Welcome to Live Toast’s 2013 NL East Preview, a look at what’s in store as we get ready to kick off another season of MLB baseball. We will be previewing all six divisions as we count down to Opening Night on Sunday, March 31. Be sure to check back often as we preview all the teams in Major League Baseball. Our first MLB preview installment looks at the NL East. Last season marked the Washington Nationals’s official arrival as a National League powerhouse, poised to have its way with the NL East for the foreseeable future. The Atlanta Braves have been solid the past two seasons but ended both in heartbreaking fashion. We aren’t too far removed from the days of the Phillies being a lock to win 90+ games each season, and most of those players are still there, although perhaps a bit older. The Mets and Marlins are both in rebuilding mode, with the Mets seeing some positive signs last season, while the Marlins completely ‘sploded their franchise after the Florida taxpayers were nice enough to build them a state-of-the-art stadium. On paper this might be the easiest division to pick, Nationals > Braves > Phillies > Mets > Marlins, but there’s a reason they play 162 games. Anything can happen in baseball, and teams are an injury or two away from disaster. Just look at the Orioles and Athletics last year, who could see both of the making the playoffs?
Here’s our 2013 NL East Preview, a look at the major moves, players and minutia that will determine who ends up with the NL East Crown in September and who is battling for a championship once the MLB playoffs kickoff.
2013 Washington Nationals Preview
- 2012 Record: 98-64 (.605 winning %) First Place
- 2012 Payroll: $81,336,143
- 2012 Average Home Attendance: 30,010
- 2013 Nationals average ticket price: $63*
The Washington Nationals led MLB with 98 wins last season, and with another year of experience for this young team, there’s little reason to think the Nats won’t again be among the league’s elite. The team is balanced, with power, speed and average all present in spades. Washington hopes to get a full season from their best starters en-route to becoming the first DC team of this millennium to bring home a championship. The team had a long season to think about their cruel loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS, and their players will be motivated to finish the job they started last season.
Manager Davey Johnson (in his third year) has said he is retiring at the end of the year, and what better way to ride into the sunset than with a World Series championship? You know Johnson will do whatever he can to finish what the Nats started last year and bring a World Series title the Capital for the first time since 1924. Perhaps Johnson’s most important task will be to keep the young team focused; last year the Nats were among the worst teams in baseball in terms of walks and had some of the league’s highest strikeout totals.
Nationals’ offensive outlook: Bryce Harper, former number one pick, 2012 Rookie of the year and the youngest All-Star ever, is among the most talented players in the league. He anchors a lineup that could be the most lethal in the bigs. The core of the Nats roster is young, but management brought in veterans like Denard Span and Dan Haren to help smooth out the clubhouse. Denard Span has had a few seasons batting around .300, and his plate discipline should help the younger players learn to work pitchers deeper into the count. In rookie 3B Anthony Rendon the Nats have yet another potential impact player, so keep you eye on him this season.
Nationals Pitching Outlook: The Nats rotation is very young and very talented. With Stephen Strasburg’s controversial pitch limit lifted for 2013, baseball fans will be watching to see what he can do ones the reins come off. The rest of the starting rotation is formidable as well, with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann rounding out a staff whose 3.33 ERA led the National League last season. Dan Haren, with the Angels last season, brings some veteran experience to the rotation. Closer Rafeal Soriano, who opted out of the final year of his contract with the Yankees, was brought in to help bolster the Nationals bullpen, which was a bit of a weakness last season. Lets not forget the bullpen gave up the National’s six run lead over the Cardinals in the pivotal Game Five of the NLDS. Tyler Clippard had 32 saves last season to go along with 84 Ks in 72.2 innings pitched, and he will be an important player later in games.
All in all there is very little reason to doubt the Nationals being able to be among the best teams in the league. They should win the NL East and have a great shot at sending Davey Johnson to retirement a world champion.
