Sunday, March 31, 2013

MLB Preview / N.L. East


The Washington Nationals were my "Dark Horse" last season, and even though lots of felt that they were going to step in the right direction with their excellent drafts the last few years, no one thought it would be that much of a leap forward. The Atlanta Braves finished only four games back with 94 wins, and lost their wild card game against the new "5th team" added Cardinals (88 wins) -- I'm still on the fence about the whole extra wild card team added, I think it takes a little out of the wild card race -- but then again, a few friends noted, that's why winning the division should be these teams' priorities (good point!). The Philadelphia Phillies looked dead in the water with all their injuries, before 2012 I noted they were starting to show cracks in the pavement -- but by the end of the season, they actually made a run at the 5th wild card spot & showed that they are not done yet! Then there is the New York Mets (poor David Wright) and the constant joke that is the Miami Marlins.

Things are looking UPTONS for Atlanta in 2013.


First off, I will mention for those that may not know, I am a Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves fan -- so as a Braves fan, I would like to express to other Braves fans (and the people making those shirts) to quit making excuses for the "bad call" against the Cardinals in the do-or-die wildcard game! Yes, overall I think it was a bad call, but the three errors & messy defense didn't help (the errors is what cost the Braves the game)!

Now onto the 2013 Atlanta forecast, and we will start with the Upton brothers. The Braves made noise this off-season by signing B.J. Upton & then acquiring Justin Upton via trade from Arizona. The B.J. Upton move was a questionable one, due to the somewhat pricey contract for a guy who overall has underachieved during his career -- a guy who has been questioned about his desire to play; hopefully with Justin's addition & their competitiveness with each other, will bring out the best in both. B.J. is actually coming off a career high of 28 HR's, as Justin (not counting his 2007 partial) is coming off a career low .785 OPS. I expect big things out of Jason Heyward in 2013, he is coming off career highs in HR's (27) & RBI's (82) during his third season, while stealing 21 bases to become the first Braves player since Andruw Jones (2000) to accomplish 20/20; he is only 23! Dan Uggla's streak of 5 seasons with at least 30 HR's ended last season, hitting only 19 -- the big concern is his two weak back-to-back season batting averages of .233 & .220! On the opposite side of the second base bag will be shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who will be the lead-off man after the departures of Bourn & Prado -- did well during the World Baseball Classic, which could be good momentum entering the season. Freddie Freeman is coming off back-to-back seasons of 20+ HR's & .790 + OPS's, is only going to get better. Catcher Brian McCann dealt with injuries in 2012, and suffered his worst season of his career, despite hitting at least 20 HR's for the 6th time in 7 seasons; veteran Gerald Laird was signed in the off-season & will start in April as McCann recovers from shoulder surgery. Juan Francisco has showed pop from the hot corner (9 HR's in 192 AB's), but needs to hit better of righties.

Kris Medlen finished the 2012, possibly as the hottest pitcher in all of baseball -- posting a 9-0 record & 0.97 ERA during the last two months of the season! Dependable & consistent veteran pitcher Tim Hudson follows Medlen in the #2 spot in the rotation; Hudson still won 16 games with a 3.62 ERA, while dealing with an assortment of injuries last season. Where consistency has been a trend for Hudson, it certainly has not been one for Paul Maholm; Maholm must have been excruciating to watch for Pittsburgh fans, every once in awhile it clicks for him -- a good sign might also be this, he has now back-to-back seasons of lower WHIPs (1.29 & 1.22) compared to his career WHIP (1.40). Braves fans got to be excited in Mike Minor's second-half of 7-4, 2.21 ERA during his last 15 starts. The fifth spot of the rotation will be an interesting one to watch -- The team traded away Randall Delgado to Arizona to help bring in Justin Upton, Brandon Beachy returns from Tommy John surgery in the second-half of 2013, and then there is the huge potential in 22-year-old Julio Teheren; Teheren dominated Triple-A in 2011 with a 15-3 record & 2.55 ERA (1.18 WHIP), but had a frustrating 2012 in the minors & big leagues -- has a lively fastball & put-away changeup! If the Braves can have Maholm stay on his current path (the last two seasons) & find some solidarity in the 5th spot of the rotation, the Braves could have one of the few absolute best rotations in all the majors -- if the two spots are shaky, it could definitely be the difference of post-season or going home early.

