Last year I started a series that featured the 'Key' player for each team. A 'Key' player is someone who was injured or had a down year the year before and if they can come back to form, their respective team would be vastly improved.
This year I thought I would continue this series and go division by division to identify the 'Key' player for each team.
Here is the 'Key' player for each National League East team:
Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels
I am sure many of you thought I would have picked Brad Lidge in this spot, but the Phillies can win the World Series without Lidge, they can’t win the World Series without Cole Hamels being right. As we saw last year in the World Series, the Phillies couldn’t match up with the New York Yankees outside of Cliff Lee.
Hamels can be that solid No. 2/1A starter the Phillies need. Remember, Roy Halladay transformed AJ Burnett’s career and if he can do the same with Hamels, the Phillies will win the NL East by 10 games and be back in the World Series yet again.
Atlanta Braves: Billy Wagner
I was torn between Wagner or Troy Glaus, but I think Glaus will be fine at first. However, the Braves need Wagner to be the pitcher they think he can be and more importantly, stay healthy. If Wagner goes down for a significant period of time with an injury, the Braves’ bullpen becomes a clown show.
That is why Wagner is so important to the Braves’ success.
Florida Marlins: Cameron Maybin
The Marlins thought Maybin was ready to take over the starting job in center last year, but quickly realized that was not the case. The Marlins will bring back a lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Dan Uggla, Chris Coghlan, and Cody Ross.
That is a good lineup, but if Maybin becomes the player they thought he was when they traded Miguel Cabrera for him, then the Marlins will have a lineup in 2010.
New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey
The Mets have about eight candidates for this title, but I feel Pelfrey is the biggest key. The Mets desperately need someone to step up behind staff ace Johan Santana and Pelfrey needs to be that guy.
For whatever reason Pelfrey regressed and developed a case of the yips last year. If the Mets want to have any chance of winning in 2010, then Pelfrey needs to have a bounce back season.
Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg
It’s hard to believe the 'Key' to the Nationals won’t be on the team’s Opening Day roster, but that is just how important Strasburg is to the Nationals’ franchise. He is perhaps the most hyped prospect in the history of the game, but more importantly, he represents hope.
Strasburg will be with the Nationals at some point this season, most likely in May. If Strasburg delivers when he is called up, he will give the Nationals hope for the future.
Tomorrow, I will look at the 'Key' player for each National League Central team.
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