Capital Gain: NL East Preview

Bryce Harper and the Nationals look to rebound after a sub-par 2013 season.

Bryce Harper and the Nationals look to rebound after a sub-par 2013 season.

By: Travis Thayer

1. Washington Nationals (100-62)

Projected Rotation: 1. Stephen Strasburg, 2. Gio Gonzalez, 3. Jordan Zimmerman, 4. Doug Fister, 5. Ross Detwiler 

Key Relievers: Rafeal Soriano, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Jerry Blevins, Craig Stammen

Projected Lineup
1. CF Denard Span
2. 3B Ryan Zimmerman
3. LF Bryce Harper
4. RF Jayson Werth
5. SS Ian Desmond
6. 1B Adam LaRoche
7. 2B Anthony Rendon
8. C Wilson Ramos

Top Prospects: RHP A.J. Cole, RHP Lucas Giolito, OF Brian Goodwin

Pitching wins championships, and the Nationals may just have the best rotation in the MLB.  The Nats added Doug Fister in the offseason, and he is slotted to be the fourth pitcher in the rotation.  Fister was 14-9 last season with the Tigers, and he was an innings eater, producing 208 innings pitched.  Add that to a rotation that already contains Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmeran – and you have a championship on paper.  The Nationals hope is that all the above stay healthy, and pitch to their potential.  The Nats starters will be golden if they can just get to the seventh inning, where their strong bullpen can take over and close the door.  Strong pitching isn’t the only thing the Nationals have.  They also boast a versatile lineup, with one of the games’ brightest players, Bryce Harper.  This could be the year Harper puts it all together, and challenges for the National League MVP.  If Harper is able to put up MVP-like numbers, the Nats will certainly be in a position to win the division, and possibly more.  It’s fairly simple with the Nats.  If they can stay healthy, they should be one of the best teams in the National League. I expect the Nats to win 100 games, and they could potentially have home field advantage in the playoffs.  If that happens, the Nats could be headed to the World Series this fall.

2. Atlanta Braves (91-71)

Projected Rotation: 1. Mike Minor, 2. Julio Teheran, 3. Ervin Santana 4. Brandon Beachy, 5. Alex Wood,

Key Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan, Johnny Venters, Gavin Floyd

Projected Lineup
1. SS Andrelton Simmons
2. RF Jason Heyward
3. LF Justin Upton
4. 1B Freddie Freeman
5. C Evan Gattis
6. 2B Dan Uggla
7. CF B.J. Upton
8. 3B Chris Johnson

Top Prospects: C Christian Bethancourt, RHP J.R. Graham, RHP Lucas Sims

The Nationals may be loaded, but the Braves won’t be ready to concede anything.  The Braves believe they are the team to beat in the NL East, and they may have a strong case.  An early Spring injury to Kris Medlen is concerning though.  Medlen was slated to be the Braves Opening Day pitcher before he injured a ligament in his throwing elbow, and it has been reported that Medlen will have Tommy John surgery, ultimately ending his year.  The Braves were able to snag Ervin Santana off the free agent market, but there is a chance the Braves start the season without three of it’s best pitchers.  Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor are both trying to be ready for Opening Day, and the hope is that they won’t be out long if they aren’t ready.  Pitching may be an issue to start the season, but the Braves have a lineup that can score some runs.  First baseman Freddie Freeman is fresh off a new contract as are many other young faces in the Braves organization, but he will be looked upon to be the engine that makes the team run.  Freeman is coming off a year where he hit .319 with 23 HR and 109 RBI.  Freeman has plenty of help too, with the likes of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward.  The Braves certainly have the talent to be a playoff team, whether that be as a division champ or a wildcard team.  At the end of the day the Braves have good enough pitching, and an MVP candidate in Freddie Freeman.  It’s going to be a 162 game battle between the Braves and Nationals, and it may just come down to the six games the two play in September.

