1. Atlanta Braves – The Braves’ starters have the best combination of talent, experience and depth in the division. They should have a good bullpen with Gonzalez and Soriano as a setup man. Atlanta’s lineup is also sneaky powerful. Chipper Jones is the most underrated hitter in baseball. They have 10-20 home run power at nearly every position. They are the most well-rounded and most consistent team in the East. They have improved much from last year, and I think they will resurge.
2. New York Mets – Santana is arguably the best starter in baseball, but it gets very average from there with Pelfrey, Perez and Maine. They will miss the #2 starter they should have acquired. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez anchor the bullpen. The will have the same good lineup by National League standards, dominant with production from Delgado and Sheffield. The Mets should probably win the division on paper, but they seem to have an extraordinary sense of accomplishment for a team that has collapsed horribly twice.
3. Florida Marlins – If there is going to be a “Rays” of this season, it could be the Marlins. Their rotation is young and talented, one through five. They have power with Uggla and Hanley Ramirez, speed and exciting young players like Cameron Maybin. Florida’s bullpen, however, seems like a piecemeal and poorly thought out construction. If they indeed are going to be this year’s Rays, they need the superhuman performance Tampa got from their bullpen last year. I don’t know if they get it.
4. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies’ rotation could have trouble after Hamels. It’s never good when you are trying to repeat with Chan Ho Park in the rotation. Their lineup has the obvious power. Ibanez should be a passable Burrell replacement Lidge probably won’t be perfect again, but the bullpen should be good enough. The Phillies did not build on last season’s success. Philadelphia barely made the playoffs last season. I don’t think they got much better. I believe their stagnancy will bite them.
5. Washington Nationals – The Nationals got better, but they still stink. They should score more runs and be exciting to watch, after acquiring Adam Dunn and possibly resurrecting Elijah Dukes. Their rotation is unimpressive. Their bullpen is okay. Not many people will show up to watch them, and you can’t really blame them. It is no coincidence they resemble the Bowdoin era Reds.