These are some of my favorite columns to write, previewing how a MLB division will turn out after 162 games. Invariably, you will have teams like Baltimore and Oakland who overachieve, and others like the Angels who underachieve, and it will make me look inept seven months later. But still, I love it. Without further ado.
1) Atlanta Braves: That pitching… whoa that pitching. No staff scares me as much as this one does. They now figure to have Kris Medlen healthy for a whole year, and he could win the Cy Young. Their bullpen is nearly incomparable, thanks largely to the nearly unhittable Craig Kimbrel. And then they went out and got the Upton brothers. Do I need to say more? 100 wins is very well within reach for them.
2) Washington Nationals: A lot depends on the health of two key guys here; Steven Strasburg and Ryan Zimmermann. They figure to take the kid gloves off their ace this year, so they’ll have him for more than 140 innings, assuming his elbow withstands the rigors of his high impact delivery. Zimmermann is elite but has somewhat of a history with injuries. If both guys stay healthy, they will probably contend with Atlanta for the division crown until ultimately fading and settling for a wild card. If one or both get hurt, the sledding gets tougher.
3) Philadelphia Phillies: There is some reason for optimism here. Lots of big names. Hamels, Lee, Halladay, Howard, Utley, Rollins. Now, remove Hamels, and what do you have? A bunch of guys who are either getting older or can’t stay fit. Now, if Charlie Manuel can somehow figure out a way to give his guys enough rest, be a bit careful with Halladay and Lee’s innings, and get good work from his pen, they might be in the wild card hunt. Ultimately though, I don’t think it will happen. Guys will get hurt, Carlos Ruiz will regress a bit from his Johnny Bench performance of 2012, and Papelbon will struggle at the back end of the pen.
4) New York Mets: The level falls off dramatically. The Mets won’t win 70 games, but there are a few good things happening there. Matt Harvey is a real stud, and hopefully Johan Santana will be healthy enough to lead a rotation that also includes the capable Jonathon Niese and free agent signee, Shawn Marcum. David Wright is excellent we all know, but that’s where we get iffy. I think if they get Jordany Valdespin more at bats, he’ll prove to be a good player. And that shouldn’t be hard, finding him at bats I mean, since the only position he can’t play is pitcher. But there’s just not enough big league talent here.
5) Miami Marlins: Here’s the good: Giovanni Stanton. Logan Morrison’s Twitter rants. Here’s the bad: Everything else, with apologies to Ricky Nolasco, and one of the all time good guys in the game, Juan Pierre. And you know what? Good. Until Jeffery Loria is no longer in charge, I wouldn’t be the least bit sad if the Marlins never won another game. He’s a con artist and a <censored>. What!? I can’t say,”<censored>?” Aw, come on, that’s some <censored> bull <censored>!!! Anyway, one last thing. I’m offering odds that Stanton gets traded by the deadline, along Morrison, and the truly start from scratch.
I predict a couple of MLB awards from this division too. For one, the aforementioned Medlen will win 20, I think, and win the Cy Young. And I think Justin Upton wins comeback player of the year… from a year that while beneath his standards, was not awful.
Did I miss anything? No? Good. I still can’t believe I can’t say, “<censored>.”