There was a changing of the guard in the National League East in 2012. After owning the division for the previous five years, the Philadelphia Phillies battled injuries and age en route to a .500 finish. With the door wide open for some new blood, the Washington Nationals' rebuilding efforts yielded results a year or two sooner than expected. This year the Nationals are the odds on favorites to capture the NL East. Let's take a brief look at each team with their Odds to take home the National League East in 2013.
Odds Courtesy of Sportsbook.ag
Washington Nationals (-130): As great as 2012 was for the Nationals, they are expecting bigger things this season thanks to full seasons (barring injuries) from Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. Harper was so impressive as a 19-year-old rookie last season, setting a new major league record for extra-base hits by a teenager (57). Given the way Harper finished 2012, hitting .330/.398/.651 in September, he has high expectations for this season. Strasburg was the most controversial topic of discussion in September, with the Nationals deciding to shut him down and leave him off the playoff roster. He is the most unhittable pitcher in baseball when he is on, striking out 197 in 159.1 innings last year. As long as Strasburg stays healthy, he will be one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Nationals will do two things very, very well this season—rack up quality starts and hit balls out of the ballpark. Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Detwiler and Haren should all be counted on for at least 20 quality starts apiece, while Werth, Harper, Zimmerman, LaRoche and Desmond all have 20-home run potential. The five of them will put up ridiculous home run totals to lead the offense. With good pitching and good hitting, what's not to like about this team?
Atlanta Braves (+250): It all ended tragically for the Atlanta Braves in 2012, but they're heading into 2013 knowing that they were right there with the best teams in the National League last season. The Braves have usually been very conservative when it comes to free agency and trades in recent years, but with the retirement of Chipper Jones and free agency of Michael Bourn, the team found some money and spent it to bring B.J. Upton into the fold and dealt for Justin Upton. The 2012 season fell in line with Atlanta's track record of pretty much never having poor starting pitching. Braves starters compiled a 3.75 ERA that ranked seventh in MLB. Atlanta's starting pitching should be just as good in 2013, especially if Kris Medlen picks up right where he left off. Medlen, as you'll well remember, was unhittable after he was inserted into the Braves' starting rotation in late July. In 12 starts, he compiled a 0.97 ERA and held hitters to a .483 OPS. A full season of Medlen's pitching should allow them to maintain their consistency from the second half of last season (.623 winning percentage), and the Hudson-Minor-Maholm trio should produce plenty of six-inning starts. Six-inning starts are all the Braves are going to need most days. Their bullpen will have tremendous depth if the Braves turn Walden into the weapon he should be, and they're going to have more offensive firepower with which to grab early leads. The Braves are going to face some stiff competition from the Washington Nationalsand Philadelphia Phillies, but they're better than the Phillies and may be just as good as the Nationals, plus are head and shoulders above the Mets and Marlins.
Philadelphia Phillies (+650): After a run of five straight NL East titles, which included two trips to the World Series and one championship, the 2012 Phillies had age and injury issues and fell to 81-81, good enough for third place in the NL East. They appear healthier this time around, but the nucleus is still old, aside from Cole Hamels.Even with Halladay's age and health concerns, the strength of this team is still the Big Three starting pitchers. Hamels is a legitimate ace while Lee and Halladay still have the capability of performing as aces. If the three pitch up to their ability, it's reasonable to think the Phillies can win around 70 games started by these three. Whatever general manager Ruben Amaro and his staff are doing with this franchise right now, it certainly leaves a lot to be desired. First, the team acquired Michael Young from Texas to be the team's everyday third baseman. Young had the worst Wins Above Replacement in baseball last season at minus-1.4, according to Fangraphs. He has been a bad defensive player for years and just posted a .682 OPS in 2012. Then came the Delmon Young signing and notion that he can be an everyday right fielder when he was so dreadful as a left fielder with Detroit. That's to say nothing of the fact that he hasn't had an on-base percentage above .308 since 2008 and is just a terrible person in general. This is an aging team that doesn't appear to have any sense about how to fix things. Still the pitch is very solid and will keep them in games, but the hitting isn't as strong as in years past and the defense will be a problem. Could be another mediocre year in Philly.
New York Mets (+1000): Heading into the 2013 MLB season, the New York Mets will be an intriguing team to follow. With good health and a few lucky breaks, they could be competitive throughout the summer. Anyone who tries to tell you that the Mets aren't rebuilding right now is delusional. That doesn't mean there aren't reasons to watch this team in 2013. Matt Harvey looked outstanding in his brief run with the team last season and his upside has skyrocketed thanks to improved stuff, including a mid-90s fastball and knockout slider. op prospect Zack Wheeler will be up sooner rather than later, potentially giving the Mets a strong one-two punch heading into 2014. The deal that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto may not have been popular, but if Travisd'Arnaud can just stay healthy long enough to get called up, he has the best all-around tools of any catcher in the minors. Getting young players like Harvey, Wheeler and d'Arnaud into the mix and playing alongside David Wright in Queens is what the Mets have to focus on in 2013. It would also help them out if Johan Santana is healthy and pitching well around the trade deadline so they can try to add more talent to an improving farm system that still needs a lot of depth. In the near future, owner Fred Wilpon expects to raise payroll back up to pre-Ponzi-scheme levels, reports Marc Carig of Newsday. He'll agree to sign another power bat or take on a hefty contract via trade. But this spending probably isn't going to happen prior to the 2013 trade deadline. Be patient, Mets fans. The club will soon return to relevance.
Miami Marlins (+2000): The Miami Marlins have had a relatively quiet offseason, trading away basically their entire starting lineup and rotation from last season over the last seven months and trying to convince people they have a championship-caliber team. Look, this franchise is dreadful. There is no hope of contention in 2013. They will compete with the Astros for the worst record in baseball this season. But at least Giancarlo Stanton is still with the team. He gives you a superstar to watch on a nightly basis, for now. Everything else for the Marlins will be focused down in the minors. Jose Fernandez had a remarkable debut season, striking out 158 and walking just 35 in 134 innings across two levels. Outfielder Christian Yelich just turned 22 in December, continues to show advanced plate discipline and power. He also has a shot to debut before the end of this season. So there is some help coming, it just won't be nearly enough to put a playoff-caliber team on the field. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria believes in this team so much that he takes out full-page ads in local newspapers and doesn't even bother to learn the names of "the new shortstop" or "our second baseman." There are players who will be fun to watch—well, at least Giancarlo Stanton will be. When Fernandez and Yelich debut, they will also be worth watching. Other than that, just have fun laughing at Loria's inability to spin bad press.
Pregame.com Pro Webinar: Steve Fezzik
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