3. New York Mets (80-82)

Projected Rotation: 1. Jon Niese, 2. Bartolo Colon, 3. Dillon Gee, 4. Zach Wheeler, 5. Jenrry Mejia

Key Relievers: Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin

Projected Lineup
1. CF Juan Lagares
2. 2B Daniel Murphy
3. 3B David Wright
4. LF Curtis Granderson
5. 1B Lucas Duda
6. RF Chris Young
7. C Travis D’Arnaud
8. SS Ruben Tejada

Top Prospects: C Travis D’Arnaud, RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1B Dominic Smith

If only the Mets were to have Matt Harvey this season, they might be a playoff contender.  The Mets made some very nice acquisitions this offseason, and they’ve put themselves in position to be competitive, but they shouldn’t make the playoffs with their star pitcher Matt Harvey.  Free agent Bartolo Colon will try to fill Harvey’s shoes, and it should be a rather smooth transition for a guy who won 18 games a year ago.  The Mets also added outfielders Curtis Granderson and Chris Young.  The two will give the Mets one of the best defensive outfields in the bigs, and they will provide some depth to a lineup that desperately needs it.  Now that third baseman David Wright has some help, and with a pitching staff that is vastly underrated, the Mets should be one the most surprising teams in 2014.  This season should be a great building block for the Mets as they continue to try to get back to the playoffs.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)

Projected Rotation: 1. Cliff Lee, 2. Cole Hamels, 3. A.J. Burnett, 4. Miguel Gonzalez, 5. Kyle Kendrick

Key Relievers: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo

Projected Lineup
1. CF Ben Revere
2. SS Jimmy Rollins
3. 2B Chase Utley
4. 1B Ryan Howard
5. RF Marlon Byrd
6. LF Dominic Brown
7. C Carlos Ruiz
8. 3B Corey Asche

Top Prospects: 3B Maikel Franco, LHP Jesse Biddle, SS John Paul Crawford

The Phillies have struggled over the past couple of years because of injuries, and that will yet again be a concern.  The Phillies are an aging team, and typically, older players come down with injuries more often than others.  The Phillies will need their older players like Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to stay healthy if they are going to compete in the NL East.  Rollins and Howard, along with Chase Utley are the core of the Phillies, and they have the talent to be a playoff contender – but I feel as their time has passed.  The Phillies top three starting pitchers are as good as any in the league, but the lack of depth and a not so great bullpen could be their demise.  It might be time that the Phillies blow up the team, and start to rebuild.  The Phillies have a promising young third baseman in Maikel Franco, and he could see some time in the Philly this summer.  He may just be the guy that the Phillies build around long-term, and I look for the Phillies to be sellers come the July trade deadline.

5. Miami Marlins (68-94)

Projected Rotation: 1. Jose Fernandez, 2. Nathan Eovaldi, 3. Henderson Alvarez, 4. Jacob Turner, 5. Tom Koehler

Key Relievers: Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Carlos Marmol

Projected Lineup
1. LF Christian Yelich
2. 2B Rafael Furcal
3. RF Giancarlo Stanton
4. 1B Garrett Jones
5. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
6. 3B Ed Lucas
7. SS Adeiny Hechavarria
8. CF Marcell Ozuna

Top Prospects: LHP Andrew Heaney, OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran

Is this the year the Marlins get out of the cellar of the NL East?  It could be considering the Phillies are on the verge of a rebuild, and because the Marlins have two young stars who are ready to put the team on their backs.  Rookie of the Year and ace of the staff Jose Fernandez and powerhouse Giancarlo Stanton are the building blocks that give the Marlins a very bright future.  The two alone are worth the price of admission, and the Marlins are hoping that a few under the radar signings will help them get out of last place.  Garrett Jones, Jared Saltalamacchia, and Rafael Furcal were signed in the offseason to bolster a lineup that didn’t produce many runs a season ago.  The Marlins hope that Jones can provide some protection to Stanton, which will be a big question mark in determining how well the Marlins do this season.  The Marlins also took a flyer on relief pitcher Carlos Marmol.  Marmol has struggled the past couple of seasons with the Chicago Cubs, but the Marlins hope he will return to form in 2014.  The Marlins are certainly trying to get better, and they just might improve their win-loss record, but it won’t be enough to get out of last place.

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