Predictions: NL East

Sorry for the delay in my NL and AL East predictions – real world stuff has been getting in the way. I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats waiting.

I promise all these prognostications were not affected by yesterday’s games (I didn’t have time to really watch them anyways).

1. New York Mets (93 wins)

I’ve bashed the Mets’ offseason moves for the most part, but let me make one thing clear: although I thought the Yankees were right to not trade for Santana and I thought the Twins didn’t do as bad a job as everyone thought, I still think it was a great deal for the Mets. I’ve been skeptical of Santana’s health only because the Twins seem to always know exactly what they’re doing. But even a somewhat “unhealthy” Santana will still ultimately help the Mets.

The Milledge trade was a bust in my mind, but it becomes more defensible now that the Mets are legitimate World Series contenders. Delgado and Alou are huge question marks at this point, but in the NL, with Wright, Beltran, and Reyes, I think they’ll have the offense to survive.

As for pitching, obviously Santana is the big name, but I think John Maine could ultimately decide whether this team finishes with the best record. Pedro will no longer be vintage Pedro (despite what you hear from some media folk). If Maine takes another step forward, the Mets rotation is solid. If he regresses, which is plausible considering he’s still a young pitcher and batters could adjust, the Mets have Santana and then pitchers who are too old (Pedro, El Duque), too young (Pelfrey, Maine), and too inconsistent (Perez).

2. Atlanta Braves (90 wins)

This is more of a gut feeling than I’d like to admit, since I am generally more of a “numbers” kind of guy. But the Braves never seem to be down for long. Chipper Jones is better than anyone outside of Atlanta seems to realizes. Mark Kotsay is a good player if he can stay healthy. Francouer may never draw walks, but he’ll hit. Texiera is a great player. Hudson seems to finally be back to being an elite pitcher. Smoltz continues to be.

I could go on, but bottom line, this team seems very balanced. I do have to say though, for all the great moves the Braves make, I don’t know if they understand the draft system. Back before the 2004 season, Gary Sheffield was a Type A Free Agent and everyone knew he was going to leave (probably to the Yankees) yet the Braves foolishly did not offer him arbitration, costing themselves two draft picks. This year, the Braves signed Tom Glavine before the Mets could decline to offer him arbitration (was there any way the Mets were going to chance offering it to him?) and in the process will forfeit their number 1 to the Mets and the Mets will get a bonus pick. Makes no sense.

3. Philadelphia Phillies (84 wins)

I’m not sold on the Phillies, obviously. Rollins is coming off a career year, but I think 2007 was his ceiling. Howard and Utley are both very good, but the rest of the lineup is pretty terrible (Pedro Feliz, anyone?), especially for a team that’s supposed to be built for offense.

The rotation isn’t awful if Hamels stays healthy, but after Hamels it’s Brett Myers and 3 number 5 starters. It would be a fine rotation in the NL if the lineup really mashed, but as I said before, I don’t think it will.

4. Washington Nationals (70 wins)

I think the Nats made the kind of high-ceiling moves they needed to this offseason in acquiring Lastings Milledge and Elijiah Dukes. Zimmerman is also the real deal and Nick Johnson will be great if healthy.

But while their future may be a little brighter, they still aren’t likely to be very good anytime soon.

5. Florida Marlins (65 wins)

The Marlins are stocked with young talent. Really, the question is, how soon before they start spending money again to try and win? Seems like they lay dormant for a few years after the fire sale, wait for their youth to develop, then spend. With a new stadium coming, shouldn’t be long now.

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