Craig Kimbrel is coming off one of best relief seasons in MLB history, 42 Saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP & 116 K's in 62.2 innings -- He's 24 & he has 89 career saves! Jonny Venters suffered an off-season, which he had career highs in ERA (3.22) & WHIP (1.52) with a two-week stint on the DL, if healthy, he should return to his previous two seasons where he had ERA's of 1.84 & 1.95, and WHIP's of 1.20 & 1.09 -- He has become won of the premiere setup men in the game, now with 79 holds the past three seasons. Eric O'Flaherty was the Mariners' trash turning out to be the Braves' gold -- Highest ERA as a Brave was 3.04 during 2009, the last two seasons he's logged 60 holds, with a remarkable 0.98 ERA in 73.2 innings in 2011 & 1.73 ERA last season. I totally dig the move in acquiring Jordan Walden from the Angels in exchange for Tommy Hanson, the Braves have an abundance of potential talent in the rotation & added another consistent, excellent arm to make the Braves now the best bullpen in all of baseball possibly (there is probably not a better four than Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty & Walden at least). Cory Gearrin and  Luis Avilan posted really good numbers in brief playing time during 2012.

Best Move: Landing Justin Upton & reliever Jordan Walden were really good moves for Atlanta.

Worst Move: Possibly B.J. Upton in the long run, he's always been a bit of an underachiever and I question letting Michael Bourn go, when he's a legit leadoff man -- sure B.J. has slightly better OPS's & power, but Bourn adds more steals (not to mention proper attitude), and Atlanta had enough power.

Best Possible Outcome: They have the potential to win the N.L. Pennant, but it's a tough league, not to mention.. tough division, with Washington & Philadelphia.

Worst Possible Outcome: I only see this season, going as bad as third place -- I can't see this team placing lower than the Mets & Marlins. Missing the playoffs would be a bit of a disappointment, but not the end of the world, since the Braves are still climbing, the Braves in two seasons may become the team to beat in all of baseball, if team continues it's current trend.

Stanton might be irked that I accidentally left him off of the recent "BoS Top 10".


How quickly things can change in just a year, not that this is anything new to the very few Marlins fans out there, that are barely clinging on -- this is the same Marlins franchise that didn't wait for 1997 World Championship Parade to finish, when they started tearing the team apart and selling it's parts! In fact, I'm personally sick of what this franchise and the owner is doing to baseball, and will predict that it wouldn't surprise me to see the Marlins out of Miami in ten years (definitely in 15-20 years!) -- I just don't see how any of this pays off in the long run. The Ozzie Guillen (with his Fidel Castro comments) experiment is gone, and now we enter the Mike Redmond era -- Plus is it any coincidence that Ozzie's last two teams have replaced him with quiet mannered managers? Now if Fox Baseball takes a hint & doesn't add Ozzie as an announcer to the post-season, everything would be gravy!

