2010 MLB Preview: NL East

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL East.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (2)
Much like the Yankees in the American League, it’s hard to find bad things to say about the Phillies. They’re the three-time defending NL East champions and considering they’re ready to bring back the same core of players that got them to the World Series the past two years, there’s no reason to doubt them. Oh, and they added Roy Halladay. Roy, I’m going to dominate your face for nine innings, Halladay. If Cole Hamels rebounds and J.A. Happ’s 2009 wasn’t a fluke, the Phillies won’t suffer a setback this season. In fact, the pitching doesn’t even have to be that great with the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez taking up the first six spots in the order. The problem, however, is that Hamels might not bounce back and Happ’s ’09 season may have been a fluke. There’s also that nagging Brad Lidge closer issue that could haunt this club as well. That said, odds are that the Fighting Phils will be right back at the top of the NL East again this season. They’re too good, too talented and too experienced to fold and they have a great chance to reclaim their title back from the Yankees.

2. Atlanta Braves (11)
A lot of pundits are high on the Braves this year – and for good reason. In Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, their starting rotation is one of the best in the National League. Atlanta has the starting pitching to go toe to toe with the Phillies in the division, but the real question is whether or not they have enough offense. Top prospect Jason Heyward looks as good as advertised, but if he’s not ready to produce then Atlanta’s corner outfield situation is questionable at best. This club has a nice blend of young and veteran hitters, including Heyward, Brian McCann, Nate McLouth, Chipper Jones, Yunel Escobar, Martin Prado and Troy Glaus, but they’re one or two big injuries away from falling to the middle of the pack in the National League. This club has more than enough talent to push the Phillies in the division and as of now, are the early favorites to win the NL Wild Card. But players like Jones, Glaus and Billy Wagner have to stay healthy and produce or else the Braves will fail to live up to expectations this season.

3. Florida Marlins (18)

The Marlins are usually pretty easy to project nowadays. They’re always slightly better than what you think they’ll be, but just not as good to rank ahead of some of the more talented teams in the National League. Hanley Ramirez continues to be one of the best players in the game and his supporting cast (Josh Johnson, Chris Coghlan, Dan Uggla and Ricky Nolasco) isn’t bad either. In fact, Ramirez and Johnson are reason alone to go to the ballpark on a weekly basis. But unless players like Cameron Maybin, Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio (who was confused for Ricky Henderson for about three games at the start of last season) and prospect Logan Morrison produce, then the Marlins will fall to the middle of the pack this year in the NL. Still, while they’re not as talented as the Mets, over the last seven years they’ve won more games and have spent nearly $600 million less over that span. For whatever reason, Florida always finds a way to be competitive with their young roster and while I don’t think they have enough to succeed in the end, I wouldn’t be shocked if they made a run at the Wild Card again like they did last year.

4. New York Mets (20)
If I were a Mets fan, I would have tried to take a bath with one of my kitchen appliances by now. I don’t mean any disrespect – I’m just concerned with their well being after watching this team underachieve over and over and over again. Every year this club has talent and every year they find a way – whether it be through poor managing, injuries or what have you – to screw it up. The Mets have enough star power in David Wright, Jose Reyes (when healthy), Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran to succeed, but bad luck, incompetence in the front office and poor fundamental play always sinks this club. Then again, bad luck won’t have anything to do with why the Mets will fail this year. Simply put, they don’t have enough starting pitching to succeed. There’s no guarantee that Santana will be 100% all season and after him, the rest of the rotation is under whelming to say the least. Sorry Met fans, but the torture looks like it’ll continue for at least another year.

5. Washington Nationals (29)
There are plenty of people high on the Nationals this season, but I’m having a hard time taking a leap of faith. I realize the additions of Jason Marquis, Brian Bruney, Matt Capps and Ivan Rodriguez filled needs, but let’s not confuse these players with Catfish Hunter, Johnny Sain, Dennis Eckersley and, well, Ivan Rodriguez in their primes. I think this club has improved, but some publications believe they’ll finish third in the division and I just don’t see it. Stephen Strasburg isn’t quite ready to save the day yet and therefore the rotation is still similar to the one that allowed 874 runs last year. Marquis should help, but the end of the rotation is scary and Capps might be the only reliever that winds up with a sub 4.00 ERA by the end of the year. While there is hope on the horizon in the form of Strasburg, the Nats just don’t have enough overall talent to get out of the basement of the NL East.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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