Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Year in Preview: NL East Wrap-Up

Without much chit-chat before-hand, let's dive in to the wrap up...

Top NL East Prospect(s):

There is little doubt which two prospects deserves mention here, and both of the 2009 draftees could make big waves in the NL East this year. Both Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward could both see major playing time with their respective clubs and according to ESPN and various other outlets, Heyward will most like be the starting RFer for the Braves on Opening Day.

For me, I guess I don't know exactly what to think of Strasburg. Some outlets have said that he's "once in a generation" talent and other respected sources like Baseball America have Heyward ranked over Strasburg. On his current trajectory there is little doubt Strasburg is going to be one heck of a pitcher, but the jury is still out because there have been other EPIC busts who were touted as "sure things" (i.e. Mark Prior, Matt Bush, Brien Taylor).

I'm a little more convinced with Heyward simply because he has shown this Spring that he can hit Major League pitching and has even gotten to the point where he has now made the club for Opening Day. It will be interesting to see if Heyward can maintain a respectable level of production throughout the entire season and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if the Braves use him somewhat sparingly in April and May. Eventually the pitchers are going to figure him out to a degree and it remains to be seen how quickly he will adjust.

Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA Projection Standings - And CHONE Projections too:

Philadelphia Phillies (90-72): 774RS, 684RA, .266/.339/.432
Atlanta Braves (86-76): 744RS, 696RA, .265/.341/.414
Florida Marlins (80-82): 725RS, 739RA, .257/.329/.415
New York Mets (78-84): 743RS, 781RA, .264/.335/.417
Washington Nationals (74-88): 677RS, 749RA, .251/.325/.388

Atlanta Braves (89-73)
Philadelphia Phillies (87-75)
New York Mets (80-82)
Florida Marlins (76-86)
Washington Nationals (74-88)

The most notable difference between the two is who wins the division, but both see the Braves and Phillies being the cream of the NL East with a steep drop-off after that. I think the key for the Braves hanging in there with the Phillies will be the evolution of their starting rotation. Jurrjens and Lowe are known entities and should continue to perform well, young Tommy Hanson will be entering his 2nd season and will hopefully continue to improve, but it is the back-end of Kawakami and Hudson who are the wild cards. Hudson has looked absolutely fantastic so far this Spring, but with him it's always a question of health, having only pitched parts of the last two seasons.

Aside from that, I can't imagine that NL East batters are looking forward to facing Roy Halladay who could be in line to absolutely tear apart the National League. With the run support he should get, what's the limit on wins? 25? Add to that a rising young star in J.A. Happ and the young Cole Hamels and you've got a pretty fearsome top 3. There is little doubt here, barring injuries, that the Braves and Phils will be challenging for the NL East crown and possibly the Wild Card berth as well.

Predictions Sure to Lead People Astray:


Phillies (90-72)
Braves (86-76)
Marlins (81-81)
Mets (78-84)
Nationals (70-92)
Phillies (87-75)
Braves (86-76)
Mets (83-79)
Marlins (78-84)
Nationals (72-90)

Braves (89-73)
Phillies (88-74)
Marlins (83-79)
Mets (80-82)
Nats (71-91)

Just like CHONE and PECOTA, we're all predicting similar outcomes for the NL East with the Phillies and Braves at the top. This could be one of the 'sleepier' divisions in baseball over the coming season and by that I do not mean it will be boring, but as things stand now it should play out fairly predictably. It will be very interesting to watch the prospects in the NL East and see how they pan out over their first season of action, only a week to go till the season starts!!

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