Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pre-Pre-Season Predictions: NL East

This is the second in a series of posts on very early predictions for the 2007 season. This post will be an early look at the NL East. For a look at the previous post covering the NL West, click here.

National League East

Atlanta Braves
Projected Rotation
1.) John Smoltz
2.) Tim Hudson
3.) Kyle Davies
4.) Mike Hampton
5.) Chuck James

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Bob Wickman
2.) Macay McBride
3.) Rafael Soriano
4.) Tyler Yates
5.) Oscar Villarreal

Position Players
C - Brian McCann
1B - Adam LaRoche
2B - Martin Prado / Pete Orr
3B - Chipper Jones
SS - Edgar Renteria
LF - Ryan Langerhans
CF - Andruw Jones
RF - Jeff Francoeur

The Braves rotation is solid at the top end with Smoltz and Hudson, but falls off quickly after that. Hampton didn't pitch in 2006, so he has to be considered a question mark. Kyle Davies and Chuck James aren't exactly established major league options, either. If the Braves are going to return to the post-season, they're going to need to find a few diamonds in the rough for their pitching staff.

The bullpen is actually pretty solid, anchored by Wickman and with a young supporting staff behind him. One of the things the Braves tend to do well is develop young relief pitching, and they should continue to do well in this department this year.

This could be Andruw Jones last year as a Brave, and they'll be hoping for solid production from him and Chipper yet again this year. Jeff Francoeur has shown flashes of being a very solid player, but ended up hitting just .260 last year - his 29 homeruns are nice, however. There will be a battle for 2B between Prado and Orr. While Prado is listed as higher on the depth chart, it doesn't seem like a sure thing that he'll win the job; Orr is more proven as a major league player, but also seems more suited to be a backup than a starter.

Florida Marlins
Projected Rotation

1.) Dontrelle Willis
2.) Scott Olsen
3.) Josh Johnson
4.) Anibel Sanchez
5.) Ricky Nolasco

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Taylor Tankersley
2.) Sergio Mitre
3.) Renyel Pinto
4.) Randy Messenger
5.) Yusmeiro Petit

Position Players
C - Miguel Olivo
1B - Mike Jacobs
2B - Dan Uggla
3B - Miguel Cabrera
SS - Hanley Ramirez
LF - Josh Willingham
CF - Alfredo Amezaga
RF - Jeremy Hermida

Just like last year, this is a young, exciting team. It's unfortunate that the club felt the need to part with Joe Girardi, because he had this group playing spectacularly for him. Hopefully, they continue to play well for Fredi Gonzalez. The starting rotation is pretty darn solid, led of course by Dontrelle Willis (for now, anyway). If they continue pitching to their potential, the Marlins will be in a lot of games late.

The bullpen is weaker than the rotation. Joe Borowski, last year's closer, is gone - and for now it looks like Taylor Tankersley is going to be given a chance to close. I would expect the position to be up for grabs in spring training. In fact, I would expect the composition of the entire bullpen to be up for grabs. There are a lot of talented young pitchers in this organization, so if they get a few guys to step up, the 'pen shouldn't let them down too seriously.

As with the rest of the team, the position players are young but exciting. Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, and Hanley Ramirez are all potential stars (to join Miguel Cabrera). Josh Willingham will probably phase out the dual outfielder/catcher role that he was filling last year and settle in as primarily an outfielder this year. Jeremy Hermida had a disappointing year last year (for a guy with such promise), but could click at any time. If he does, he should be a power guy who hits for a decent average. Overall, the Marlins are a solid young team that could be interesting to follow in 2007 - but they played so far over their heads last year that it may be asking too much for them to take another great leap forward this year.

New York Mets
Projected Rotation

1.) Tom Glavine
2.) Orlando Hernandez
3.) John Maine
4.) Oliver Perez
5.) Jason Vargas / Pedro Martinez

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Billy Wagner
2.) Aaron Heilman
3.) Guillermo Mota
4.) Pedro Feliciano
5.) Duaner Sanchez

Position Players
C - Paul Lo Duca
1B - Carlos Delgado
2B - Jose Valentin
3B - David Wright
SS - Jose Reyes
LF - Moises Alou
CF - Carlos Beltran
RF - Shawn Green

The biggest question with the starting rotation is how long it will take Pedro Martinez to get healthy and contribute to the team. Recent reports suggest that he's healing more quickly than the Mets had originally thought, but he and the team are going to take it easy and avoid rushing him back. The rest of the rotation is either old or questionable, and will be the shakiest part of the team this year until and unless Martinez returns, quickly and effectively.

