2009 National League East Preview

Last Updated: March 1st, 2009 by Rodney James (Bankroll Sports Contributor)

The National League East Division looks to once again be set for a competitive race from start to finish. Last season, the divisional race came down to the last few games, only to see the Philadelphia Phillies win the division, and go on to not only win the National League crown, but also World Series Champions. The National League East is the only division in Baseball to see four of its teams in the World Series since the Wild Card came into play. Year after year the NL East continues to be put a rank below due to being part of the Junior Circuit, but in 2009 with some teams revamping their rosters, the NL East looks to put a group of teams together that could rival any other division in Baseball.

atlanta bravesThe Atlanta Braves from their Orlando Florida facility are still trying to figure out what happened to them in the free agent period, in which they were linked with numerous big names. Despite losing some of the names they were targeting(A.J. Burnett, Rafael Furcal), they were able to ink some quality players to fill the gaps. The Braves signed Derek Lowe and picked up Javier Vazquez in a trade from Chicago. Those two pitchers will look to anchor the Atlanta pitching staff, which lost John Smoltz to Boston in free agency. Tim Hudson will continue to be the staff ace, and with Atlanta continuing as suitors for the services of Jake Peavy, Atlanta’s rotation could be a force to reckon with. Youngster Tommy Hanson may get an opportunity to slide into Bobby Cox’s rotation. Hanson dominated the Arizona Fall League going 5-0 with a 0.63 era. Hanson is just 22 years old and has a mid 90’s fastball, along with a solid change-up. Offensively, the Braves will look to Jeff Francoeur to pick up his numbers from 2008. Francoeur appears to be the every day starting right fielder with Matt Diaz and Brandon Jones battling it out this spring for left field. Neither Diaz or Jones had a spectacular 2008 season, so Atlanta hopes for breakout seasons from both of these youngsters. Kelly Johnson will be the starting second basemen, and while he has a solid bat in the line-up, his defensive presence at second base is just marginal. Chipper Jones had an excellent 2008 season winning the batting title by hitting .364 with 22 homeruns and 75rbi’s. The 36 year old Jones will start his 16th full season in the major leagues as the starting third basemen once again for Atlanta.

florida marlinsThe Florida Marlins will look to improve upon their 84-77 record of 2008. The Marlins, as they train in Jupiter Florida appeared to have gotten younger over the off-season. Being one of the youngest teams in baseball in 2008, it would seem difficult to become even younger, but Florida did just that. Florida dealt away Scott Olsen, Josh Willingham, and Mike Jacobs. They picked up youngsters such as Emilio Bonifacio, but he may have to play a new position to get quality time as a starter in 2009. Dan Uggla mans second base(same position as Bonifacio) for the Marlins. Of course the offense begins and ends with star shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Florida locked Ramirez up for six years and $70 million. The Marlins do not plan to add to their payroll, which will mean cutting ties with Dan Uggla, when that time comes. Cameron Maybin will look to get his opportunity to become a starting outfielder in the major leagues. Maybin is 22 years old. He will most likely be the lead-off batter for the Marlins, but that seems to be a lot of pressure put on a kid that has played in just 32 games in the big leagues. In the pitching department, Josh Johnson has turned into a staff ace, and will fight for 20 wins in 2009, with Ricky Nolasco coming in at #2. The rest of the staff is very young and inexperienced. The bullpen lost Kevin Gregg to Chicago, and will  now turn to Matt Lindstrom to close out games. Scott Proctor, Leo Nunez and Logan Kensing also appear to be fighting for late inning roles out of the bullpen. 

New York MetsThe New York Mets appeared to have the best off-season in the division. A year after winning 89 games, but coming up short in both the division and the wildcard, New York made quite the splash in the free agent department. The Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez to nail down games, and also J.J. Putz, who appears to be thrown into the set-up man roll for New York. The Mets training facility in Port St. Lucie sure got a new look Mets bullpen, as during the off season they dumped seven members of that pen. Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis were among the crew not re-signed by New York. The Mets picked up Freddie  Garcia and Tim Redding to go along with a rotation with Johan Santana and John Maine at the top and Oliver Perez as a solid lefty. Santana’s health may be an issue early in the season as he is dealing with coming off knee surgery on his left knee. Rookie Fernando Martinez may get an opportunity to be in the starting lineup, as an outfielder, as New York was not able to pick up Manny Ramirez or Bobby Abreu in the off-season. The Mets will have to go with Martinez, or they could settle with anyone of the following: Fernando Tatis, Nick Evans or Daniel Murphy. The question for New York is, can guys such as Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, along with Jose Reyes and David Wright stay healthy enough, and be productive enough for an entire 162 game slate?

philadelphia philliesThings are a little more upbeat in 2009 at the Phillies complex in Clearwater Florida. But the jubilation will quickly turn to business as the Philadelphia Phillies under Charlie Manual will look to repeat their 2008 World Championship. Philadelphia did not make a huge splash in the free agent market, but two moves they did make may prove to be very keen, as they locked up both Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels to long term deals. With Howard in the line-up and Hamels at the front of the rotation, Philadelphia should continue to stay, at the least, very competitive. Now add in Chase Utley,  the age-less Jamie Moyer and Brad Lidge and you are once again looking at a championship caliber ball club. The Phillies did not re-sign Pat Burrell, and instead signed Raul Ibanez to a three year deal. Chan Ho Park was added to help Hamels and Moyer out in the rotation. Joe Blanton and Brett Myers will hold the three-four positions within the rotation, with youngsters such as J.A. Happ and Kyle Kendrick battling with Park for the final spot. The Phillies have three major league ready catchers in Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste and Ronny Paulino, but they all may take a back seat to youngster Lou Marson. Marson is a 22 year old that hit .308 for Team USA during the 2008 Olympics. Utley may miss a portion of the start of the season, after having off season hip surgery. Marcus Giles was signed to a minor league contract and may see time at second base to keep Utley’s position warm. J.C Romero will serve a 50 game suspension to start the season, which will inevitably hurt the back end of the bullpen. Finding a serviceable left hander may not be an easy task for the defending champs.

washington nationalsThe Washington Nationals open up their spring training slate in Viera Florida coming off a 59-102 season in 2008. The Nationals signed Adam Dunn to a two year $20 million contract. Dunn will look to be the Nationals most dangerous hitter in their lineup. Dunn has hit 40+ homeruns in five straight seasons. Washington also picked up Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen. Both of these pitchers have loads of talent, but also are unproven. They also both have a shot at being the staff ace, after last seasons ace Tim Redding left the team. Redding won 10 games for Washington in 2008. Jordan Zimmerman, a 22 year old starting pitcher may get an opportunity to get some starts for the Nationals. The Washington front office would like to see Zimmerman remain at AAA for one more season, but injuries and lack of production may force their hand earlier than desired. The outfield is a bit of a log jam for Washington. Five guys appear to be battling for three positions. Willie Harris, Lastings Milledge and Austin Kearns got the majority of time last season, but if Willingham is healthy, he will see a great deal of time. Elijah Dukes has talent, but it has yet to convert to quality numbers at the professional level. Willie Harris has the advantage of being very versatile, and could possibly move to another position, such as second, short or third.

Who will win the National League East in 2009?

  • Atlanta Braves (36%, 39 Votes)
  • New York Mets (29%, 31 Votes)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (22%, 24 Votes)
  • Florida Marlins (10%, 11 Votes)
  • Washington Nationals (3%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 108

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Posted in MLB Baseball - Last Updated on Sunday, March 1st, 2009 @ 3:34 am (EST)
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