Mets, Cubs, Giants Lead the National League: A 2009 Preview

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Mets, Cubs, Giants Lead the National League: A 2009 Preview
(Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

East

 

New York Mets

The Mets are the sexy pick going into this season to win the East because of their offseason acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Shoring up one of the worst bullpens in the 2008 season, New York is set to take on the Philadelphia Phillies once again. 

Their offense might digress a little bit this season but, I feel they have enough in the starting rotation and the back end to overtake the World Champs.

Division Finish—first

Offensive Force—David Wright

Staff Ace—Johan Santana

 

Philadelphia Phillies

The World Champions return this year with pretty much the same team as last year except replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez. 

Cole Hamels will remain at the forefront of their rotation and Brad Lidge looks to continue his dominance in the ninth inning. 

Chase Utley’s availability for the start of the season is still in doubt as he is recovering from offseason hip surgery but should be able to return to full strength when he returns.

Division Finish—second (Wild Card)

Offensive Force—Ryan Howard

Staff Ace—Cole Hamels

 

Atlanta Braves

While they lost pitchers John Smoltz to free agency and Tim Hudson until at least midseason due to an injury, the Braves revamped their rotation by trading for Javier Vazquez and signed both Derek Lowe and Japanese star Kenshin Kawakami. 

Another big offseason move was the signing of Garret Anderson; however, he is currently out indefinitely with an injury.

Division Finish—third

Offensive Force—Chipper Jones

Staff Ace—Derek Lowe

 

Florida Marlins

It seems like it’s the same story every year: They are a good team but need to spend on some players to be looked at as one of the top teams in the NL East. 

Their offense will be there thanks to Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. 

Their pitching led by Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson are good but are young.  Starter Anibel Sanchez threw a no hitter back in 2006 but hasn’t really been the same since.  Their bullpen got better with the addition of Scott Proctor and Vladmir Nunez, but in all honesty, I don’t see this team gelling together to sit atop the division.

Division Finish—fourth

Offensive Force—Hanley Ramirez

Staff Ace—Ricky Nolasco

 

Washington Nationals

There is a lot to say about this team, but none of it is good news. 

After an FBI investigation of their General Manager, Jim Bowden, he resigned stating that he had become a distraction.  Before departing this offseason, he went out and traded for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham.

Olsen might help the extremely weak rotation but the rest of the team is in disarray.  After signing Adam Dunn to a two-year deal, it seems they have a mediocre logjam at first base and outfield.  

Division Finish—fifth

Offensive Force—Adam Dunn

Staff Ace—John Lannan

Central

 

Chicago Cubs

After owning the best regular season record in the National League, the Chicago Cubs promptly flopped to the Dodgers in three games in the National League Division Series. 

But this year could be different for the Cubs as they will have a full season of Rich Harden—barring an injury—and added Milton Bradley to play right field.

As long as Bradley can control his inevitable outbursts to two or three, he should be a productive player in that stacked lineup that already included Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee before Bradley inked with Chicago.

Division Finish—first

Offensive Force—Aramis Ramirez

Staff Ace—Carlos Zambrano

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Against all my reasoning, I think the Brewers will finish second in the Central mainly because of their competition is just as weak as them. 

After losing their top two pitchers, they will rely heavily on 23-year-old Yovani Gallardo.  The Brew Crew also have one of the best Nos. 3-4 hitters in the game with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

Division Finish—second

Offensive Force—Prince Fielder

Staff Ace—Yovani Gallardo

 

Houston Astros

The ‘Stros brought back injury-prone Mike Hampton to fill out their rotation.  He only started in 13 games last season, but it was a big improvement since he hadn't pitched in a Major League game since 2005. 

The rest of the staff besides stud Roy Oswalt is shaky as they will look at Brandon Backe and Russ Ortiz to pitch important games. 

Their offense maybe the only thing that saves the Astros from embarrassment in the 2009 season. Yet that depends on if Miguel Tejeda serves time for lying to congressional investigators about steroids.

Division Finish—third

Offensive Force—Carlos Lee

Staff Ace—Roy Oswalt

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Still without a definite closer, the Cardinals seemingly will have in-season auditions for the closer role, a move that didn’t fare well for the 2003 Boston Red Sox. 