The Marlins are lead by Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, who is still only 23, he is coming off the best year of his career in which he batted .290, hit 37 Home Runs & drove in 87 ribbies, along with his average, his OBP & OPS has been going up every season -- his OPS topped off at .969 for the 2012 season! How strange are the times when the Marlins are thinking about placing Justin Ruggiano as the possible cleanup hitter, following Pierre, Polanco & Stanton in the lineup? Prior to 2012, Ruggiano's highest season OPS was .673, then again he also had a career high 105 at-bats that season; during 2012 he got a bit more playing time and was impressive during his 288 AB's in which he batted .313, 13 HR & 36 RBI, and a mind-boggling .909 OPS -- it's mind-boggling, because we are talking about Ruggiano here (plus he's 30 years-old already)!
It's safe to say that Placido Polanco has not played this bad since his rookie year in 1998, all of his numbers are reflective of that -- I expect a bit of a rebound, if he stays healthy; in the meanwhile he brings veteran leadership to the club. Last time, Juan Pierre joined the Marlins, he helped lead the Marlins to their 2nd World Championship, that definitely won't be the case... like Polanco, he will be a good mentor for the youth movement; Pierre is a career .297 hitter, with a .346 OBP & 591 career steals at age 35. Casey Kotchman, a solid fielder will anchor first base, Marlins are hoping he would at least lift that .280 OBP he had with Cleveland last season -- otherwise he will continue his trend of being a one-year rental. Donovan Solano surprised many after Infante got traded to Detroit & is slated to be the double-play partner with shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who now has much more of a clear path, now that he's out of Toronto -- Adeiny brings stellar defense to the table. Rob Brantly will get his shot at the team's opening day catcher -- What?! Not Jeff Mathis and his career .198 batting average? I'm shocked.

Ricky Nolasco will be the "ace" of the Marlins' staff, but can you really call a guy an ace when he has a lifetime 4.49 ERA? His WHIP's of 1.37 & 1.40 the last two years also should be a concern as well. Henderson Alvarez will be the #2 (if you want to call him that), he had a 9-14 record, 4.85 ERA & 1.44 WHIP in Toronto last season. Kevin Slowey who missed all of 2012 is projected to be the third starter. Nate Eovaldi, was the big part acquired in the Hanley Ramirez trade last season, he is 23 and has some potential, he struggled in his 12 starts for Miami, 3-7 with a 4.30 ERA (1.51 WHIP). Wade LeBlanc will be in the #5 spot, he was used as a spot starter/mostly reliever in 2012, out of the bunch he had the best ERA last season (3.67). Jacob Turner has the biggest potential (Tiger fans will regret the Sanchez trade in the long run), he posted promising numbers for the Marlins in 2012: A 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP & 29 K's with 9 BB's during 42.2 innings (7 starts) -- but struggled during spring training (not making the opening day roster), but I question why not just put him in a rotation that's loaded with WHIPs of 1.44 or so, seriously? He's only going to get better, if you give him the chance.

Steve Cishek will open the Marlins' season as the team's closer, he had a 2.69 ERA with 15 saves after the Marlins got tired of Heath Bell's inconsistency. Jon Rauch is the team's setup man, he has not posted an ERA lower than 3.12 in the last seven years, he could be the closer if Cishek stumbles. Mike Dunn has strikeout power with 147 K's in 130 career innings, but he also has a career WHIP of 1.54 (really bad for bullpen stuff), his best season was in 2011 (3.43 ERA & 1.30 WHIP in 63 IP). From 2004 through 2009, Chad Qualls was a consistent bullpen force for the Astros & D-Backs -- from 2010 on he's been an absolute mess (not to mention 6 teams, the last three seasons)! A.J. Ramos might be the darkhorse as the club's future closer, he has posted excellent numbers in the minors & has looked good this spring.

Best Move: Hiring Mike Redmond as the manager, he had a really good reputation in the Toronto organization, he's a recognizable face to the few Marlins fans that remember him as a player. You can also guarantee, no Fidel Castro remarks coming as well.

Worst Move: 2012 Season in it's entirety, no real losses in the off-season, yet no real additions.

Best Possible Outcome: Fourth place, if the youth clicks & shows promise -- the Mets are capable of making a mess of things. Players might be excited to make a name for themselves, when there's no pressure & everyone expects the team to be a joke -- the Marlins have surprised in the past during these rebuilding processes, showing improvement quicker than expected.