The bullpen is solid, let by Wagner and with some great pitchers like Heilman and Feliciano. Duaner Sanchez was also having a very solid season until he was injured in July, and hopefully will return healthy this season. Meanwhile, Guillermo Mota (who has put up some solid numbers in the past) will miss the first 50 games of the 2007 season after being suspended for failing a drug test. Whether he'll be the same pitcher when he returns is unknown.

The lineup is one of the best in baseball, what with Beltran, Wright, and Delgado being joined this year by Moises Alou, with the table being set by Jose Reyes. Provided that they stay healthy, they will score a lot of runs and win a lot of games.

Philadelphia Phillies
Projected Rotation

1.) Freddy Garcia
2.) Brett Myers
3.) Cole Hamels
4.) Adam Eaton / Jon Lieber
5.) Jamie Moyer

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Tom Gordon
2.) Ryan Madson
3.) Geoff Geary
4.) Fabio Castro
5.) Clay Condrey

Position Players
C - Rod Barajas
1B - Ryan Howard
2B - Chase Utley
3B - Wes Helms
SS - Jimmy Rollins
LF - Pat Burrell
CF - Aaron Rowand
RF - Shane Victorino

The Phillies rotation is pretty solid, especially with the addition of Freddy Garcia. Jon Lieber has been mentioned as probable trade bait throughout the winter, and he would seem to be the odd-man out at this point. Cole Hamels had a good debut season in 2006, and should improve in 2007.

The bullpen is led by Tom Gordon, but gets a little suspect after that. Madson is an emergency starter when needed, but his 5.69 ERA last season was gaudy. Geoff Geary had a breakthrough season, pitching in 81 games with a 7-1 record and an ERA under 3.00. If the bullpen is solid, the Phillies should hang in most games.

The lineup isn't bad - no lineup with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in it could be - but it also isn't going to overwhelm anybody. They should hit enough to stay in games. I'll be watching to see whether Pat Burrell is traded, and if Shane Victorino can hold down the job in Right.

Washington Nationals
Projected Rotation

1.) John Patterson
2.) Jerome Williams
3.) Tim Redding
4.) Michael O'Connor
5.) Shawn Hill

Top 5 Bullpen
Closer - Chad Cordero
2.) Jon Rauch
3.) Emiliano Fruto
4.) Saul Rivera
5.) Micah Bowie

Position Players
C - Brian Schneider
1B - Nick Johnson
2B - Felipe Lopez
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
SS - Cristian Guzman
LF - Kevin Casto / Alex Escobar
CF - Nook Logan / Ryan Church
RF - Austin Kearns

Yikes. If you want to be horrified, head to the Washington Nationals depth chart and click on the starting pitchers. This team is going to struggle mightily, and unlike the Marlins there isn't a lot of hope in the pitchers they'll be running through the mill. When John Patterson is your "ace," there isn't a lot to look forward to.

The bullpen is lead by Chad Cordero, but after that things fall apart, just like the rotation. Jon Rauch had a good 2006, pitching completely out of the bullpen. There will be a lot of competition this spring (and, honestly, during the season) to determine the exact composition of this bullpen.

Outside of Ryan Zimmerman (a potential star), and Austin Kearns (who could still be rehabilitated into something close to a star), the Nationals are composed of a lot of space-fillers. Nick Johnson is a good player, but he isn't getting any younger and probably will never be more than an average first baseman. Cristian Guzman will return this year, but based on his performance in 2005, is that really a good thing for the Nats? The competitions in Left and Center also are unlikely to be won by guys who will be there long-term. If you're a Nationals fan, I'd say wait 'til next year - but that may be a little optimistic.

1.) New York Mets - 96-66
2.) Philadelphia Phillies - 90-72
3.) Florida Marlins - 85-77
4.) Atlanta Braves - 77-85
5.) Washington Nationals - 65-97

Even if the Mets have a little trouble with their starting pitching, the team should be good enough to win the division. The Phillies will contend, especially if they get some good seasons from some of their key hitters. I'd like to see the Marlins gell this year under Fredi Gonzalez, and it could happen - the talent is definitely there, and if everything clicked (and the Mets struggled), they could contend. The Braves don't strike me as a very solid team - it's going to take awhile to reload. As for the Nationals - well, they're just plain bad. It's going to take them more than "awhile" to reload - it's going to take them years.



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