MLB 2009 Division-by-Division Preview, Pt. 4: NL East

Austin DrakeSenior Analyst IFebruary 16, 2009

National League East Division 2009 Breakdown 
#4 of 7


1. New York Mets
Key Addition(s): Freddy Garcia, Francisco Rodriguez,  J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed 
Key Loss(s): Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez and Mike Carp 
Off-Season Grade: A 
Projected Lineup: 
Jose Reyes SS 
Luis Castillo 2B
Carlos Beltran CF 
David Wright 3B
Carlos Delgado 1B
Ryan Church RF 
Brian Schneider C 
Fernado Tatis LF 
Key Backups: Jeremy Reed and Alex Cora 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Johan Santana 
SP: John Maine 
SP: Oliver Perez

RP: Duaner Sanchez 
SU: J.J. Putz 
CL: Francisco Rodriguez

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Daniel Murphy, OF/2B

Notes: After nearly a perfect off-season, the Mets will look to climb to the top spot in the NL East. With the additions of two closers, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets now have one of the most dominant bullpens in the league. New York really needed to add a corner outfielder this off-season, more likely a left fielder with the success Ryan Church had last season. Hey, Manny is still out there, so who knows. 

Mets fans will see a very familiar lineup this season. Nearly the same lineup as last season, other then the left field switch from Moises Alou to Fernando Tatis, who came up clutch off the bench last season. Jose Reyes struggled a bit last season, to much disappointment from fantasy owners. USA team player David Wright is expected to put up big numbers as always, and also stick to his tough defense. 

A great rotation 1-4 for New York this season. Recently resigned Oliver Perez will bring back the nice lefty, righty, lefty, righty, etc. type of rotation. Don’t forget about Mike Pelfrey in the four spot who had his coming-out party last season with a 3.72 ERA. A straight up shut-down bullpen, or so I would hope so. With a crew of those three listed above, along with Sean Green and Pedro Feliciano this relief crew should be able to finish off most teams. Unless...we see yet another choke. 
2. Philadelphia Phillies 
Key Addition(s):
Raul Ibanez and Ronny Paulino 
Key Loss(s): Pat Burrell 
Off-Season Grade: B- 
Projected Lineup: 
Jimmy Rollins SS
Chase Utley 2B 
Raul Ibanez LF 
Ryan Howard 1B 
Jayson Werth RF 
Shane Victorino CF 
Pedro Feliz 3B
Carlos Ruiz C 
Key Backups: Geoff Jenkins and Eric Bruntlett 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Cole Hamels 
SP: Brett Myers 
SP: Joe Blanton

RP: Chad Durbin 
SU: Ryan Madsen 
CL: Brad Lidge

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Carlos Carrasco, P 

Notes: The loss of the big, lefty bat of Pat Burrell was a devastating blow to Philadelphia’s lineup, then the signing of Raul Ibanez dried up the tears. Another nice move was to bring in former Pirate, Ronny Paulino, to help backup the not-so-consistent Carlos Ruiz behind the dish. Paulino also adds a left-handed hitter on the bench. I am surprised that the Phillies didn’t add relief help, because as you can see, they’re not too deep in the bullpen.  

The World Series champs will, in essence, bring the same lineup to the plate this season. A change of left fielders (Ibanez for Burrell), but both are lefties with pop. Other than the All-Star 1-4 hitters, look out for Jayson Werth folks! His 2008 total of 24 homers is no joke and he finished a single game last season with three round trippers. Expect the “Flying Hawaiian” Shane Victorino’s productivity to stay about where it was last season (.293, 30 2B, 36 SB). 

The World Series MVP Cole Hamels has a new contract this season, and I believe he will play up to it. I expect him to be in the final three contenders for this season’s NL Cy Young award. Brett Myers came on strong last postseason, going 2-1 with 19 IP, while striking out 12 batters. A weak ‘pen may struggle to get the ball to Brad Lidge, so it’ll be a good year if he can save 25 for the Phils. 


3. Florida Marlins 
Key Addition(s):
Leo Nunez, Emilio Bonifacio and Scott Proctor   
Key Loss(s): Mike Jacobs, Matt Treanor, Kevin Gregg and Arthur Rhodes 
Off-Season Grade: C-  
Projected Lineup: 
Cameron Maybin CF 
Dan Uggla 2B 
Hanley Ramirez SS 
Jeremy Hermida LF 
Cody Ross RF 
Jorge Cantu 3B 
Wes Helms 1B 
John Baker C 
Key Backups: Mike Rabelo and Alfredo Amezega 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Josh Johnson 
SP: Ricky Nolasco 
SP: Andrew Miller

RP: Scott Proctor 
SU: Leo Nunez 
CL: Matt Lindstrom

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Emilio Bonifacio, 2B

Notes: The young Marlins gave up four big players in the off-season, to get back a rising reliever, an old reliever and a future starter in the infield. A trade between Florida and Kansas City sent first baseman Mike Jacobs out of town, and the team’s power hitting went with him. Though the trade worked bad for the lineup, it bolstered the bullpen. Leo Nunez went 4-1 last season, while posting a 2.98 ERA. 

