April 3, 2009

The beasts of the East

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

With only the East divisions to go, let’s get to the division of the reigning champions, the Philadelphia Phillies. With three potential MVP candidates in their infield alone and a rock solid rotation with one of the most clutch aces in the majors, there’s little reason to think that the Phillies can’t repeat. The only key player they lost from their championship lineup was Pat Burrell but by replacing him with the underrated Raul Ibanez, the lineup might be even better. The Phillies have what it takes to make it back to the World Series if injuries don’t hang them up.

But, there’s also the Mets. Moving into new Citi Field should give them a boost but more importantly, they shored up their biggest weakness: Their bullpen. By bring in both K-Rod and J.J. Putz, two all-star calibre closers, the Mets won’t have too many late innings problems like they’ve had for two years in a row now. Their lineup is still dynamite and their rotation is solid; this should make for one hell of a tight race atop the NL East.

The Atlanta Braves might surprise some people with their rotation. They’ve built a solid group of five guys who could go out there and pick up wins any night of the week. The problem, though, is their lineup. Chipper Jones is another year older and will miss some time during the season and other than Brian McCann, there’s no other huge threat that will scare opposing pitchers.

Florida continues to go with their ultra-young roster and they will continue to overachieve (in most people’s eyes). With the middle infield tandem of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, there’ll be no shortage of power coming out of the infield. Rookie Cameron Maybin will have the everyday job in centre and if last year’s brief showing was any indication of how well he’ll play, the Marlins should tear up the base paths. The only problem could be their rotation, which is unheralded to say the least, but if they throw together an above average season, the Fish should be in the wild card race.

The most mind-boggling thing about the off-season was how the apparently cash-heavy Nationals didn’t throw enough money at Mark Teixeira to bring in the hometown boy and finally make the ex-Expos become relevant. Word has it that they have some decent pitching prospects in the minors and judging by the quality of their rotation, we should see these young guns soon. Seriously, the biggest news the Nationals will make this season is whether or not they take the phenom Stephen Strasberg and pay the “best prospect ever,” the $50-million contract he’s asking for.

Prediction:
1st: Philadelphia Phillies
2nd: New York Mets
3rd: Florida Marlins
4th: Atlanta Braves
5th: Washington Nationals

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