NL East: Why Any Team Can Win This Division
One month into the young season and one of the most competitive divisions in baseball has lived up to its name. The new-look NL East is jam packed with talent this season.
Traditional powerhouses like the Phillies are banged up, making way for youthful squads like Washington.
The Mets lost their best player in Jose Reyes to the new-look Miami Marlins, but the Mets are still ahead of them in the standings.
As of now, there is no clear favorite to win the NL East, so who will win this division and why?
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The arms of Atlanta have the potential to lead the Braves to a division title. The veteran leadership of Tim Hudson along with young stud Tommy Hanson have the talent to ring in more than 15 wins a piece. Young arms like Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor are solid anchors to a strong rotation.
Young flame thrower Craig Kimbrel has come into his own after replacing veteran closer Billy Wagner. Kimbrel can ensure that the Braves feel safe entering the ninth inning with a lead.
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When healthy, the Phillies have one of the most talented squads in baseball. Injuries to stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have left question marks coming into this season. With both studs getting older, their recovery time is not ideal for a championship run.
However, healthy superstars like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay can outpitch their opponents on any given day. On days when they are not on the mound, the Phillies will have to rely on the veteran leadership of former MVP Jimmy Rollins to get through the dog days of summer.
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The Miami Marlins have a number of things going in their favor. They have a new look—a new identity. They are no longer the Florida Marlins. They play in a beautiful new stadium. New uniforms. And new manager Ozzie Guillen has the fiery attitude to mesh well with the Miami community.
And for the first time in the franchise's history, management is spending money on talent. With an infield of Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes along with Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins have a boatload of talent to help propel them to the top of the standings.
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The Washington Nationals have been a terrible team for a long time, but the struggling franchise has been stockpiling young talent. Patience and perfect timing have allowed the Nationals to strike while the iron is hot.
Last season Washington started taking advantage of free agency by signing Rick Ankiel and Jason Werth. With young phenom Stephen Strasburg healthy and No. 1 pick Bryce Harper coming up to the bigs, the Nationals have the talent to make a significant impact in the East.
New York Mets
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The New York Mets came into the season being the heavy favorite to finish last in the East. After the financial crisis with Mets ownership, their management couldn't afford to spend the money on big-name talent like in years past. After losing superstar shortstop Jose Reyes to their rivals in the South and with big-nam players like David Wright and Jason Bay not playing up to their potential, it was all but certain that it would be a down year in Queens.
However, the Mets have shown that they can play with the big boys. But how is this possible? Just like ESPN's Bill Simmons loves to say, they have the "nobody believes in us" factor working for them. The Mets seem to be following the model of the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League.
They are utilizing what limited talent they have and are playing excellent fundamental baseball. David Wright came out of the gate hot. The pitching rotation along with the bullpen have allowed them to stay in close games. They have proven through one month of baseball that they're not as bad as advertised.