National League East preview: Nats look to build off strong 2012 season
The National League East is loaded with pitching talent and should be a very competitive division again in 2013.
The Washington Nationals added Rafael Soriano to an already stacked bullpen in the offseason and the Braves added a pair of Uptons to their outfield to keep pace. But not every team was stocking up over the winter. The Marlins shipped half of their roster to Toronto and the Mets parted ways with reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Atlanta Braves (2012: 94-68 - +17.51 units, 67-88-7 over/under)
Division odds: 7/4
Season win total: 87.5
Why bet the Braves: There weren't many pitchers better than Kris Medlen towards the end of last season when he went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts once he joined the starting rotation. Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the National League with excellent control, walking just 14 batters in 62.2 innings of work last year. He is backed by lefties Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters. The batting lineup added the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin, who will make this lineup deeper and harder to navigate for opponents.
Why not bet the Braves: There are some question marks in the pitching rotation. Tim Hudson is getting older and Paul Maholm can be inconsistent. The Uptons were made available by their respective teams because they didn't live up to their potential. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla had career-low batting averages last season with health being an issue for the catcher. Freddie Freeman also saw a dip in his batting average.
Season win total pick: Under 87.5
Miami Marlins (2012: 69-93 - -24.71, 73-75-14 over/under)
Division odds: 100/1
Season win total: 63.5
Why bet the Marlins: Eventually the youngsters on this team will get better and play up to their expectations. Giancarlo Stanton is a fantastic hitter who will send home runs into the stands if opposing pitchers aren't careful. Steve Cishek only blew one save as a closer last season.
Why not bet the Marlins: The rotation is a joke, led by Ricky Nolasco who isn't ace material. He is backed by Henderson Alvarez who struggled and gave up 216 hits last year with the Blue Jays. Rounding out the rotation is Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, and maybe Wade LeBlanc among others. Stanton has no protection in the batting lineup and will get frustrated at the lack of quality pitches he receives due to the lack of runners on base in front of him. Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco would be good additions to a team in 2000...not 2013.
Season win total pick: Under 63.5
New York Mets (2012: 74-88 - -12.25 units, 82-72-8 over/under)
Division odds: 13/1
Season win total: 75
Why bet the Mets: They get to play 18 games against a terrible Marlins squad. David Wright is building good momentum from his stellar WBC play. Johan
Santana can be dominant when healthy. Jon Niese had a 3.40 ERA last season and will be tough on hitters. Matt Harvey is here for a whole season after striking out 70 hitters in just under 60 innings of work last year.
Why not bet the Mets: Their bullpen is still pretty bad. Frank Francisco had an awful 5.53 ERA in 48 relief appearances last season and he’s backed by multiple no-name pitchers who struggled in the bullpen last year. The rest of the offensive lineup outside of David Wright will need to step up. Johan Santana's health is an issue as he continues to battle a shoulder problem and has made only 21 starts the past two seasons. Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner, and Collin McHugh are all below average and competing for the back end of the pitching rotation.
Season win total pick: Under 75
Philadelphia Phillies (2012: 81-81 - -16.0 units, 83-73-6 over/under)
Division odds: 15/4
Season win total: 84
Why bet the Phillies: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will hopefully have full seasons for Philadelphia and be eager to prove last year was a fluke. Ben Revere was a nice pickup to replace Shane Victorino in the lineup. Michael Young brings a solid veteran presence to the team as well. The rotation still features Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. Mike Adams will be a good setup man for Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen.
Why not bet the Phillies: The bottom of the starting rotation is suspect with John Lannan and Kyle Kendrick. There is some concern about Halladay's velocity which was down in spring training. Howard and Utley are injury-prone and might once again miss games. They will be without Carlos Ruiz for the first 25 games due to a drug suspension. Domonic Brown and John Mayberry will play the other two outfield spots and both players are mediocre at best.
Season win total pick: Over 84
Washington Nationals (2012: 98-64 - +24.21 units, 79-73-10 over/under)
Division odds: 10/11
Season win total: 92
Why bet the Nationals: The top of the batting order is now stronger with the addition of Denard Span as the leadoff hitter. Bryce Harper should continue to improve after hitting 22 home runs as a 19-year-old rookie last year. The pitching rotation will have Stephen Strasburg all season long and he's backed by Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. The already deep bullpen added Rafael Soriano who will close games. If he struggles, they have Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to back him up.
Why not bet the Nationals: Can Adam LaRoche continue his hot play? Will Ryan Zimmerman stay healthy? The catcher position is weak with Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. Dan Haren came over to be the fourth starter, but he threw a ton of pitches and showed some wear and tear last year with a 4.33 ERA with the Angels. The bullpen has talent, but will everyone get along and mesh into their roles?
Season win total pick: Under 92