This is part one of a seven-part series of the predictions of the upcoming 2008 MLB season.
The first part will be a preview of the National League East.
Last year, the Mets were the front-runner the whole season, until the last month. New York's meltdown will go down in history has the biggest collapse of a team ever.
But still, the Phillies, who won the East last year, are still not getting any respect.
This should be one the toughest divisions in the league this year with good young talent on every team.
If we are talking Fantasy Baseball, in a regular 10-team draft, five out of the 10 first-round picks would be from the NL East (Ramirez, Reyes, Santana, Wright, Rollins).
Three of the best shortstops in the entire league are in the East: Ramirez, Reyes, and Rollins. Three of the best at the hot corner in Wright, Zimmerman, and Jones are also in this loaded division
This will be a great race to watch this year.
New York Mets (100-62)
The Mets look that the team to beat on paper, but they also looked like the team to beat on paper last year.
They made the biggest splash in the offseason by acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins, but in doing so, gave up their best outfield and pitching prospects. They also added Ryan Church and Brian Schneider from the Nationals.
Their pitching rotation, if healthy, should be tops in the league behind ace Johan Santana. Their lineup is strong at the top with Wright, Reyes, Castillo, and Beltran, but it has some questions at the bottom with an aging Alou and Delgado.
Their bullpen could be one of the best in the league with Heilman, Feliciano, Schoeneweis, and Wagner to close.
As long as the Mets stay healthy, they should win the East and be the favorite to play in the Series. Any injuries and this team doesn't have much depth in the minors.
Philadelphia Phillies (88-74)
The Phillies were a bit of a surprise last year, as most had the Mets penciled in to win the East even before the season started last year, and it has happened again this year.
Philadelphia should be playing with a chip on its shoulder after winning the East and not getting any respect this year to repeat.
They have a strong rotation with Cole Hamels at the top, along with Myers and Kendrick. Also a stung lineup with power coming from Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell and speed and contact coming from Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino.
Their bullpen was one of the best in the league and should be again. If new closer Brad Lidge can return to his old form before the 600-foot shot Phat Albert hit off of him in the playoffs, this 'pen with Flash Gordon, J.C. Romero, and Ryan Madson should be solid.
They should give the Mets trouble again this year and will look to be in the playoffs as the Wildcard.
Atlanta Braves (85-77)
The Braves finished the year above .500 in the toughest division in the NL and they return a good mix of young talent and experience. They did lose Jones, who has been a cornerstone of that franchise in the outfield since he made his debut in the World Series at 19.
The Braves' pitching has always been at the top of the league ever since Bobby Cox took over as manager. This year's staff , however, isn't the most youthful in the league, with Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine leading the way.
Not for anything, but when the Mets announced they were not going to resign Glavine and Maddux was going to be a free agent, there was a part of me that wanted to see arguably the best trio of pitchers in recent history back together again.
Their lineup has some holes, apart from the middle with Teixeira, McCann, and Jones, and they don't really have much in the way of flash in the order with could hurt them in a division with tons of speed.
Their bullpen looked to be the best in the league last year with three potential closers at the end, but due to injuries and trades, the 'pen doesn't look to be as strong. Soriano will be a solid closer, but with Gonzalez having elbow problems and no one else except maybe Yates stepping up, this could be their biggest weakness.
Look for the Braves to give the Mets and Phillies trouble all year but run out of gas at the end.
Florida Marlins (75-87)
The Marlins come into this year with one of the youngest lineups and pitching rotations in the league.
Their lineup has one of the most exciting young players in the league at the top in Hanley Ramirez. Behind him are more potential studs in the majors led by Uggla coming off a down year last year compared to his rookie year.
Cameron Maybin might be an early favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year with the potential he has.
Their pitching rotation is still a few years away from being a top staff. Led by Scott Olsen and young phenom Andrew Miller, this could be a one-two combo to lead the Marlins into the playoffs in one or two years.
Their bullpen has a lot of questions, as they do not have a proven closer in Kevin Gregg who did have 32 saves last year but had an ERA over 3.50.
This Florida team is two or three years away from competing again for the World Series again.
Washington Nationals (70-92)
The Nationals are going through a rebuilding stage and don't look to make much noise in this division.
They have a young stud at third base in Ryan Zimmerman, and they traded for Mets' prospect Lastings Milledge. After that, Willy Mo Pena has a ton of power but strikes out too much, the same goes for Austin Kearns.
The middle of the infield with Guzman and Belliard should be fun to watch in the field defensively, but not much to watch at the plate. Their starting rotation is led by Shawn Hill and John Patterson. This is a staff whose high win total last year was eight.
The bullpen might be their strength with Cordero closing and Rauch and Ayala setting up.
The Nationals have a good farm system and are a couple years away from challenging for the division crown.
Part two in the series will focus on the Nation League Central. It has now been 100 years since the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series title. Will this be the year they make a run at the Series?
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