In addition to having a huge question mark in the late innings, the rotation is shaky too after Adam Wainwright. 

Albert Pujols got some help last season with the emergence of Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel. If the Cards want to compete, they will need repeat performances from all of these players.

Division Finish—fourth

Offensive Force—Albert Pujols

Staff Ace—Adam Wainwright

 

Cincinnati Reds

On paper, this team doesn’t look too bad, but the games aren’t played on paper. 

Hoping to get another solid year out of Edinson Volzquez who posted a 3.21 ERA in his first full year.  Coupled with a potential return to form of Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, this team might have something going for them. 

With Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn both gone from midseason trades, the Reds will look to Jay Bruce and Joey Votto to lead the way for their offense.

Division Finish—fifth

Offensive Force—Jay Bruce

Staff Ace—Edinson Volzquez

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

There hasn’t been much to say about the Pirates for the past decade. It just hasn’t been that good of an organization. 

In the offseason, Paul Maholm signed a contract extension to stay with the Pirates.  He has been their only reliable starter. Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny will look to rebound from awful years. 

Most of their position players are young and still need time to polish their game.  In a few years, this team could be something but right now their talent just isn’t up to par.

Division Finish—sixth

Offensive Force—Nate McClouth

Staff Ace—Paul Maholm

West

 

San Francisco Giants

I cringe even looking at Bengie Molina as their best hitter, but it’s probably the reality.  I know I will be regretting this pick in September, but I just can’t shy away from that rotation. 

Last year's Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, leads the way as Matt Cain will most likely be their number two starter. 

Cain had a really good year last year but was overlooked due to Lincecum and the fact that he didn’t get many wins to show for his good performance. Former Cy Young winners Randy Johnson and Barry Zito also add into the mix while 26-year-old lefty Jonathan Sanchez will most likely be their fifth starter.

Division Finish—first

Offensive Force—Bengie Molina

Staff Ace—Tim Lincecum

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson both left this past offseason and the D’Backs didn’t do much to replace their offensive production. They will rely heavily on Justin Upton who showed moments of brilliance last year but wasn’t able to sustain it for very long; injuries didn’t help either. 

The rotation looks to be solid as they have added Jon Garland to a rotation that already has Brandon Webb and Dan Haren.  Their bullpen is up in the air once again.

Division Finish—second

Offensive Force—Stephen Drew

Staff Ace—Brandon Webb

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

After the four month plus soap opera known as Manny Ramirez finally re-signed with the Dodgers, they look to try and make another run at the division. 

Unfortunately, like the Brewers, their pitching just isn’t adequate enough. Losing Derek Lowe hurt them immensely even though not signing him to the contract he was looking for was a good idea. The only bright spot in the rotation is Chad Billingsley. 

Ramirez will carry the offense once again, but the pitching seems like a tough hill to climb.

Division Finish—third

Offensive Force—Manny Ramirez

Staff Ace—Chad Billingsley

 

Colorado Rockies

With Jeff Francis out seemingly for the entire 2009 season, Ubaldo Jiminez and Aaron Cook will be looked at to maintain stability in the Rox rotation. Behind those two, they have an interesting mix of starters to take the hill. 

They lost their closer to free agency but look to use Huston Street and have Manny Corpas as a backup once again. 

Although they did trade away their best hitter, they still have a pretty good offense.  Soon to be 24 year old Ian Stewart, if given enough at bats, should have a break-out year to help the Rockies offense.

Division Finish—fourth

Offensive Force—Todd Helton

Staff Ace—Ubaldo Jiminez

 

San Diego Padres

Although they have Jake Peavy and Chris Young, their offense might be the worst in the game. They also didn’t re-sign their long-time closer Trevor Hoffman, which will hinder the 'pen in the late innings. 

In addition, they may be sellers near the trade deadline to clear up some salary. Right now, that is all that they are concerned about as the spent their entire offseason busy trying to trade away Peavy.

Division Finish—fifth

Offensive Force—Adrian Gonzalez

Staff Ace—Jake Peavy

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