Worst Possible Outcome: Nothing is expected of their starting pitching, unless Ricky Nolasco pitches like his lone good season of 2008 & Justin Turner takes advantage of his opportunity in 2013 -- even so, opponents are going to run around the bases as if it's a Merry-Go Round. Last place as expected, and fans continuing to avoid the new stadium as if it's carrying the Black Plague.

David Wright won't have much to smile about in a long 2013.


Do you get the feeling that David Wright feels like he's on a deserted island? or if he is the island on the Mets that is surrounded by a million question marks? Welcome, it's another season of Mets baseball! David Wright is coming off his best season since 1998, and will try to lead the Mets once again, where to? Who knows?

The supporting cast of misfits begins with Ike Davis coming off a career low batting average (.227), despite a career high 32 HR's -- there is question, if injuries was a reason for his sluggish start to last season, the Mets would love to see the 2010 version of Davis in 2013. The second baseman Daniel Murphy, is being paid for his bat, certainly not his glove; yet posted a career low OPS (.735) during 2012, the good news is he's a career .292 hitter in 1,601 career at-bats. To round out the infield, is the 23-year-old shortstop Ruben Tejada, he virtually has no power, 2 career HR's in almost two seasons of actual play, with decent average (.271) & gets on base (.336) which will generate some runs, if the Mets' bats can get him in. Omar Quintanilla will be depended on to backup Tejada possibly. Marlon Byrd (age 35) will get a shot at starting in right, after his 2012 disaster of a season, he seemed to have peeked between the 2007 & 2010 seasons; in which he posted a OPS as high as .842 in 2008, while hitting a career high 20 HR's in 2009 (both for the Rangers). When you first glance at CF- Kirk Nieuwenhuis' profile pics for fantasy baseball, he looks like a blonde, shaggy Lenny Dykstra -- let's don't get confused, he's anything but; he shows he's got a some pop with 7 HR's in 282 rookie at-bats, but had an average .316 on-base percentage (Definitely, no Dykstra!). Lucas Duda got Mets fans excited after his 2011 season, and then dropped in pretty-much every category drastically in 2012. Sure his HR's (by 5) went up & he got 7 more RBI -- but his strikeouts more than doubled! John Buck has only batted .213, since his All-Star appearance in 2010.

Jonathan Niese quietly put together a pretty good season for the Mets in 2012, of course no one really noticed outside of New York; 13-9, 3.40 ERA & 1.17 WHIP, while striking out 155 in 190.1 innings -- plus he's only 26. Johan Santana is the ace, when he's healthy, those are the key words; missing all of 2011 & pitched in only 117 innings for a lousy record of 6-9, 4.85 ERA -- in fact the last time he pitched over 200 innings was during his 2008 campaign. The Mets signed Shaun Marcum, back in January, hoping they see more of the healthy, consistent Marcum that appeared between 2008-2011. Dillon Gee has a career 4.06 ERA & 1.31 WHIP, he showed signs of progress until a blood clot in his right shoulder derailed his season in 2012. The Mets can get excited about Matt Harvey, who sported a low WHIP & fine ERA of 2.73 during 10 starts at the end of the season -- he also posted 70 K's in 59.1 innings. Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey will serve as spot starters or part of the rotation, depending on injuries -- which these are the Mets & you can count on that.

The closer role seems to fit Bobby Parnell, who had 7 Saves with a 2.49 ERA last season, he is also coming off a promising spring that will keep him in his role. Frank Francisco, the former closer, had the worst season of his MLB career with a 5.53 ERA during 42.1 innings. It's amazing to me that ancient LaTroy Hawkins managed to play until age 40, despite a career ERA of 4.45! Brandon Lyon was signed as an insurance policy in case Parnell & Francisco fails, has 79 career Saves -- had one of his better seasons with a 3.10 ERA & 1.25 WHIP, with 63 K's & 20 BB's in 61 innings with Houston & Toronto during 2012.
Scott Atchinson had his best season at age 37, he posted a 1.58 ERA & 0.99 WHIP (his previous lows was a 3.26 ERA & 1.20 WHIP) during 51.1 innings for Boston. Young Robert Carson & Josh Edgin will get some playing time in 2013.