Nationals Key Off-Season Moves:
- Acquired via trade: CF Denard Span (Twins), RHP AJ Cole and RHP Blake Treinen (Athletics)
- Significant free agent signings: RHP Dan Haren (was with the Angels) RHP Chris Young (Mets) RHP Rafael Soriano (Yankees)
- Additional signings include 1B Micah Owings (Padres), 2B Will Rhymes (Rays), C Chris Snyder (Astros), LHP Will Ohman (White Sox), LHP Bill Bray (Reds), and RF Delwyn Young (Camden Riversharks)
- Gone: Traded: The Nats traded LF Michael Morse (to the Mariners) and RHP Alex Meyer (Twins). Gone are free agents RHP Edwin Jackson (who went to the Cubs), CF Rick Ankiel (Astros), LHP John Lannan (Phillies), 3B Mark DeRosa (Blue Jays), SS Cesar Izturis (Reds), 1B Chad Tracy (Royals), LHP Sean Burnett (Angels), C Jesus Flores (Dodgers), LHP Tom Gorzelanny (Brewers)
- 2012 Record: 94-68 (.580 winning %)
- Games finished behind: 4 (lost to Cardinals in NL Wild Card play-in game)
- 2012 Payroll: $83,309,942
- 2013 Braves ticket price: $58*
- 2012 Average Home Attendance: 29,878
The Braves finished a full six games better than the Cardinals but lost to them in the controversial one-game wildcard play in game. Perhaps a second tough loss in a row has hardened Braves player’s resolve and could give them the edge over a young Nationals team during the course of a long baseball season. Manager Fredi Gonzalez, now in his third year as skipper of the Braves after replacing Bobby Cox, has had two tough ends to the season in a row. But management has helped him re-tool and with a formidable outfield the Braves should be able to score runs. The Braves will need to find a way to replace the presence of Chipper Jones in the locker room and on the field, but there are enough veterans on the team to offset the significant loss of Jones. The team is high on potential and by adding the Upton brothers (BJ and Justin) to Jason Heyward the outfield defense should be solid.
Braves Offensive Outlook: 2B Dan Uggla has to bounce back from a terrible season in which he batter just .220 with 19 home runs while playing in 154 games. Uggla is still among the most powerful men in baseball but he has to cut down on strikeouts, which has always been an issue with Uggla. Catcher Brian McCann was once hailed as perhaps the best offensive catcher in MLB, but he had a tough 2012. Coupled with off-season surgery, McCann has a lot to prove in 2013 and should be motivated to get back on top. Freddie Freeman could have a breakout season and if he does, and the rest of the team does what it is capable of, the Braves will give the Nationals plenty of competition in the NL East.
Braves Pitching Outlook: The pitching staff should again be one of the best in the league, with a reliever core that could end up the best in baseball. Veteran Tim Hudson will be expected to lead the starting rotation, which was impressive last season. With a year under their belts the young staff should only get better in 2013. P Kris Medlen is a dangerous #1 or #2 whose 1.57 ERA in 138 games pitched led the Braves rotation. Brandon Beachy had Tommy Johns surgery during the off-season but, as one of the most talented pitchers in the NL, will be expected to contribute when he returns, which should be in late June, 2013. The starting rotation will likely be rounded out by Mike Minor, who led the staff in innings pitched, Baseball America´s #1 prospect rookie Julio Teheran, who many are expecting great things from, and Paul Mahom.
The Braves bullpen could be the best in the bigs with Craig Kimbrel (16.66 ks per 9 innings), Jonny Venters (10.59 ks per 9 innings) and Eric O’Flaherty (1.73 ERA). If Jordan “Waldo” Walden, who the Braves acquired from the Angels in the Tommy Hanson trade, can reclaim his position as one of the best young relievers in the game, the Atlanta bullpen should be able to shorten many games on the Braves schedule.
The Braves will have to catch some breaks if they are going to edge out the Nationals for the NL East crown, but with some real talent on the roster they will be an exciting team to watch. The NL Wild Card should be within reach, and the NL East crown isn’t out of the question either.
