April 2, 2010

2010 National League preview

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

It’s that time of year again, folks. The birds are chirping, grass is growing, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated from playoff contention and one or two star pitchers have already been lost for the season. Yes, people, it’s the beginning of baseball season. So, without further ado, let’s get a quick breakdown of the Senior Circuit this season, division by division.

Starting in the National League East, A lot of people say this division could rival their AL brothers, but really, I don’t think so. As great as the Phillies could possibly be, there’s just no comparison to the Yankees. And who would be lining up as the Boston Red Sox in this comparison? The Braves or Mets? No way.

The Phils have a fourth straight division crown lined up in their sights and shouldn’t have any problem attaining it, unless the injury bug strikes, but even then, their depth is good enough to sustain their momentum. There’s really not an easy out in their lineup other than the pitcher slot; their three-headed monster of an infield has three guys who have one or could win the MVP. Their rotation is anchored by a guy who absolutely murdered the superior AL. Roy Halladay could notch 25 wins this season, and that’s not hyperbole. The only down spot for this team is Brad Lidge. As long as he’s closing games, which could swing 5-10 games this season.

A lot of people like the Atlanta Braves, mainly of uber-rookie Jason Heyward. But, he’s only one guy. This team will have to rely on Troy Glaus, an aging Chipper Jones and an unspectacular Nate McLouth in the middle of their lineup. Their pitching staff isn’t that superb either. Tommy Hanson is still young, Tim Hudson is coming of injury and Jair Jurrgens is no ace. We’ll just see if this team can live up to expectations.

The Mets went out and spend their wad on Jason Bay, who is destined to lead the league in warning-track flyouts this season. They add him to a lineup with a lot of aging stars and a real lack of depth. The
Mets won’t even have a chance to choke away a lead this season.

Florida is a team that could really surprise. Like the cross-state Rays, they’ve developed a lot of young talent and should be on the verge of blossoming into a contender. Their one-two of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco is one of the more solid pairings of young arms there is.

Then there’s the Washington Nationals. The good news: Stephen Strasburg will up in a matter of months and with the No. 1 pick this draft, they could pair him with phenom Bryce Howard. The bad news: None of that will help them from losing 95 games this season.

Onto the NL Central, there’s only one team that deserves consideration for the division crown: The St. Louis Cardinals. With Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday ready to light up pitchers, this team will run all over their weaker division opponents. Their rotation is solid as well, but could have injury issue. That won’t matter since the Cards seem to pull good arms out of thin air.

The Brewers aren’t a team to sleep on. Their bats will keep them in the games that their arms try to lose for them. It’s a shame they’ll have to deal Prince Fielder to try to land an ace.

The Cubs and Reds are both stuck in neutral. Both clubs have some promise down the pipe, but have to clear out some of their old junkers first. Put it this way, the Cubs outfield has a combined age of 96. Not exactly what you want in a rebuild.

Houston is doing things the wrong way. The signing of Brandon Lyon is a perfect example of how not to build a contender.

The less said about the Pittsburgh Pirates the better. Welcome to another season of losing.

Out west, everyone seems to think this division is the Rockies to be lost. They’ve taken their time to develop their players and had a tremendous run after firing their manager because of a disastrous start. But I don’t see what all the fuss is about? Ubaldo Jimenez is a fine ace, but then it’s Jorge De La Rosa and Aaron Cook as your 2-3 guys, plus Jeff Francis, who when he wasn’t injured, didn’t do so hot the last time out. The bullpen features Huston Street and their key lineup cog, Troy Tulowitzki, was pretty bad not so long ago. I wouldn’t be so quick to hand the NL West to the Rockies.

The Giants certainly have the pitching, but there’re no bats that really stand out. That’s been their problem since some slugger named Barry retired. If they can hit, they can. If not, they’re around the .500 mark.

The Diamondbacks are so memorable, I nearly forgot to write them into this preview. Strong young bats, but no huge stars, unless Justin Upton shows he’s the real deal. Dan Haren is an ace and when Brandon Webb returns, those two could dominate if the bullpen and lineup doesn’t let them down, like it has in the past.

The Dodgers franchise has been hamstrung by a messy divorce involving their owner. This situation is actually quite similar to what the San Diego Padres owner went through a few years ago. If that doesn’t sound ominous, look where the Padres are now. L.A. did nothing to improve their rotation except lose the steady Randy Wolf. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are basically 2a and 2b, neither are true aces.

The hot news about the Padres this season will be when they will start dealing away their talent for prospects. Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell could very well be moved by the deadline, with the relatively cheap power hitting 1B on the top of the trade market. Looks like another rebuilding season in San Diego.

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