the off-season to help boost an offense that ranked 25th in runs scored and dead last in home runs last year.  Nothing was done to bolster a starting rotation that really struggled at times last year.  Inexperienced and erratic outside of Santana, the Mets bring back the same rotation that couldn’t get the job done consistently last year.  Citi Field has been dubbed a pitchers park thanks to last year’s power outage from the Mets lineup, and the staff will have to learn to take advantage of that if they look to improve this season.  If the team can stay afloat for the first month when Reyes and Beltran get back they might be able to put a lineup out there to keep them in games.  I big improvement however is needed from the pitching staff or it could get ugly again this year in New York.

 Projected Line-up

  1. Jose Reyes  SS
  2. Luis Castillo  2B
  3. David Wright  3B
  4. Carlos Beltran  CF
  5. Jason Bay  LF
  6. Jeff Francoeur  RF
  7. Daniel Murphy  1B
  8. Omir Santos  C

Reyes and Beltran will miss some time before the regular season starts so the lineup will likely include SS Alex Cora, CF Angel Pagan and/or OF Gary Mathews Jr.  How the Mets deal without their lead-off and clean-up hitters will likely set the table for the rest of the year.  The power went missing last year so the Mets went out and Grabbed slugger Jason Bay who hit 36 HRs for Boston last year.  They also will hope David Wright regains his power stroke after hitting just 10 dingers last year (Wright averaged 29 HRs per year 05’-08’).  Health will be the biggest question mark as New York can boast one of the better line-ups in the NL when all the starters play.  Francoeur came over mid-season from Atlanta and the change of scenery did him well as he hit .311 with the Mets.  He won’t hit .300 again and he strikes out way too much but he should provide a decent stroke with RBI chances behind Bay and Beltran.  Omir Santos is young catcher who should improve offensively this season after hitting .260 in 280 at-bats last year in his first extended playing time in the big leagues.  Bench will be tested early and we may see how thin they are behind their starters.

Rotation

  1. Johan Santana
  2. John Maine
  3. Oliver Perez
  4. Mike Pelfrey
  5. Jon Niese

Johan leads a rotation that was all over the place last season.  Santana looks to return to form after a season in which his numbers fell off across the board.  He was eventually shut down to have minor surgery and the Mets will need him to lead this rotation not only on the field but off as the Mets look for several of their young pitchers to improve.  John Maine looks to stay healthy after two seasons of arm problems.  He has the ability to hold down the 2 spot on the rotation but he has to prove he can stay on the field first.  Oliver Perez has frustrated the Mets since signing a contract extension in 2009.  Always erratic, Perez completely lost it last year posting terrible ERA (6.82) and WHIP numbers (1.92) leading to only 14 starts and 3 wins.  Perez holds the key to the Mets season.  If he turns it around and starts looking like the lefty who won 15 games in 07’, the Mets have a chance to compete.  If not, they will spend all year looking for consistency from the 3-5 spots in the rotation.  Pelfrey was a highly touted prospect coming up and has had some success but he must turn the corner or his time in New York will be short.  Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.  Both bring similar talent to the table but Nieve may have more future in the pen.

Bullpen

Closer Francisco Rodriguez stumbled to the finish line last year, the Mets hope that wasn’t the start of a downward trend.  Kelvim Escobar was signed as a free agent after he missed most of last year recovering from shoulder injuries.  A former All-Star starting pitcher for the Angels the Mets will move him to the pen and hope the reduced workload will help Escobar regain his form.  Also signed was Japanese import Ryota Igarashi.  His splits were solid in Japan and should help stabilize an inconsistent and always changing bullpen.  This might be a weak point for the Mets in 2010 as there is just too many question marks to expect much consistency.

Fantasy

 The roster is full of questions about injuries and inconsistency and that’s not a good sign for fantasy owners seeking Mets players.  Johan Santana remains a solid fantasy option at starting pitcher.  He isn’t going to be the best pitching option on the board anymore but still worthy of top 10 pitcher ranking.  Beltran and Reyes are generally the best fantasy options offensively but injuries have put their season numbers in doubt.    Both still should be drafted but don’t be the one to gamble for full recoveries.  Jason Bay’s success this year may hinge on Reyes and Beltran coming back to full strength, if that happens look for the entire lineup to produce, if not, all could struggle to put up numbers fantasy owners have become accustom to.  John Maine and Oliver Perez become sleepers if they put injuries and inconsistency behind them but are too risky to draft.  Closely monitoring their seasons could pay off if they go undrafted as free agents.  K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) has suddenly become a less then sure thing.  ERA and WHIP have been on the rise for two years and his K rate has been dropping, he also posted a horrible 6.75 earned run average after the all-star break last year.  Fantasy owners should be cautious as K-Rod is trending in the wrong way, dangerous for closers.

