TMS Baseball Preview: NL East

12:00 AM | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

In the weeks preceding Opening Day, we here at the Saloon will be previewing each major league division and giving a brief rundown of the in's and out's of each team heading into the 2007 season. We'll kick things off with the National League East.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

1. NEW YORK METS
2006: 97-65 (1st)

So Long: P Heath Bell, P Chad Bradford, OF Cliff Floyd, P Roberto Hernandez, OF Ricky Ledee, P Darren Oliver, P Steve Trachsel, 2B Chris Woodward, P Victor Zambrano

Welcome: P Jon Adkins, C Sandy Alomar, OF Moises Alou, SS Damion Easley, OF Ben Johnson, OF David Newhan, P Chan Ho Park, C Jose Reyes, P Scott Schoeneweis, P Aaron Sele, P Jorge Sosa

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

Starting Rotation - Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey
Setup - Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez
Closer - Billy Wagner

The Mets finished the 2006 regular season head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, but fell short of reaching the World Series. New York won 90+ games last year thanks in part to the hot bats of Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran, and the veteran pitching of Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Steve Trachsel and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.

The Mets didn't lose anyone substantial to trade or free agency this offseason, and you could probably say that the mere purging of Ricky Ledee and Victor Zambrano from a roster immediately improves the team. Keeping with their extreme penchant for old guys, New York acquired Moises Alou, Aaron Sele, Sandy Alomar and Damion Easley, who are 40, 36, 40, and 37 years of age respectively. With the arrival of this latest group of baseball geriatrics, plans have been made to include a Bishop's Buffet to be built on to the clubhouse.

Of course the biggest hit to the roster is the loss of Pedro Martinez to rotator cuff surgery. Pedro's targeted return is sometime in July and without him the starting rotation is iffy. With Glavine and El Duque getting up their in years, and with Chan Ho Park and Aaron Sele offering little more than an occasional spot start and help in long relief, the pressure will be on youngsters John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey to step up and be the heart and soul of this rotation. Other than that, this team looks set to make another strong run for the NL title in '07.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 3B David Wright - Anyone who watched the All-Star festivities last year couldn't help but walk away with an extreme mancrush on the guy. At the tender age of 24, Wright has emerged as the man to lead this offense for many years to come. In his first two full seasons in the majors, he has hit .308 with 53 home runs and 218 RBI. Expect big things from him again this year.

Seriously? This Guy?: 2B Jose Valentin - Really? This guy is your starting second baseman? Sure he played alright last year but let's keep in mind his .271 AVG was the first time he hit above .250 since 2001. The only thing Jose's good for is looking like General Zolo* in Romancing the Stone.

Break Out the Icy Hot: SP Orlando Hernandez - Last season El Duque threw 162 1/3 innings. That's the highest mark for him since 2000 when he threw 195 2/3 for the Yanks. They'll be lucky to get 160 out of him again this year.

FOR MORE READING
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Yes Joe, It's Toasted

*I was all proud of my Zolo reference, until I did a Google search for a photo of him, only to find that this comparison has been made before on Dodger Blues. Dammit.


2. ATLANTA BRAVES
2006: 79-83 (3rd)

SO LONG: P Danys Baez, 2B Marcus Giles, 1B Adam LaRoche, C Todd Pratt, P Horacio Ramirez, P Chris Reitsma, P John Thomsen, OF Daryle Ward

WELCOME: P Mike Gonzalez, P Rafael Soriano, P Tanyon Sturtze, 1B Craig Wilson, 2B Chris Woodward

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Brian McCann
1B - Scott Thorman/Craig Wilson
2B - Kelly Johnson
SS - Edgar Renteria
3B - Chipper Jones
LF - Ryan Langerhans
CF - Andruw Jones
RF - Jeff Francoeur

Starting Rotation - John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton, Chuck James, Kyle Davies
Setup - Rafael Soriano, Oscar Villarreal
Closer - Bob Wickman/Mike Gonzalez