Utley, Rollins & Howard are hoping to return Phillies to the glory days.


What a whirlwind of a season for Phillie fans, for a long time they appeared dead in the water, and then late in the season, they were suddenly alive in the wild card hunt, until fading off. The teams fortunes have faded from it's 2008 World Championship & being the most feared team in Baseball entering 2009 (think Sports Illustrated cover - MLB Preview) with that ridiculous rotation that never quite lived up to the hype. The injuries mounted up (Utley, Howard & Polanco) to name a few, while the team started showing cracks in a group that basically owned the division from 2007-2011. Players such as Jimmy Rollins, have already made comments to the press & are making it a mission to show that they are still the team to beat in 2013. I respect that attitude & motivation, but if you can't keep your team on the field, it's going to be difficult to watch it all play out.

Ryan Howard finished strong with 46 RBI's in his last 47 games, his .216 avg, .295 OBP & .718 OPS's may be career lows (only had 260 AB's)-- but was obviously effected by the gruesome injury he was still recovering from. I expect Howard to be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, and at least get back towards 500 season at-bats; he has a career .364 OBP & .915 OPS -- but has shown troubling signs against lefties of late. Chase Utley has logged only 301 games over the past three seasons due to troublesome knees & like Howard is starting to slip against lefties; and if you compare his last three years during his peak three years from 2007-2009, there is a stark difference -- Phils will be happy with somewhere in the middle of all that. The topic of trends continues with Jimmy Rollins, between 2004 and 2008, Rollins batted no lower than .277 & no higher than .296; during the stretch since 2009, Rollins has batted no higher than .268 & had a career .296 on-base percentage during 2009 (His OPS's & WAR's are noticeably lower as well) -- the good news? He posted 23 HR's, the most since his 2007 MVP season. I love the addition of Micheal Young, despite his obvious power decline (which is expected when you are 36) in HR's & OPS -- but he has consistently been healthy (The Phils need healthy) & is a career .301 hitter who gets on base nearly 35% of the time, he'll play at the hot corner. Kevin Frandsen will backup Young & most likely Utley, he posted his best numbers of his career in brief appearances last season. The outfield is a bit of a mess, trying to figure out who's going to be their everyday starters, gone are the days of Victorino & Werth! Note to John Mayberry, Jr. -- your time is running out, posted only a .301 OBP & 46 RBI's during 441 at-bats, while his OPS slipped from .854 to .696; he needs to show the flashes he has shown up through 2011, but with other possible outfielders such as Nix & Ruf emerging, playing time is no longer a guarantee. Dominic Brown will start in RF, he had a wonderful spring & will try to keep the momentum going by the time Delmon Young returns from the D.L. in which he'll likely play LF. It'll be interesting to see which Delmon Young, the Phillie fans will get. Darin Ruf won the Double-A Eastern League MVP Award in 2012 with his 1.028 OPS, he topped that OPS with a 1.078 during his 33 MLB at-bats, that included a .333 AVG, 3 HR's & 10 RBI. Layne Nix batted .347 during his first 17 games of the season, before injuries started to surface. Ben Revere is most likely the CF, who stole 79 bases the last two seasons while batting .278. Behind the plate will be "Chooch", Carlos Ruiz, who had a career year; .325, 16 HR, 68 RBI & .935 OPS during 372 at-bats last season.