Braves Key Off-Season Moves
- Acquired by trade: LF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson (from Arizona), and RHP Jordan Walden (Los Angeles Angels)
- Free Agent Signings: CF BJ Upton (was with the Rays), C Gerald Laird (Tigers) LF Reed Johnson (Cubs) 2B Blake DeWitt (Cubs)
- Claimed off waivers RHP David Carpenter (from Red Sox) and CF Jordan Schafer (Astros)
- Gone are: Chipper Jones, who retired after an incredible run with the Braves. The team traded RHP Tommy Hanson (to the Los Angeles Angels) and 3B Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, SS Nick Ahmed, 3B Brandon Drury and RHP Zeke Spruill (all to the Diamondbacks).
- Free agents the Braves did not re-sign are RHP Jair Jurrjens (who went to the Orioles), LF Eric Hinske (Arizona Diamondbacks), CF Michael Bourn (Cleveland Indians) RHP Miguel Batista (Colorado Rockies), RHP Peter Moylan (Los Angeles Dodgers) LF Matt Diaz (New York Yankees) RHP Chad Durbin (Philadelphia Phillies) OF Felix Pie (Pittsburgh Pirates), 2B Jeff Baker (Texas Rangers) and C David Ross (Boston Red Sox)
2013 Phillies Preview
- 2012 Record: 81-81 (.500 winning %)
- Games finished behind: 17
- 2012 Payroll: $174,538,938
- 2013 Average Phillies ticket price: $73*
- 2012 Average Home Attendance: 44,021
Phillies Offensive Outlook: We are not too far removed from 2011, when everyone picked the Phillies and the Red Sox to meet in the World Series. The Phillies haven’t suffered quite like the Sox, but this is an old team that will be tested over a 162-game season. At one point Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were two of the most feared players in the game, but both have had tough seasons of late. As both are 34, a monster season out of either isn’t out of the question. The Phillies still have Ryan Howard, one of the biggest bats in the National League. The front office traded for 3B Michael Young from the Rangers and CF Ben Revere from the Twins, both of whom can contribute and could end up making a big impact. If, and its a big if, Howard, Utley and Rollins return to their 2008 – 2011 form, the Phillies could end up competing with the Nats and Braves for the NL East crown.
Phillies Pitching Outlook: But the Phillies will really have to rely on their pitching to carry the team. The starting rotation features Roy Halladay (36) and Cliff Lee (34). If this was 2010 instead of 2013 that would mean a lot more. As is the case with the infield, a return to elite status from either isn’t out of the question. Cole Hamels has shown he can get it done and is an above-average starter.
Key for the pitching staff will be the starting rotation’s ability to go deep into games and get the ball to closer Jonathan Papelbon (38 saves last year), as the rest of the Phillies bullpen isn’t great. Reliever Mike Adams was signed to help bolster the bullpen, and if he can continue to improve on what he did with the Rangers it would go a long way toward improving the bullpen. Antonio Bastardo had 81 strike outs in 52 innings out of the ‘pen, but he will have to bring down a 4.33 ERA. Highly toured rookie pitcher Jonathan Pettibone could help bolster the reliever corps, or could become a starter if someone goes down with an injury.
Its not news that the Phillies are old, and that their window at another World Series title with Utley, Rollins and Howard on the team is closing. Halladay and Lee both came to Philadelphia to win a championship, and they have still to do that. If both regain their elite status and Rollins and Utley are able to reclaim some of the skills that made them among the most feared players in the game not so long ago, the Phillies could end up dashing the hopes of the Nationals and Braves and reversing the significant drop in winning percentage. Otherwise, the teams winning percentage will really take a dive.
Phillies Key Off-Season Moves
- The front office traded for: 3B Michael Young from the Rangers and CF Ben Revere from the Twins.
- Significant free agent signings include RF Delmon Young (Tigers), LHP John Lannan (Nationals), RHP Mike Adams (Rangers), RHP Aaron Cook (Red Sox)
- Additional free agents include RF Joe Mather (Cubs), 2B Yuniesky Betancourt (Royals), 3B Josh Fields (Dodgers), RHP Chad Durbin (Braves), RHP Rodrigo Lopez (Cubs), RHP Zach Miner (Tigers) and C Humberto Quintero (Royals).
