BangtheBook is looking at each division as Opening Day is right around the corner. Spring Training is in full swing right now, and it’s only a few weeks from Major League Baseball getting underway. Here’s your chance to learn more about each team. We’re switching over to the National League now. Let’s take a closer look at the NL East.
The Washington Nationals made the leap to the top of the NL East far quicker than almost anyone thought was possible. They’re out to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. Atlanta and Philadelphia made some big moves to get better in the offseason, but the Mets and Marlins seem to be outmanned in the NL East.
2013 National League East Odds & Predictions (Odds from BetDSI)
Odds to Win NL East: -120
The Nationals are a slight favorite in what should be a very competitive division this year. Washington did it with pitching last year, and they did nothing to hurt their pitching staff. In fact, the pitching staff might be a little better this year. Dan Haren is penciled in as the team’s fourth starter, and he has the stuff to be a number two starter. Rafael Soriano is the team’s new closer, and depth in the bullpen isn’t a problem.
The offense scuffled at times last year, but Ian Desmond’s breakout season really helped the lineup produce more than expected. If he can have another year like 2012, the Nationals will be tough to beat. Bryce Harper wasn’t amazing in 2012, but he was only 19, and he should get much much better. Adam Laroche had a big bounce back year last year, but I’m not sure he can do the same again this season.
Team Strengths: Starting Rotation, Bullpen, Young Talent
Team Weaknesses: Poor Bottom of the Order, Lack of Power
Odds to Win NL East: +240
The Braves didn’t just sit around hoping to get better in the offseason, they made some huge moves. The Upton brothers are united in Atlanta, and along with Jason Heyward they form a very nice outfield. The Braves will miss Chipper Jones’ presence in the clubhouse and the lineup. Atlanta’s already stacked bullpen got more help in the offseason in the form of Jordan Walden.
The Braves lineup has a couple question marks in the infield with Juan Francisco and Dan Uggla. Uggla hit just .220 last year, and Francisco hasn’t proven himself as a big leaguer just yet. Still, the Braves pitching staff is as deep as any in baseball. Look for guys like Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, and Julio Tehran to have big years. All three of them are youngsters with a bright future ahead of them.
Team Strengths: Pitching Depth, Awesome Bullpen, Great Outfield
Team Weaknesses: Questionable infield, Missing Chipper Jones
Odds to Win NL East: +305
The Phillies are accustomed to heading into the season as the favorite in the division, but they won’t be this year. Still, this isn’t a team to overlook in 2013. Remember, they still have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation. No team in baseball can boast a better top three in their rotation. John Lannan was a solid pickup to finish off the rotation, and Kyle Kendrick was much better at the end of last year.
Placido Polanco has moved on, and now the Phillies have Michael Young at third. Philadelphia did a nice job buying low on Young after a down year. I think he returns to being a .300 hitter this year. Domonic Brown was a bit of a disappointment last year, but he is still pretty young. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have to find a way to stay healthy if this team is going to contend.
Team Strengths: Starting Rotation, Power Hitters
Team Weaknesses: Injury concerns, Questionable outfield
New York Mets
Odds to Win NL East: +2,300
The Mets took a ton off the payroll in the offseason. Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, R.A. Dickey, and Mike Pelfrey are all gone. Dickey had an amazing year for the Mets last year, but they couldn’t afford his contract. The Mets have clearly decided to tear things down and build from the ground up. New York is going to take their lumps right now, but it is obvious that this team is stockpiling a lot of young talent.
This will be one of the youngest teams in the league, and I think they’ll struggle in 2013. Matt Harvey has the stuff to be a star in the rotation, and don’t be surprised if he starts showing that this year. Johan Santana is the one huge contract that is hurting the Mets right now. David Wright is the face of the team, and if he stays healthy I expect big things from him again.
Team Strengths: Better Financial Decisions, Stockpile of Young Talent
Team Weaknesses: Bullpen, Weak Outfield, No help for Wright in lineup
Odds to Win NL East: +4,000
Everything that could go wrong for the Marlins went wrong last season. All of their huge offseason moves before the 2012 season blew up in their face, and many of those guys aren’t back with the team this year. Ozzie Guillen only spent one year in Miami, and he didn’t make many friends in the area in his time here. Mike Redmond is the new manager, and he’ll have his work cut out for him this year.
Giancarlo Stanton is the youngster this team will build around, but right now there isn’t much around him in the lineup. Ricky Nolasco is the team’s Opening Day Starter. Nolasco is no better than a third or fourth starter on most teams, so that tells you all you need to know about the rotation. This team will struggle a lot this year.
Team Strengths: Young Star in Stanton
Team Weaknesses: Poor Rotation, Weak Lineup, Bad Bullpen
Predicted Order of Finish-
1. Atlanta Braves- The Braves have the potential to be much better than most realize, good value at +240
2. Washington Nationals- They should still make the playoffs, but the weak lineup might hurt them
3. Philadelphia Phillies- Sitting behind two very good teams, the Phillies are good but not great
4. New York Mets- The Mets have a brighter future, but 2013 won’t be good
5. Miami Marlins- They’ll be one of the worst teams in baseball