After dominating stuff the four previous seasons, Roy Halladay hit the walls in 2012, logging only 156 innings & 25 starts; his ERA (4.49) ballooned two plus points, while he duplicated his walks totals to previous healthy years -- yet his 1.22 WHIP is really nothing to frown at, considering he was going through injuries; overall I believe he will rebound to his usual self, than against the injury bug seems to be infectious in Philly. Cliff Lee's six victories are one of those weird things, that make you shake your head & say "WHAT"?, in fact according to a source on ESPN, of all the 379 cases in MLB history in which a pitcher managed at least 200 K's, 3.25 (or lower) ERA & 1.25 WHIP -- no pitcher had fewer wins than Lee's six. He has been a consistent force since winning the A.L. Cy Young in 2008. Cole Hamels is slated to be the # 3 starter, most teams would die for this situation, to have three legitimate aces for your top 3 spots in the rotation; posted a career high with 216 strikeouts & has a career 3.34 ERA. I like the pickup of John Lannan, this guy at one time was a stable starter in the Nats' rotation -- his career 1.42 WHIP is a bit of a concern, to add to the fact he'll be in hitters-friendly Citizens Bank Park. I personally believe if Kyle Kendrick can be kept in the rotation full-time, instead of all the bouncing back to bullpen & spot starting, that he would benefit more from it; his last two seasons are his best WAR years & his WHIP is considerably lower during these years compared from 2008 to 2010.

Remember all those people that were freaking out about Jonathan Papelbon's "disaster" of a 2010 season? Yeah, I remember that too... how silly! Considering that 2010 (which he still had 37 Saves) was really his only smudge on his career so far, he has been his consistent usual self, with 257 career saves at age 32 -- now if we can only do something about his WWE celebration antics when he closes a game out. Mike Adams should have no problem at Citizens Bank Ballpark since he did pretty good in hitter-friendly Arlington -- he is one of the best setup men in all of baseball, and will continue to be that for the Phils. The Phillies will be in business if they get the 2011 edition of Antonio Bastardo, he'll certainly bring the heat with his 196 K's in 152.1 innings. Michael Stutes returns in 2013, after a 2012 was basically wiped out due to a shoulder injury -- showed lots of promise in 2011. Phillippe Aumont, a prospect actually acquired from the Mariners for Cliff Lee, had 14 K's & 9 BB's in 14.2 innings, he just needs to manage his control. The Phillies also have a young left-handed specialist in Jeremy Horst, posted a 1.15 ERA & 1.12 WHIP in 31.1 innings.

Breaking the down the Phillies in the N.L. East, was tough considering that injuries will most likely play a factor in the lineup for the most part -- their experienced rotation is better than Atlanta's young rotation, full of potential. The bullpen is not as strong as Atlanta's, but has the potential to be just as good. The edge would have to go to the young Braves lineup, who will likely be able to field a team, in which with Philadelphia (and it's injuries) will be fielding many different lineups throughout the season.

Best Move: Mike Adams and Michael Young, two guys with playoff experience that will be added to a bundle of playoff experiences.

Worst Move: Not adding some meat to that outfield

Best Possible Outcome: N.L. East Champs that will open the door for more possibilities for post-season success that could lead a return to the top.

Worst Possible Outcome: Third Place, the Mets & Marlins are on a far different level that of Washington, Philly & Atlanta. Even with all the injuries in the world can't have the Phillies doing worse than those two!

Nationals' Treasures: Bryce Harper & Stephen Strasburg.


The Nationals went from darkhorse to division champs overnight, and now that they reached the top of the division; the combination of their youth led by phenoms Bryce Harper & Stephen Strasburg, and a skipper with a world of experience in Davey Johnson, the Nationals are the unquestionable favorites in the N.L. East. They added pieces to the lineup & rotation in the off-season that will only improve the team's chances.

