2013 MLB Predictions: National League East Preview
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The National League East has the chance to become one of the most exciting chases in all of baseball heading into the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
At the top are two teams that will have gigantic expectations in the Atlanta Braves and the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals.
Both teams were able to add key pieces over the offseason and have young talent that will only get better as time moves forward.
The NL East also has the veteran team battling father time in the Philadelphia Phillies and two rebuilding teams in the New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
The divisional games will be entertaining, and that will make for a great race to watch in 2013. Here's a look at who can come out on top in the NL East.
5) Miami Marlins
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2012 Record: 69-93 (5th in NL East)
Key Additions (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): LHP Justin Nicolino, OF Juan Pierre, C Jeff Mathis, RHP John Maine, 3B Placido Polanco, RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Jon Rauch, 3B Chone Figgins, 1B Casey Kotchman, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
Key Departures: SS Jose Reyes, RHP Heath Bell, RHP Carlos Zambrano, 2B Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Josh Johnson, C John Buck, LHP Mark Buehrle
Outlook: One year ago, the expectations for the Marlins were high after doubling their payroll and opening the beautiful $634 million Marlins Park in Downtown Miami.
Long known for being one of the cheapest teams in the league, the Marlins were poised to take off and capture a playoff berth.
But then things got weird.
They decided to paint the walls at Marlins Park lime green. They put a giant statue in center field that looked like it was pulled out of a 1970s album by The Beatles. Ozzie Guillen praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The free agents didn't play up to their salaries and then the Marlins decided to start from scratch.
All of the free-agent acquisitions from a year ago are gone (mainly in a highly criticized trade with the Toronto Blue Jays), and there are few recognizable names remaining on the roster.
The good news is that one of those names is slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton was the Marlins' best hitter in 2012 according to Baseball Prospectus and has the power to flirt with 40 (or possibly 50) home runs in 2013. Alas, Stanton can't do it by himself.
The Marlins will be one of the worst teams in baseball while they try to figure things out and wait for super prospects Christian Yelich (ranked 15th in Baseball America's top 100 prospects) and Jose Fernandez (ranked fifth) to develop.
4) New York Mets
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2012 Record: 74-88 (4th in NL East)
Key Additions (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): RHP Noah Syndergaard, C John Buck, C Travis D'Arnaud, RHP Shaun Marcum, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, OF Marlon Byrd, RHP Brandon Lyon
Key Departures: OF Scott Hairston, RHP Chris Young, C Kelly Shoppach, RHP Jon Rauch, OF Jason Bay, OF Andres Torres, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP R.A. Dickey
Outlook: While the standings will not reflect it in 2013, the Mets are on the right track for building a long-term contender.
General manager Sandy Alderson had to make some tough moves over the winter, and the most notable was sending reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for prospects.
The haul was impressive considering that the Mets landed catcher Travis D'Arnaud (ranked 23rd by Baseball America) and pitcher Noah Syndergaard (ranked 53rd by Baseball America) to add to several young players such as fellow prospect Zach Wheeler (ranked 11th) and Matt Harvey.
The young players are nice, but the Mets have issues on the major league roster that will prevent them from competing in 2013.
The biggest issue at the moment is David Wright's intercostal strain that knocked him out of the World Baseball Classic.
Current reports such as the one by Yahoo Sports!' Mark Townsend have Wright out of the Mets' lineup Opening Day, and it's something that could linger as the season drags on.
Wright was the best offensive player in terms of WAR according to Baseball Prospectus, so if Wright misses a big chunk of time it will be panic time in Queens.
There are signs that the Mets are going in the right direction, but it's an approach that favors the patient meaning that 2013 will be a long year.
3) Philadelphia Phillies
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2012 Record: 81-81 (3rd NL East)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): C Humberto Quintero, OF Ben Revere, 3B Michael Young, LHP Mike Adams, OF Delmon Young
Key Departures: RHP Jose Contreras, 1B Ty Wigginton, 3B Placido Polanco, OF Juan Pierre, RHP Vance Worley, RHP Trevor May
Outlook: If there is a wild card team in this division, it's the Phillies.
As mentioned in the opening, the Phillies are battling father time as Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay are another year past the prime of their careers while dominating the division during the 2000s.
If there is a weakness on this team, it has to be the team's offense which was deadly during that span.
After trading Hunter Pence last July, the Phillies were left with glaring holes in the outfield and have attempted to fill them with speedster Ben Revere and Delmon Young (who may start the season on the disabled list after offseason surgery).
They also tried to fill the gap at third base by acquiring a professional hitter from the Texas Rangers in Michael Young. Unfortunately, this move also gives the Phillies another aging position player as well.
The strength of this team will be their pitching as Halladay and Cliff Lee will look to have bounce back years to complement ace Cole Hamels.
The bullpen remains solid too as Jonathan Papelbon will return in the closer role and give the Phillies a chance to regain their top spot.
If the offense can perform at an adequate level, the Phillies experience may defeat father time and the rest of the division.
2) Atlanta Braves
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2012 Record: 94-68 (2nd in NL East; lost to St. Louis Cardinals in Wild Card Game)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): OF Justin Upton, OF B.J. Upton, C Gerald Laird, RHP Jordan Walden, 3B Chris Johnson
Key Departures: 3B Chipper Jones, OF Michael Bourne, 3B Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, RHP Ben Sheets, C David Ross, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Tommy Hanson
Outlook: The Braves may have been a bizarre infield fly rule away from setting up a showdown with the Nationals last October, but they have made plenty of moves to try to make it back.
The biggest one is the addition of both Upton brothers to play next to Jason Heyward.
B.J. will replace Michael Bourne in the outfield and will give them the same amount of speed that the Braves had at the top of their lineup. His offensive consistency is something that will need to be improved, but he's a good fit overall.
As for Justin, he will become a MVP candidate in Atlanta. His final season with the Arizona Diamondbacks was a confusing one, but his line of .280 with 17 home runs and 67 runs batted in wasn't terrible.
Playing alongside his brother, he will be motivated and will put up monster numbers in the process.
The Braves have the pitching to go along with their impressive lineup with Kris Medlen coming off a terrific season at 10-1 with a 1.59 earned run average and closer Craig Kimbrel who was 42 for 45 in save opportunities in 2012.
The Nationals will be tough to take down, but what the Braves have assembled is going to give them enough firepower to have a chance.
1) Washington Nationals
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2012 Record: 98-64 (1st in NL East; lost in five games to St. Louis Cardinals in NLDS)
Key Additions (Courtesy of Baseball Prospectus): OF Denard Span, RHP Rafael Soriano, RHP Dan Haren
Key Departures: LHP Michael Gonzalez, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Alex Meyer, LHP John Lannan, 1B/OF Michael Morse
Outlook: Stephen Strasburg's innings limit was the biggest storyline for the Nationals in 2012.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft was in his first full season after having Tommy John surgery late in 2010 but didn't show any ill effects going 15-6 with a 3.16 earned run average.
Still, the Nats stuck to their proposed innings limit, and his shutdown may be the reason the team lost in the NLDS instead of making a long playoff run.
So what makes the Nationals scarier this time around? There will be no shutting down Strasburg.
He will lead a talented rotation that includes Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Dan Haren and might be the best in major league baseball.
The offense also got better even after the departure of Michael Morse.
The Nats traded top pitching prospect Alex Meyer to acquire Denard Span to give them the leadoff bat they've been needing and moved Bryce Harper to left field.
Span's inclusion makes the lineup downright scary as Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond are one of the game's best power-hitting middle infields to go with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.
The Nationals are a team that's loaded across the board. Depth like this means that a World Series championship is not out of the equation.