For the first time in 16 years (read: Bobby Cox' tenure as manager), the Braves finished below .500. This team isn't that bad though, and with some exciting young hitters in Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur along with solid veterans Chipper Jones, Edgar Renteria, and Andruw Jones this offense is very capable of competing in the fierce NL East. The bullpen was beefed up this offseason with the acquisition of relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, and the starting rotation will be happy to have Mike Hampton back after missing most of 2005 and all of 2006 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

While Philadelphia finished ahead of Atlanta last year, it appeared the Braves were on a downhill slide. However, you can't underestimate what Bobby Cox can do with this team. I don't foresee them making it two losing seasons in a row.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Andruw Jones - The guy has been around for so long now that it's hard to believe that he's only turning 30 this April. Jones' numbers have been fairly consistent throughout his career and he's emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the National League. 2007 is a contract year for Andruw, and while he's expressed great interest in remaining a Brave, expect him to put on a show offensively and defensively as other teams keep an eye on this potential free agent.

We Thought You Were Dead: SP Mike Hampton - It just seems so long since Mike Hampton actually mattered. As the Braves ease him back into the rotation this spring, the 34 year old lefty is ready to make a comeback.

Break Out the Icy Hot: 3B Chipper Jones - Well he ain't gettin' any younger. Chipper has been hobbled with injuries the last few seasons that it's not becoming 'if' he gets injured but 'when'.

FOR MORE READING
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Talking Chop
Home of the Braves


3. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
2006: 85-77 (2nd)

SO LONG: OF Jeff Conine, OF David Dellucci, P Aaron Fultz, SS Jose Hernandez, C Mike Lieberthal, P Arthur Rhodes, P Rick White, P Randy Wolf

WELCOME: P Antonio Alfonseca, C Rod Barajas, P Adam Eaton, P Freddy Garcia, 3B Wes Helms, OF Jayson Werth

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Rod Barajas
1B - Ryan Howard
2B - Chase Utley
SS - Jimmy Rollins
3B - Wes Helms
LF - Pat Burrell
CF - Aaron Rowand
RF - Shane Victorino/Jayson Werth

Starting Rotation - Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Adam Eaton
Setup - Antonio Alfonseca, Ryan Madson
Closer - Tom Gordon

Philadelphia's season last year was up and down, and while it ended in disappointment as they narrowly missed the Wild Card, the team seems poised now to make another run in the East. Gone is Bobby Abreu, but with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Pat Burrell making up the core of a solid offense, his presence hasn't been missed too much.

Then there's the pitching staff with Brett Myers and recently signed Freddy Garcia as the two aces. Jon Lieber and Jamie Moyer bring some veteran experience to the mix and youngster Cole Hamels will show the world his cannon of an arm this summer. I'm certain that if I was a Phillies fan instead, our blog would be dedicated to Hamels. Oh and Adam Eaton will be pitching batting practice to the opponents at Citizens Bank.

Oh, and last but not least, the 12 fingered marvel Antonio Alfonseca is back. El Pulpo lives!

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 1B Ryan Howard - What's MLB's marketing department doing? Howard could be one of their biggest superstars of the post-steroids era, yet if you ask the average person "Who is Ryan Howard?", they'd probably come up with this guy.

You Must've Been Something Before Electricity: SP Jamie Moyer - Just to give you an idea of how long Moyer has been pitching. According to his HR Log on Baseball Reference, the first four home runs he gave up in his career were to Juan Samuel, Mike Schmidt, Mookie Wilson, and Keith Hernandez. Yikes. If it weren't for the living fossil, Julio Franco, Moyer would be the oldest guy in the league this season.

You Sir are no David Bell: 3B Wes Helms - Sorry I had to go Lloyd Bentsen on you there. Cripes, where have you gone Scott Rolen? Who would've thought Philly fans would miss Bell's bat?

