Greek’s Picks – NL Eastby BigGreek24
This is by far my favorite time of the year when Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training. Baseball (and later Softball) was the sport I played as a young man and there is nothing like knowing that just about every day there is a game to watch.
Today starts a six part series where I will pick each of Baseball’s divisions beginning today with the National League East. Here is the remaining schedule for the series:
Friday – NL Central
Monday – NL West
Tuesday – AL East
Wednesday – AL Central
Thursday – AL West
So with that, here are my picks for the National League East:
1. Philadelphia Phillies – Barring any major injuries or a rash of subpar seasons by Howard, Utley, Ibanez , etc how can you not pick this team to not only repeat in the East but possibly to win the National League Pennant? Say what you want about Amaro trading Cliff Lee, but Halladay was the pitcher the Phillies wanted last year and now they have him. He takes alot of pressure off Cole Hamels which should allow him to get back to the 2008 form. Joe Blanton is simply a guy who eats innings and wins games. My one issue is the bullpen – Lidge can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year but until he shows that he can close out close games fans will hold their collective breath. Polanco gives the Phillies a solid defensive third baseman as well as a contact hitter that can hit anywhere in the lineup. I’d like to see him hit second, but we’ll see. The Phillies bench is a little thin, but this is a team of regular everyday players much like the mid 1970′s teams and they don’t take many days off so the Phils simply don’t need a great bench. Dobbs should be healthy this year. Ross Gload gives the Phillies another solid lefty off the bench as he was one of the top pinch hitters in the NL last year for Florida. Brian Schneider is a veteran game caller who can also stop the running game. It will be interesting to see how the fifth starter situation goes with Kendrick, Moyer and Bastardo.
2. Atlanta Braves – This will be the final curtain call on the Bobby Cox show, the longest running manager tenure in the NL since Tommy LaSorda with the Dodgers. I’ve never been a big fan of him (just one World Series win to go with all those division championships), but his steady hand kept the Braves winning despite all the player changes from 1991-2005. The Braves are an improved team, but they have their question marks. Derek Lowe signed a big contract and saw his era jump about a run from 2008. Can Tommy Hanson continue where he left off last season? How much will the Braves miss Javier Vasquez and will Melky Cabrera fill the center field hold? The Braves brought in Troy Glaus to play 1b – Glaus missed all but 14 games last season. Billy Wagner will close for the Braves, and he looked good in Boston once he came back last year. It will be interesting to see if he can hold up for a full season. Martin Prado goes from super sub to starting second baseman as the Braves let Kelly Johnson go over to Arizona. The Braves could make some noise, but I don’t think they have what it takes to unseat the defending champions.
3. Florida Marlins – The Marlins always seem to hang in there. They have some great young talent with Ramirez, 2009 Rookie Of The Year Chris Coghlin and Dan Uggla. They were able to lock up Josh Johnson and hope that Anibel Sanchez can finally put together a full healthy season. Cody Ross is a tough and underrated outfielder. The guy to watch here is Cameron Maybin. Once a top prospect, Maybin came up short last year after starting the year as their centerfielder. If he blossoms like many think he can the Marlins could be especially tough not just this year, but for years to come. As it stands the Marlins could overtake the Braves for second but unless alot of things go right that’s about as high as they can go.
4. Washington Nationals – Yup, I’m picking the Nationals to finish out of last place. Jim Riggleman had this team playing well towards the end of last season and as much as I don’t blame Manny Acta for the Nationals problems, sometimes players just tune a manager out after a while. The Nationals were active in the off-season, bringing in Jason Marquis and although he’s not an ace, he is a guy who wins games and pitches alot of innings. He also has played on playoff teams in every year of the previous decade with the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs and last year the Rockies. Adam Kennedy was brought in to play 2b, and he had a nice season last year after a terrible 2008. Ryan Zimmerman had a bust out season last year and Adam Dunn paid dividends with his tremendous power. The Nats also got a steal by obtaining Nyjer Morgan from Pittsburgh to play centerfield. The guy to watch here is Elijah Dukes – he had a nice season in 2008 but took a step backwards last year. He has alot of talent, and a cannon arm in the outfield.
5. New York Mets – My how the mighty have fallen. Just one game away from the World Series in 2006, the Mets have fallen fast since blowing the NL East down the stretch in 2007. Last year just about every key contributor was on the DL, and the Mets will be without Carlos Beltran when the season starts. Jason Bay was acquired as a free agent, but the Mets need more help than Bay can provide. David Wright had a big time power shortage after hitting a career high 33 homers in 2008, and the Mets really missed Jose Reyes setting the table last year. First base and catcher are still huge holes for this team as Tatis, Murphy and Jacobs will compete to replace Carlos Delgado and catcher was so bad that they brought in Rod Barajas and about 5 other guys on minor league deals to try to fill the position. Their pitching isn’t much better. Santana is Santana, but who will step up behind him? John Maine and Mike Pelfrey both have the talent but haven’t broken through yet. Oliver Perez has a huge contract and plenty of talent but lacks the makeup to become the pitcher we saw in Pittsburgh back in 2004. If Jerry Manuel isn’t fired midway through the season he certainly won’t be back in 2011.