I spent last week breaking down the American League. This week I will break down the National League, starting with the east.
Projected order of finish
1. New York Mets- The Mets won't collapse this season. G.M. Omar Minaya went out and fixed the teams real weakness, the bullpen. Adding K-Rod and Putz will make a difference. After Johan Santana, the rotation isn't great, but will give them innings. With the improved bullpen, I think the starters won't have to pitch deep into games and that will make a difference. I am also predicting that Minaya will acquire the best arm available at the deadline, likely to be Roy Halladay.
Offensively the Mets have a nice balance of power and speed and scoring runs shouldn't be a problem. Delgado will be the player he was post all-star break last season and Wright and Reyes, already young superstars will be even better. Carlos Beltran is healthy and will have an MVP like season. 2009 will be the season the Mets win the East.
2. Phiiladelphia Phillies- Picking the Mets to win the East is no knock on the Phillies. I like them to win the Wild Card. I mean the Mets can't possibly tank it 3 Septembers in a row. Can they? The Phils are like the Mets offensively, with power and speed, but better at both. The Phils are also alot better defensively than their rivals. The only move the world champs made in the off season was to replace Burrell with Ibanez, an upgrade.
The Phils will need some right hand power, but I just don't know where they would play. The staff is good and the bullpen is strong. The Phils will be playing in October again. One guy that could make a difference as a fifth starter is Carlos Carrasco. Keep an eye on him. He should be up this season.
3.Atlanta Braves- Here is a team I like alot to bounce back. I don't have them higher because I think the Phils and the Mets will be real good. The Bravos fixed their rotation adding 3 new starters. Lowe and Vazquez will give the Braves innings, which they didn't get a season ago. The question with the staff will be the bullpen and can a guy like Mike Gonzalez stay healthy for an entire season to anchor the back end of the pen.
Bobby Cox is a winner. Chipper Jones is a winner. Everyone else is young and unproven. Escobar, Kotchman, Francorer and McCann are good young players. The Braves are good in their farm also. Look for Jordan Schaffer to come up and win the center field job and Tommy Hanson to find his way into the Braves rotation by the all-star break.
4. Florida Marlins- I like this team because they always find ways to hang in the race. They have a superstar in Hanley Ramirez and an up incoming star in Cameron Maybin. They are an aggressive team and will run alot.
The best part of this team is a good young rotation. No household names, but some good arms. Nolasco, Johnson, Sanchez, Miller and Volstad all throw hard and can get people out. They will keep the fish in alot of games, but the division is too tough for the Marlins to win.
5. Washington Nationals- This is one of the few teams in the bigs that have no chance. They did add Adam Dunn which should give them some pop and Ryan Zimmerman will be healthy. The outfield could be surprisingly good with Dunn, Dukes and Milledge, but that's about it for Washington.
Some arms are on the way. Jordan Zimmerman should break camp with the big club and fit nicely into a bad rotation. Also Washington has the first pick in the draft and if they don't get scared away from the Scott Boras price tag, San Diego St right hander Steven Strausberg and his 102 MPH fastball is considered big league ready.