The sky is the limit for Bryce Harper, he posted an impressive .817 OPS at age 19, and has accomplished things before many Hall of Famers have done by his age. He batted .270 with 20 HR's & 18 steals, while having a .340 OBP -- Johnson is the perfect manager for this kid. Ian Desmond proved to have the best season among shortstops in 2012, while batting .292, 25 HR's & 73 RBI's (all career highs); Desmond also stole 21 bases. Danny Espinoza's power numbers slipped just a tad bit, from 21 HR's to 17 HR's, while his OPS dipped to .717 from .737, he doesn't appear a guy who will ever hit for average (.239 career hitter). Ryan Zimmerman is still the team captain, and still knocked in 25 HR's & 95 RBI's while dealing with injuries at age 28. For Adam LaRoche, 2012 was definitely his best season since 2006, in which he hit a career high 33 HR's & matched his previous career high of 100 RBI; he won a Silver Slugger & Gold Glove as well. Jayson Werth may not be putting up the numbers he had in Philadelphia, but that doesn't mean he's not making an impact -- he is also dealing with recovering from a wrist fracture. I love the move of the Nats acquiring Denard Span from Minnesota, giving the team a much-needed, true leadoff hitter. Kurt Suzuki will likely start the season behind the plate as young Wilson Ramos (only 25) is nursing back his ACL; they both should get some quality time. The Nats have good pieces on the bench, which is not a surprise considering who's managing this ballclub; they have Tyler Moore (10 HR's in only 156 AB's), valuable Roger Bernadina (.291 AVG & .777 OPS in 227 AB's) who brings good glove, 2012 pinch-hit extraordinaire Chad Tracy & infield depth Steve Lombardozzi.

Stephen Strasburg came back with a vengeance in 2012, for his first "full" season (depending on who you ask) with a 15-6 record, 3.16 ERA & 197 K's in 159.1 innings -- before the controversial shutdown, that didn't allow him to enjoy his post-season cake, he very much deserved! Gio Gonzalez is another ace type, who also was a fantasy stud with a 21-8 record, 2.89 ERA & 207 K's in 199.1 innings. I think adding Dan Haren is going to be a huge move, besides his dismal 2010 half with Arizona, Haren's successful 2008 & 2009 seasons in the National League seem to reflect he should stay there. Jordan Zimmermann pitched an excellent 2012 season, in which he went 12-8, 2.94 ERA & 1.17 WHIP, while striking out 153 batters; plus I just want to point out, he's only 26 years-old. Ross Detwiler finishes off the top 5, being arguably one of the best #5 starters in all of baseball -- 3.40 ERA & 1.22 WHIP & 105 K's in 164.1 innings.

Rafael Soriano has been handed the closer job, with a somewhat pricey contract -- he saved 42 games to fill in as Mariano Rivera's replacement in New York. Drew Storen was the closer at season's end, with 4 saves, and was doing pretty good for his half-season (first half, he was injured) until Game 5 of the NLDS. Tyler Clippard returns for his natural setup role, where he seems to excel, he started the 2012 season as the closer, in which he finished the season with 32 Saves; while having 393 K's & 1.15 WHIP during 349.2 career innings. Craig Stammen is coming off 88.1 innings of solid relief, the Nats would love to see if he can repeat last season's performance, he had a 6-1 record, 2.34 ERA, 1.20 WHIP & 87 K's; his career ERA is 4.25 though. Ryan Mattheus has a career ERA of 2.84 & 1.19 WHIP during 98.1 innings. Former starter, former Pirate Zach Duke was pretty solid during his 13.2 innings of relief in 2012.

Best Move: Dan Haren was a great addition, but I feel Denard Span was the better move of the two -- got to see a lot of Span, the last few years for Minnesota (being a Tigers fan) & there's a lot to like in what he brings to this lineup.

Worst Move: Possibly trading away Michael Morse away, but they brought in a few prospects -- plus Morse is one of those late bloomers that lasts only a few years, so the Nats might know something that we don't -- with the way the organization has been pulling off one good move after another, it's hard to argue with their recent track record.

Best Possibilities: A World Championship, it's there for them to make a serious run -- I feel they are not only the team to beat in this division, but in the entire National League.

Worse Possibilities: The youth hit the wall, and over-confidence leads to the team underachieving -- missing the playoffs & finishing as bad as third place, I just don't see Davey Johnson allowing that to happen though.

1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins

* - Wild Card Team

NEXT: The National League Central

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