FOR MORE READING
The Good Phight
Beerleaguer
We Should Be GM's


4. FLORIDA MARLINS
2006: 78-84 (4th)

SO LONG: P Joe Borowski, 3B Wes Helms, P Matt Herges, P Brian Moehler

WELCOME: 3B Aaron Boone

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

Starting Rotation - Dontrelle Willis, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez
Setup - A bunch of guys you've never heard of
Closer - Taylor Tankersley

Florida had a payroll that wouldn't have even covered A-Rod's paycheck last season, yet with fiery new manager Joe Girardi (in what became a one night only performance), this rag tag team of scrappy youngsters showed some spark and impressed quite a few with their play. With Aaron Boone as their only major acquisition this offseason, Florida will be looking to its young squad once again. At the ripe old age of 29, Alfredo Amezaga is the oldest guy in that projected lineup.

With slugger Miguel Cabrera anchoring the offense, the fish will build upon the the solid seasons from Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Willingham. Also outfielder Jeremy Hermida looks to bounce back after a disappointing injury-plagued 2006. The pitching staff is led by 25 year old ace Dontrelle Willis, who by the way was originally with the Cubs farm system. In fact there are four pitchers on the Marlins staff that used to be with Chicago including Sergio Mitre, Renyel Pinto, and Ricky Nolasco.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: SS Hanley Ramirez - Most know about the talent of Miguel Cabrera. But last year Hanley Ramirez was one of the hottest studs in the batting order. After a so-so first half last year, Hanley blew up after the All-Star break, batting .317 with 11 home runs. His 51 steals was 3rd best in the NL.

I Love the 90's: 3B Aaron Boone - With Brian Moehler gone, he'll have no one to reminisce with about playing in the bigs way back when.

Most These Guys Never Had a Prime: CF Alfredo Amezaga - Yikes, what happened to Reggie Abercrombie? Keep an eye on Alex Sanchez who was signed to a minor league deal. Sanchez will try and win the CF job and revive his career after falling off the face of the earth following a steroid suspension in 2005.

FOR MORE READING
Marlins Today
Fish Stripes


5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
2006: 71-91 (5th)

SO LONG: P Tony Armas, OF Marlon Byrd, OF Jose Guillen, P Ramon Ortiz, OF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Jose Vidro

WELCOME: 3B Tony Batista, 2B Ronnie Belliard, P Brandon Claussen, P Ray King, OF Chris Snelling, P Jerome Williams, 1B Dmitri Young

PROJECTED LINEUP
C - Brian Schneider
1B - Nick Johnson
2B - Felipe Lopez
SS - Cristian Guzman
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
LF - Ryan Church
CF - Nook Logan
RF - Austin Kearns

Starting Rotation - John Patterson, Beltran Perez, Billy Traber, Shawn Hill, Jerome Williams
Setup - Jon Rauch, Luis Ayala
Closer - Chad Cordero

Last time I looked, the "Misfits in the District" had the longest odds in Vegas to win it all this season. Who am I to argue? When you're willing to run with Cristian frickin' Guzman as your starting SS, 225-1 sounds about right. Hell the D-Rays are getting 200-1.

While the batting order is certainly capable of hitting decent (if they all stayed healthy, and with Austin Kearns in the lineup that's a big IF), the pitching staff is incredibly green. They make the Marlins rotation look like seasoned vets. Closer is Chad Cordero is golden though. If and when they actually get themselves in a save opportunity, they'll be in good hands.

I've got pretty high hopes for the Cubs this year, but in a worst-case scenario, I at least hope they finish better than the Nats.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 3B Ryan Zimmerman - He basically wins this by default as Washington has the least sexy team in the majors. Zimmerman showed some pop at the plate last season as the Nats starting 3B, hitting 20 homers and knocking in 110 RBI.

Race to the DL: Nick Johnson & Austin Kearns - Who will be the one to hobble onto the DL first between these two oft-injured warriors? My money is on Kearns by late May.

Seriously? This Guy?: SS Cristian Guzman - OK, I can understand having him as a utility infielder on the bench, but how can Manny Acta consider him as the starter? Hell, having Ronnie Belliard at 2B and Felipe Lopez at SS would be a better option. I've also heard unconfirmed reports that Acta plans to bat Guzman second. Oh no! The Tracyball epidemic has spread!

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Federal Baseball
District of Baseball
The Curly W

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