By Lauren Woode
Follow her on Twitter: @LaurenIsLive
The top of the National League East division had some of the more interesting matchups last year and 2013 will be no different. I believe the Atlanta Braves will edge out the Nationals to win the division. They are a stronger and more experienced team from top to bottom this year. The biggest change for the Braves will be more power in the lineup. The other teams in the NL East will be hard pressed to create as many runs as this young, talented team is capable of putting up every night. With the addition of the Upton Brothers, the offense and defense will scarcely miss Michael Bourn. Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, and former Diamondback, Chris Johnson, should hit well. Johnson will split time at third base with Juan Francisco to fill the void of, future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones.
Atlanta’s pitching staff, led by veteran Tim Hudson, will only be better after tasting defeat late in 2012. Young starting pitchers, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor will progress this season along with talented newbie Julio Teheran, who has looked amazing in spring training. Craig Kimbrel will close and although Jonny Venters could possibly have a serious injury at the moment, the rest of the bullpen will get Kimbrel safely to the ninth.
I have the Washington Nationals coming in second to the Braves, flipping last year’s division standings. The Nats added Denard Span to the outfield and the lead off position. He should help Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman produce more runs, but the Nats need more power at the plate. Beyond Strasburg and Gonzalez, I don’t see the rest of the starting rotation being lights out. The team did acquire Rafael Soriano from the Yankees, who is a definite upgrade to close in the pen. Overall, I see them slumping a bit compared to last season.
I almost picked the Philadelphia Phillies to come in second, but I think Hamels, Halladay and Lee will struggle this season and land the team in third place again. They are older and hitters are catching up to their pitches. Michael Young was a great veteran addition to the lineup and the clubhouse in the offseason along with Ben Revere in the outfield. Both men should contribute at the plate. Jimmie Rollins looked great in the World Baseball Classic and Domonic Brown had a good spring season at the plate and in the field. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back healthy at the start of this season, I think the Phillies will fight hard to move up in the standings with their bats. I just don’t think the pitching will hold up as the season wears on.
David Wright and the New York Mets will take fourth place in 2013. The team is basically David Wright…and a bunch of other guys who play baseball. They got rid of R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana is done, unfortunately. I guess they are rebuilding, but they haven’t been relevant for a while. I love Captain America, but he can’t play all the positions on the field at the same time. Better luck next year.
And now we come to the laughing stock of Major League Baseball, last and least, the Florida Marlins. What a disaster. The organization is a complete mess. The best baseball played in Marlins Park this year will have been during the WBC. I’m normally not this negative on the blog, however I get pissed off when owners are defensive and dismissive of reporters and fans questioning their organization. Marlins owner, Jeffrey Loria, did just that earlier this year when he was asked why he parted with players not even a full year into their contracts. With his arms crossed and occasionally behind his back, he was adamant that the moves weren’t about the money, but then stated that having most of the payroll tied up with a few players was a model that did not work. The organization is going back to building the team from their minor league system. Sounds like money to me and the owners will be eating a lot of it when the fans don’t show up to the ballpark again this year.
The NL East wraps up my MLB division standings predictions. I’ll guess wild cards after I see how wrong my initial predictions were later in the season! Thanks for reading and I hope you baseball fans are ready for Opening Day!