With Mike Jacobs now with the Royals, Jeremy Hermida and Cody Ross will really need to pick up some of the slack. The two of them combined for 39 homers last season, while Jacobs hit 32 by himself. "Mr. Everything" for the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez, will take on a bigger role this season. As if a .301 average, 33 homers and 35 stolen bases aren’t enough, he will have to raise those numbers to nearly .315, 40 and 40 if he wants to stay above Atlanta in the division. 

The likely starting rotation for the Marlins this season (Johnson, Nolasco, Miller, Sanchez and Volstad) went a combined 36-28 last season, which is not nearly good enough to compete strongly in this division. While the additions of Nunez and Scott Proctor to the bullpen may add more depth, the closer spot is up for grabs with the releasing of former closer, Kevin Gregg, who is now with the Cubs. Leo Nunez, Matt Lindstrom, Burke Badenhop and Eulogio De La Cruz will all get a shot I’m thinking.


4. Atlanta Braves 
Key Addition(s):
Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez and Boone Logan 
Key Loss(s): Brent Lillibridge 
Off-Season Grade: B-  
Projected Lineup: 
Yunel Escobar SS 
Jeff Francouer RF 
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C 
Casey Kotchman 1B 
Matt Diaz LF
Gregor Blanco CF 
Kelly Johnson 2B 
Key Backups: Omar Infante and Martin Prado 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Derek Lowe 
SP: Javier Vasquez 
SP: Jair Jurrjens

RP: Boone Logan 
SU: Rafael Soriano 
CL: Mike Gonzalez 

Young Player to Keep an Eye On:
Eric O’Flarhety, P

Notes: I know this is a shock to lot of you, but I think Atlanta just doesn’t have that “chemistry” to place higher then fourth in the division this season. A great offseason addition of top notch starter Derek Lowe will help heal the pains of winter for most Braves fans. At one point, Atlanta were nearly onboard with Rafael Furcal and A.J. Burnett, then later didn’t sign them. The trade for Javier Vasquez wasn’t their first option, but it helps. 

Atlanta should be happy Washington is in this division. If not, the Braves would have possibly the weakest lineup in the NL East. Other than future hall of famer, Chipper Jones and All-Star, Brian McCann, this lineup has no consistency. Jeff Francouer needs to bounce back after a .239 season with just 11 homers to give this team any shot of reaching third place this season. 

Get used to the name Jair Jurrjens everybody! After coming over in an offseason trade last winter, Jurrjens has made a huge impact for the Braves. Jair went a decent 13-10 last season, while putting up a 3.68 ERA. Without a doubt, Lowe will upgrade the rotation, but keep an eye on Vasquez. His season will either consist of at least 15 wins or 15 losses, one or the other.


5. Washington Nationals 
Key Addition(s):
Adam Dunn, Scott Olsen, Jose Castillo and Josh Willingham 
Key Loss(s): Emilio Bonifacio 
Off-Season Grade: B+ 
Projected Lineup: 
Lastings Milledge CF
Christian Guzman SS 
Ryan Zimmerman 3B 
Adam Dunn RF
Josh Willingham LF 
Nick Johnson 1B 
Ronnie Belliard 2B 
Jesus Flores C 
Key Backups: Elijah Dukes and Anderson Hernandez 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Scott Olsen 
SP: Daniel Cabrera 
SP: John Lannan

RP: Matt Chico 
SU: Saul Rivera 
CL: Joel Hanrahan

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Ross Detwiler, P

Notes: In essence, a great offseason for the Nats this year. The offseason grade had a chance to be lower, but adding Adam Dunn in mid-February boosted it up. But with the money they can work with, their offseason was not far from phenomenal. The loss of Emilio Bonifacio will hurt them three years down the road, but the additions listed above can help them win now. 

The lack of power in the National’s lineup will lead to newcomer, Josh Willingham, likely hitting in the 3-4-5 area all season long. Last year’s Washington representative in the All-Star game, Christian Guzman, will likely get a chance to lead off especially if Lastings Milledge doesn’t come to play every night. One thing I can believe is that Washington didn’t add a catcher this winter. Jesus Flores hit a measly .258 in 90 games last season, while striking out 78 times. 

This is where the Nats upgraded well for their situation. The 24-year-old Scott Olsen came over in the deal for Bonifacio and is entering his fifth season in the majors. Daniel Cabrera has had a mediocre career, but at a young age of 27 his frame is intimidating enough (6’7”, 258 lbs). The late innings could be rough for Washington with Chad Cordero not resigning with the Nationals.

Next up…National League Central Division


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