Although experts overwhelmingly picked either the Mets or Phillies, the Marlins and Braves sit tied for first place in the National League East after the season’s first week. The Marlins took two out of three from the Mets, while the Braves beat Philadelphia in two of their three games.
With the best two pitching staffs in the division, the Braves and the Marlins are contenders in the National League East for 2009 and could replace the Mets and Phillies as the two top dogs in the division.
Although the rankings vary, Keith Law of ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball America all have ranked the Braves and Marlins as two of the top three organizations in the National League. The Braves had ranks of four, six, and four, while the Marlins had ranks of eight, two, and five.
The teams have a couple of similarities that extend even further. Both have highly touted prospects starting in center field, and both got some of their great depth in trades with the Detroit Tigers.
Cameron Maybin was ranked the eighth best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, and he has the potential to be a five tool player for the Marlins.
Jordan Schafer, ranked as the 42nd best prospect, has started 2009 off with a bang. On opening night against the Philadelphia Phillies, he became the 99th player in Major League history to homer in his first at-bat.
The Marlins, already armed with a young, talented pitching staff that includes Andrew Miller (23), Chris Volstad (22), Josh Johnson (25), Ricky Nolasco (26) and Anibal Sanchez (26), have a number of other prospects ranked in Baseball America’s top 100.
Outfielder Mike Stanton (19 years old) and first baseman Logan Morrison (21) were the other two Marlins ranked in Baseball America’s top 20 (16 and 18, respectively).
Both should be ready at some point next year, and if the Marlins begin to fall out of the race, you can expect them to deal some of their experienced talent (Jorge Cantu is a strong possibility) in order to save payroll and open spots up for 2010.
The Marlins other prospects ranked in the top 100 include third baseman Matt Dominguez (19 years old), catcher Kyle Skipworth (19), and pitcher Sean West. Other notable prospects include Jose Ceda, second baseman Chris Coghlan, corner infielder Gaby Sanchez, and pitcher Ryan Tucker.
The Braves have two prospects in the top five of Baseball America’s ratings. Pitcher Tommy Hanson (22) dominated in the minors and Arizona Fall League, and he is likely to be promoted at some point this season.
The Braves other prospect in the top five is outfielder Jason Heyward. The 19 year old was impressive in Spring training and will likely be in the majors at some point during the 2010 season.
Other Braves that were ranked in the top 100 include outfielder Gorkys Hernandez (21 years old) and first baseman Freddie Freeman (19). Both players likely will be in the Majors in 2010 or 2011.
Current starter Jair Jurrjens is only in his second season, and he could be one of the headliners of a great future rotation.
Other players in the minors who were once highly rated prospects but already have some major league experience include outfielder Brandon Jones and pitchers Jo-Jo Reyes and Charlie Morton.
The farm system also includes a ton of good young pitchers including Cole Rohrborough, Jeff Locke, Julio Tehran, Kris Medlan, Craig Kimbrel, and recent first round pick Brett Devall.
While both teams are certainly going to compete in 2009, the future looks incredibly bright for the two teams that many overlooked in the 2009 National League East.