Of course, that is easier said than done.
The Phillies, yet again, come into the season as the reigning NL East champions. After coming up short against the Giants, Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. went out and signed the best pitcher on the market in Cliff Lee. Lee joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Roy—I mean Cole—Hamels in the Phillies star-studded rotation, forming the best rotation in baseball.
The Phillies offense will start the year worse for the wear, after losing Jayson Werth to Washington and Chase Utley to tendinitis in his knee. Still, their lineup has the hitters to pick up the slack until Utley returns.
Philadelphia looks primed to take the East again this year. Though, like all teams, they will need to stay healthy to do it, which is worth mentioning since the Phillies are the oldest team in baseball.
The Braves go into the season with a new manager for the first time in 21 years. Fredi Gonzalez, who managed Florida last year, inherits a team that won 91 games the year prior, finishing second to the Phillies and winning the NL Wild Card.
Atlanta’s rotation might not match the pedigree of Philadelphia’s, but the talent is there. Veterans Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson continue to succeed with age and young Tommy Hanson has the makings to be a front-line starter for years to come. If Jair Jurrjens can return to being the pitcher he was in ’08 and ’09, the Braves will be on their way to another playoff appearance.
At the plate, the Braves pack some serious power. Newcomers Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla join Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, and Jason Heyward. All have the potential to hit 25 homeruns this year, but the most crucial bat in the lineup belongs to Nate McLouth, who still hasn’t been able to match the success he had in Pittsburgh. If McLouth can set the table, the Braves could leap frog to being one of the top offenses in the National League.
The Marlins rotation will certainly give the Mets fits. Anchored by ace Josh Johnson, their starters have the potential to carry the team into contention if they can remain healthy. With both Johnson and Ricky Nolasco ending last year on the disabled list, remaining healthy is far from a sure thing.
Offensively, the Marlins are young but capable hitters, with four of their regular position players having two years or less experience at the major league level. To make up for the loss of Dan Uggla’s bat, the Marlins will rely on Hanley Ramirez more than ever, and will need Mike Stanton and Gaby Sanchez to improve on their rookie seasons to fill the hole left by Uggla’s departure.
The Marlins concerns lie in their bullpen and their defense, both of which were among the worst in the NL last season.
For all the hype the Nationals got this off season, they are still a far cry from challenging for the top of the NL East. Jayson Werth will do his part to help the offense and the addition of Adam LaRoche will lessen the loss of Adam Dunn. The future looks bright with top prospect Bryce Harper on the verge of making his big league debut, but none of these new players help the Nationals with their dismal pitching.
Stephen Strasburg is gone to Tommy John surgery, leaving Livan Hernandez to pull rabbits out of a hat at the top of the rotation. Starter John Lannan took a step back last year, but is still only 26 entering the season and should continue to develop. Even if he steps up his game, there are still not enough good arms to turn the Nationals into winners. And the recent minor league signing of Oliver Perez sure won’t change that.