In This Corner: There will be four beasts in the NL East
Year after year, people say that the American League East is the toughest division in baseball. But I’m not sure it will have that title for much longer. The National League East will certainly challenge for divisional supremacy this year, given that the Phillies are still the Phillies, the Marlins have made significant additions, the Braves always play hard, and the Nationals are getting better by the season. This division will be competitive for a quite a while.
I don’t think the Phillies are clear frontrunners any longer; it’s anybody’s division to win. The most progress in the division this offseason has been made in Washington and Miami.
I don’t know who will show more improvement this season, the Nationals or Marlins, but I feel that both will finish with records that eclipse .500.
The Marlins have really taken off with this “new Miami” thing.
They made key offseason acquisitions that should help them drastically, the biggest being the new ballpark. But they will better the 72-90 record they had in their last season representing the state of Florida.
With a new manager, new uniforms and a new logo, this is not the same low-spending budget everybody is accustomed to seeing.
Owner Jeffery Loria opened up his checkbook and brought in a highly versatile, game-changing shortstop in Jose Reyes, which will make those after him in the lineup that much better. They also signed one of the most reliable starters in the game, Mark Buehrle.
He will pad a rotation that already features Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and newcomer Carlos Zambrano. Let’s not forget they added Heath Bell to be their closer. Bell hasn’t failed to post a sub-three earned run average in the last two years and recorded 42 or more saves in each of those seasons.
With the progressing play of Mike Stanton and the improved offensive play of Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins will be tough to beat.
The Nationals picked up a few veteran pieces during the winter months, the biggest being starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. They also added experience by picking up Brad Lidge, Edwin Jackson and Mark DeRosa to help lead a young squad that is filled with nothing but talent.
The Nationals’ ability to build through the draft is going to start to pay dividends. The team’s first draft pick when it moved to D.C., Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg will be the cornerstones of the franchise for years to come.
Shortstop Ian Desmond has the ability to become a premier shortstop in the MLB and Danny Espinosa can build on his 21-home run season and become one of the best hitting second basemen in the game.
Mike Morse proved he can be one of the league’s top sluggers, and if Jayson Werth breaks out of his slump, Morse will likely build on his numbers with that protection in the lineup.
The Nationals and the Marlins both look good on paper. The Phillies and Braves still may have an edge, but over the course of long seasons, things change. The NL East is not just a two-team race anymore. All four of those teams have the ability to make it to October, but only two will actually make it there.