- Gone are: The Phillies traded RHP Vance Worley and RHP Trevor May (to Minnesota) as well as RHP Josh Lindblom and RHP Lisalverto Bonilla (Rangers).
- Signed elsewhere: LF Juan Pierre (who went to the Marlins), RF Nate Schierholtz (Cubs), 3B Ty Wigginton (Cardinals), 3B Placido Polanco (Marlins), 2B Mike Fontenot (Rays), OF Kyle Hudson (Orioles) and RHP David Herndon (Yankees)
2013 NY Mets Preview
- 2012 Record: 74-88 (.457 winning %)
- Games finished behind first place: 24
- 2012 Payroll: $93,353,983
- 2013 Average New York Mets ticket price: $79*
- 2012 Average Home Attendance: 28,035
After suffering through several teases, near misses and last minute collapses, New York Mets fans went into last season without much in the way of expectations. Which was a good thing. Manager Terry Collins enters his third year at the helm of the Mets, and this could be his most challenging year yet. One piece of good news is that the Marlins drew a line in the sand that they want the NL East cellar, and will stop at nothing to get there. Another piece of good news is that finishing in second-to-last place in the standings would be easier to swallow if the Yankees end up in last place in the AL East, which could very well happen.
Mets offensive outlook: There were some bright spots last year, with solid seasons from David Wright (.306 average, 21 home runs), Daniel Murphy (.291 average), Ruben Tejada (.289 average) and Ike Davis (32 home runs, 90 RBI). On paper, this is not a great team, but with some youth on the roster the Mets could again be a pesky team. The offense will likely not be fantastic, and the outfield in particular has to improve their plate discipline. Lucas Duda had 120 strikeouts in 402 a bats (.239 average), Kirk Nieuwenhuis had 98 strikeouts in 282 at bats (.252 average) and Mike Baxter had 45 strikeouts in 179 at bats (.263 average). Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, acquired in the RA Dickey trade, is Baseball America’s 23rd overall prospect and MLB.com’s #6. He hits for power and average, and could end up making an appearance or two this season. Low expectations could help this young team, and perhaps team will be ready to contend soon.
Mets Pitching outlook: The Mets have a young starting rotation that could end up surprising some people. It will be tough to replace 20-game winner RA Dickey, but it was the smart move to get some top-of-the line talent. It looks like Johan Santana (age 33) will be able to join the Mets for Opening Day, and will be the veteran on a team of youngsters. Whether he makes it through the season as a Met remains to be seen. Santana will make $25.5 million in 2013, and his contract includes an option for $25 million in 2014 with a $5.5 million buyout. Another no-hitter from Santana might not be worth the money he is owed, especially considering the Mets could get some more young players. Noah Syndergaard, the other star acquired in the Dickey trade, has turned heads with a mid 90s fastball. Whether or not you’ll see Syndergaard take the mound at Citi Field with Mets tickets this year remains to be seen. Matt Harvey should be able to build on a decent 2012, with a 2.69 strikeout to walk ratio. Rookie Zack Wheeler could end up playing a significant role this season, either in the bullpen or as a spot starter.
2013 looks like another rebuilding year for the ‘Mazin, but there are real signs of life on this roster. Some players could definitely end up being significant contributors while David Wright is still in his prime. With some luck the Mets might not be out of the race of the NL East by the time Citi Field hosts the 2013 MLB All Star Game, which takes place on Tuesday, July 16.
Mets Key Off-Season Moves
- Signed free agents CF Marlon Byrd (was with the Red Sox), RHP Shaun Marcum (Brewers), RF Andrew Brown (Cardinals)
- Other free-agent signings include OF Corey Patterson, (was with the Brewers affiliate Nashville Sounds), LHP Aaron Laffey (Blue Jays), RHP Brandon Lyon (Blue Jays), SS Omar Quintanilla (Orioles), RHP LaTroy Hawkins (Angels), C Landon Powell (Astros) RF Mike Wilson (Mariners), RHP Scott Atchison (Red Sox) LHP Pedro Feliciano (Yankees) and 2B Brian Bixler (Astros).
