While the Philadelphia Phillies are a strong favorite to win a fourth straight NL East division crown in 2010, another repeat won’t be an easy task. The Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves each won at least 86 games a year ago. In addition, the New York Mets are expected to be much better this season (it isn't hard to improve, because they can't get worse than they were last year).
Philly rolled to a second consecutive NL pennant in 2009 behind the top offense in the NL. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley leading the way, the Phils will be an elite offense again in 2010. The arrival of Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays gives the Phils a dominant number one to build around at the top of the rotation. The Phillies are hoping that former ace Cole Hamels will be able to rebound from a shaky postseason in 2010; he is off to a great start this offseason, so we shall see...The team will also need a bounce back campaign from closer Brad Lidge (0-8, 7.21 E.R.A. in 2009) this year. Bet the Phillies to win the N.L. east again...it's a lock.
Since winning 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, the Braves haven’t finished higher than third in the NL East. Still, there is plenty of optimism in the team’s camp this spring after an 86-76 campaign a year ago. Despite the loss of right-hander Javier Vazquez, the club’s rotation is one of the best in the senior circuit. The offense has some question marks. The Braves are hoping that franchise player Chipper Jones will rebound from a down year in 2009. Rookie outfielder Jason Heyward is generating plenty of hype in Atlanta’s camp as a potential breakout performer this season.
Despite having one of the lowest payrolls all of baseball, Florida (87-75 in 2009) was a playoff contender last year. With a new ballpark set to open in 2012 and an increased payroll this season, the young Marlins aren’t going away. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez continues to emerge as one of the top stars in the game. On the mound, number one starter Josh Johnson is an elite arm. Some issues at the back of the rotation and in the bullpen could leave Florida a little short again in 2010.
The 2009 campaign (70-92) was a season to forget for the Mets. Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran combined to miss 207 games last season. Reyes is ready to go this spring while Beltran should be back in the lineup in May. The addition of free agent slugger Jason Bay should also help the Mets rebound. While Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez lead the pitching staff, there are some concerns beyond New York’s top starter and closer.
After two straight 59-win seasons, Washington could be ready for a respectable season in 2010. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn pace an offense that is looking for more consistency. On the mound, Jason Marquis is on board to lead the rotation after helping Colorado to reach the postseason in 2009 with 15 wins. Former Pirates hurler Matt Capps has been added as the club’s new closer.