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(Very) Early NL East Projections

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My projected order of finish at this point: 1. Braves 2. Phillies 3. Mets 4. Nationals 5. Marlins Atlanta Braves The 14 time defending champion Braves have lost some good players (and pitching coach Leo Mazzone), as they do every year, but nothing that they can't replace. They still have one of the best all-around teams in baseball. What may make or break the season is the bullpen, the team's only weakness. Chris Reitsma and Blaine Boyer are the top returners there, and may be joined by last year's 13 game winner Jorge Sosa. They have the potential to do the job, but whether or not they will is another question. Projected Lineup: 2B Marcus Giles SS Edgar Renteria 3B Chipper Jones CF Andruw Jones 1B Adam LaRoche RF Jeff Francoeur C Brian McCann LF Ryan Langerhans Key reserves: IF Wilson Betemit OF Matt Diaz C Todd Pratt OF Kelly Johnson UT Pete Orr Starting Rotation: RHP John Smoltz RHP Tim Hudson RHP John Thomson LHP Horacio Ramirez RHP Jorge Sosa (swingman) Key relievers: RHP Chris Reitsma LHP John Foster RHP Blaine Boyer LHP Macay McBride RHP Jorge Sosa (swingman) Philadelphia Phillies It's essentially the same team as last year, with the only exceptions being Tom Gordon as closer instead of Billy Wagner, and Aaron Rowand now the centerfielder. This team won 88 games last year and wasn't eliminated from playoff contention until the final day of the regular season. Their stadium, Citizens Bank Park, is one of the smallest in the majors. The Phillies don't have trouble on offense at all with Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, and Ryan Howard, but they have to have good performances from starting pitchers Brett Myers, Jon Lieber, and Cory Lidle. In that ballpark, it probably won't happen. Projected Lineup: SS Jimmy Rollins 2B Chase Utley RF Bobby Abreu LF Pat Burrell 1B Ryan Howard 3B David Bell CF Aaron Rowand C Mike Lieberthal Key reserves: OF Jason Michaels C Sal Fasano IF Abraham Nunez IF Tomas Perez Starting Rotation: RHP Brett Myers RHP Jon Lieber RHP Cory Lidle RHP Robinson Tejada LHP Randy Wolf (will return midseason) Key relievers: RHP Tom Gordon LHP Aaron Fultz RHP Ryan Madsen RHP Geoff Geary New York Mets The Mets went out and spent a lot of money on free agents as they usually do. This time, however, they actually might have gotten players that help them. They solved their first base problem with acquiring slugger Carlos Delgado from the Marlins. They also got a solid catcher in Paul Lo Duca. They filled a void in the bullpen by signing Billy Wagner, one of the top closers in the game. They should also get some new offensive contributions from Xavier Nady and Julio Franco. The core of last year's team that won 83 games is still intact other than former closer Braden Looper and set-up man Roberto Hernandez. Offense won't be a problem this year, but they'll need good rotation performances from more than just Pedro Martinez. Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, and Steve Trachsel need to pitch well. They also need a good performance from Wagner and the rest of the bullpen, which has been a question mark in the past. Team Defense may also be a problem. Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes CF Carlos Beltran 1B Carlos Delgado 3B David Wright LF Cliff Floyd C Paul Lo Duca RF Xavier Nady 2B Kaz Matsui Key reserves: OF Victor Diaz UT Chris Woodward 1B Julio Franco IF Jose Valentin C Ramon Castro Starting Rotation: RHP Pedro Martinez LHP Tom Glavine RHP Kris Benson RHP Steve Trachsel RHP Jae Seo RHP Victor Zambrano (Seo got traded) Key relievers: LHP Billy Wagner RHP Aaron Heilman RHP Juan Padilla RHP Chad Bradford RHP Duaner Sanchez Washington Nationals A team that didn't have a whole lot of talent got a lot of help from playing in RFK stadium, an extreme pitcher's park. This helped to keep games close and gave them a chance to win. Next year's team is similar, as the only significant addition is second baseman Alfonso Soriano. That position is already occupied by Jose Vidro, so he'll have to play somewhere else. Brad Wilkerson was traded for Soriano, and Wilkerson may be a big loss. The team will again depend on its pitching, as the offense hasn't really improved. The rotation is headed by Livan Hernandez and Jon Patterson, and the rest of the rotation of veterans will depend on the ballpark to pitch well. The bullpen, led by Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala, needs to pitch as well as they did last year. Projected Lineup: CF Ryan Church 2B Jose Vidro 1B Nick Johnson RF Jose Guillen LF Alfonso Soriano C Brian Schneider 3B Ryan Zimmerman SS Cristian Guzman Key reserves: OF Marlon Byrd UT Robert Fick IF Marlon Anderson IF Damian Jackson UT Jamey Carroll Starting Rotation: RHP Livan Hernandez RHP Jon Patterson RHP Brian Lawrence RHP Tony Armas Jr. RHP Ryan Drese Key relievers: RHP Chad Cordero RHP Luis Ayala RHP Gary Majewski LHP Joey Eischen Florida Marlins The Marlins have gone for a youth movement, trading away all of its core players except for young superstar Miguel Cabrera and ace pitcher Dontrelle Willis. They have some good young players in the lineup. However, they'll struggle next year, and attendance will be very sparse as the team's future in Florida is limited. Lineup, bench, Pitching=??????????

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