- Acquired via trade: from the Blue Jays C Travis d’Arnaud, C John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard, and OF Wuilmer Becerra, and from the Athletics RF Collin Cowgill and SS Brandon Hicks.
- Gone: The Mets of course traded RHP knuckleballer, 20-game and Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays along with Catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Other players traded away include LHP Kyle Lobstein and 3B Jefry Marte.
- Mets players who elected free agency with another team include LF Jason Bay (who went to the Mariners), RHP Chris Young (Nationals), LF Andres Torres (Giants), RF Scott Hairston (Cubs), RHP Mike Pelfrey (Twins) C Kelly Shoppach (Mariners), C Rob Johnson (Cardinals), SS Ronny Cedeno (Cardinals), RHP Jon Rauch (Marlins), RHP Ramon Ramirez (Giants) and 3B Matt Tuiasosopo (Tigers).
2013 Marlins Preview
- 2012 Record: 69-93 (.426 winning %)
- Games finished behind first place: 29
- 2012 Payroll: $118,078,000
- 2013 Average Miami Marlins ticket price: $53*
- 2012 Average Home Attendance: 27,400
New Marlins Manager Mike Redmont has his work cut out for him as he takes the helm of a team that was decimated by the front office and owner Jeff Loria. Loria has been roundly criticized for blowing the team up after opening Marlins Stadium, promising to field a contender last season only for the Marlins to once again turn on the firesale sign when thing went south. The Marlins traded Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays during the off season after sending Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers last season.
Marlins offensive outlook: RF Giancarlo Stanton is perhaps the lone bright spot on a Marlins team that will surprise everyone if it doesn’t end up being the worst team in the National League. The good news for Marlins fans is that their young players will get plenty of playing time. Rookies C Rob Brantly and SS Adeiny Hechavarria have potential and could end up benefiting from jumping right to the big leagues. 1B Logan Morrison, LF Juan Pierre, 3B Chone Figgins and 3B Placido Polanco are what pass for veterans on the team. Other minor leaguers masquerading as everyday players include LF Austin Kearns, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff and 2B Nick Green. The Marlins roster is a carcass that has been picked clean, with Stanton the only bright spot.
Marlins Pitching Outlook: P Ricky Nolasco is the staff ace now that Johnson is gone. The rest of the rotation will likely be rounded out by some combination of Henderson Alvarez, Wade LeBlanc, Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, Alex Sanabia, Kevin Slowey and John Maine. There’s not a whole lot to strike fear into the opposition, and the Marlins will likely struggle to stay in games.
This has the potential to be one of the worst baseball teams in recent memory. But the good news about shedding payroll is that in a few years the Marlins could be able to make some significant off-season acquisitions to complement the then-maturing players. Stay tuned.
Marlins Key Off-Season Moves
- Acquired via trade from the Blue Jays are Jeff Mathis, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Álvarez, Yunel Escobar, Jake Marisnick, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino. The Marlins acquired 2B Derek Dietrich from the Rays
- “Big” free agent signings include LF Juan Pierre (was with the Phillies), 3B Chone Figgins (Mariners), 3B Placido Polanco (Phillies), RHP Chad Qualls (Pirates), OF Pat White (Royals) and 1B Casey Kotchman (Indians)
- Players claimed off waivers include 1B Joe Mahoney (was with the Orioles), RHP Sam Dyson (Toronto Blue Jays), LHP Braulio Lara (Charlotte Stone Crabs), LF Alfredo Silverio (Los Angeles Dodgers) and LHP Scott Maine (Toronto Blue Jays)
- The Marlins did no re-sign OF Adam Greenberg (who went to the Orioles), RHP Chad Gaudin (Giants) 3B Donnie Murphy (Brewers) and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (Rays)
- They traded SS Yunel Escobar to the Rays
*Ticket Prices are based on sales of tickets on Ticket Liquidator through February of 2013.