5. Washington Nationals  63-99

2009 Review

The record didn’t show it but the Nationals made some progress last season.  The offense improved top to bottom as they picked up a lead-off man in Nyjer Morgan mid-season and Ryan Zimmerman made strides in becoming a cornerstone franchise player.  Adam Dunn loved hitting behind Zimmerman and the Nats started improving with Morgan at the top before he broke his hand in August and spent the rest of the year on the DL.  Pitching was a huge problem as they struggled to find starters who could pitch deep into games.

2010 Preview

Washington was actually relatively aggressive (for the Nats) this off-season.  They signed C Ivan Rodriguez, closer Matt Capps, and 15 game winner Jason Marquis as free agents to help provide stability and leadership to a young Washington pitching staff.  The NL East is likely to be competitive again this year and the additions won’t be enough to put Washington in the mix but they should help.   Another key addition was the signing perhaps the most hyped #1 draft pick ever in Stephen Strasburg, the Flame-throwing starting pitching out of San Diego State.  Many wondered if the Nationals would be able to get a deal done to sign him, and it came down to the final minutes of the deadline, but they were able to work it out to the tune of a record setting $15.1 million.  Strasburg was just sent to AA but don’t look for him to be there long, his spring has shown the potential he has and it will be tough for Washington to keep him down there long.

Projected Line-up

  1. Nyjer Morgan  CF
  2. Adam Kennedy  2B
  3. Ryan Zimmerman  3B
  4. Adam Dunn  1B
  5. Josh Willingham  LF
  6. Ivan Rodriguez  C
  7. Elijah Dukes  RF
  8. Ian Desmond  SS

The offensive numbers are on the rise in Washington with a solid middle of the order forming the last two years.  Zimmerman and Dunn combined for 71 HRs and 209 RBI in 09’ and it would not surprise to see the numbers improve this year.  Morgan should provide a solid lead-off man with good on-base numbers.  Morgan and Kennedy give the Nationals impressive speed at the top of the line-up and the potential to score a lot of runs this year.  Pudge Rodriguez was brought in to help the pitching staff and assist in the development of promising young catcher Jesus Flores.  He won’t play every day but anything he brings will be a bonus to the team.  Dukes has underachieved throughout his young career and his position on the roster will be tentative.  Rookie Ian Desmond has been off to a great spring and will likely be given a chance to start everyday at shortstop.  He has hit at every level in the Minors and looks to build on his solid finish in the majors last year (.280 avg., 4 HRs 82 at-bats).  The bench is weak and thin lead by Christian Guzman who can play at short or second, provide a little insurance if Desmond struggles early.

Rotation

  1. John Lannan
  2. Jason Marquis
  3. Garrett Mock
  4. Craig Stammen
  5. Ross Detwiler

Ugh, where to begin… John Lannan has been relatively consistent in posting decent sub 4.00 ERA numbers the past two season.  Marquis comes over from Colorado after making the postseason for the 10th time in 10 years, an odd and surprising streak almost certainly to end.  He overachieved a little bit last year and it would shocking to see him win 15 games again but it was not a terrible pick-up for the pitching challenged Nationals.  Mock, Stammen, and Detwiler will have to make major strides this season for Washington to make any noise this year.  The best candidate for improvement in Garrett Mock who has posted decent minor- league numbers in his career.  Jordan Zimmermann was one of their top pitching prospects last year and showed flashes, however he will miss most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  There will be plenty of competition for the final two rotation spots as Sharon Martis and Scott Olsen will challenge for roster spots although spring training has been ugly for most early this year.

Bullpen

Matt Capps looks to lock down the closer job after coming over from the Pirates in the off-season.  Stability at that spot will go a long way to filling out the rest of the pen which could be surprisingly solid.  Brian Bruney also was added for the Yankees this off-season and could combine with an improving Tyler Clippard to provide solid set-up men.  Lefty Sean Burnett was solid and looks to continue moving forward.

Fantasy

Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman bring solid power numbers to the top of their positions and should be top picks again this year.  Dunn batting average is not at the level of Zimmerman’s so at this point the third baseman should be ranked higher.  Morgan brings great speed and good average to the plate and I also see his run totals increasing.  No power and very few RBI opportunities lower his value slightly but he still has solid value in 5×5 leagues.  Desmond provides a solid sleeper pick at shortstops in NL-only leagues.  Don’t expect his minor league numbers right away but you should monitor his progress as the season goes on.  Pitching options are thin in Washington.  Lannan will bring decent ERA numbers but offers little else and nothing in the strikeout department (89 Ks in 208 IP).  Capps might be worth a late round pick but don’t reach for an iffy closer on a team they will struggle to win 65 games.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 4:30 pm

    I was on Yahoo and found your blog. Read a few of your other posts. Good work. I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tom Stanley

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