Since 1993, the National League East has been dominated by the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.  Now, there's a new team in town crashing the party from D.C.  The Washington Nationals won 98 games and gave the franchise their first Division title since moving from Montreal.  The Phillies have gotten old fast and certainly regressed while the Atlanta Braves remain as the biggest competition for the Nationals' hopes of defending their crown.  It's going to be a two team race all year long.

1 - Washington Nationals (99-63)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Denard Span

RF - Jayson Werth

LF - Bryce Harper

3B - Ryan Zimmerman

1B - Adam LaRoche

SS - Ian Desmond

2B - Danny Espinosa

C - Kurt Suzuki

Projected Bench:

C - Wilson Ramos

1B/3B - Chad Tracy

1B/OF - Tyler Moore

IF/OF - Steve Lombardozzi

OF - Roger Bernadina

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Stephen Strasburg

2 - Gio Gonzalez

3 - Jordan Zimmermann

4 - Dan Haren

5 - Ross Detwiler

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Rafael Soriano

SU - Drew Storen

SU - Tyler Clippard

MR - Ryan Mattheus

MR - Henry Rodriguez

MR - Zach Duke

LR - Craig Stammen

The best team in the National League from a year ago is looking to defend their Division for the first time in Washington and they have the manpower to do it. 

After his first full season in the majors, Stephen Strasburg is ready to have the baby gloves taken off and I think the Nationals are finally ready to unleash him.  He'll be the ace of this staff and in heavy consideration for the Cy Young.  He's surrounded by great talent in the rotation with Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez (third in Cy Young voting in 2012), Ross Detwiler and newcomer Dan Haren rounding out one of the more complete rotations in baseball.  Washington has two guys in Strasburg and Gonzalez that are legitimate aces for the staff. 

Bryce Harper nabbed the Rookie of the Year award last season at the tender age of just 19 (he turned 20 in October).  He's only going to get better with age - much, much better.  He may make his second All-Star team this summer before his 21st birthday.  There may not be a more underrated third baseman in baseball other than Ryan Zimmerman as he anchors both the offense and defense at the hot corner with his great glove. 

They added Rafael Soriano late in the offseason and he's just a year removed from manning the closer role for the New York Yankees - a role he flourished in.  Combine him with set-up men Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen (all three of which have closing experience) and you have a very shortened ballgame.  

From the lineup, to bench, rotation and bullpen, this Nationals team is stacked and could very well hit 100 wins.

2 - Atlanta Braves (97-65)

Projected Lineup:

SS - Andrelton Simmons

RF - Jason Heyward

LF - Justin Upton

1B - Freddie Freeman

CF - B.J. Upton

2B - Dan Uggla

3B - Juan Francisco

C - Gerald Laird

Projected Bench:

C/LF - Evan Gattis

3B/1B - Chris Johnson

IF - Ramiro Pena

OF - Reed Johnson

OF - Jordan Schafer

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Tim Hudson

2 - Kris Medlen

3 - Mike Minor

4 - Paul Maholm

5 - Julio Teheran

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Craig Kimbrel

SU - Eric O'Flaherty

SU - Jordan Walden

MR - Cory Gearrin

MR - Luis Avilan

MR - Anthony Varvaro

LR - Cristhian Martinez

I'm a huge fan of the Braves this year.  With the addition of Justin Upton thanks to a trade with Arizona, Atlanta now has one of the more complete lineups in the National League.  Andrelton Simmons missed a huge chunk of the 2012 season due to an injury, but was mighty impressive when he did play in his rookie year.  He'll emerge as the spark-plug for the lineup and will set the table for the big boppers in Jason Heyward, Upton and Freddie Freeman. 

Freeman and Heyward have the potential to really breakout this year and show just how good these young stars are going to be.  The Braves are a very young and talented team.  They've managed to incorporate all these guys into their roster without any semblance of growing pains. 

Craig Kimbrel, at just 24-years old, is the best closer in baseball with ridiculous strikeout numbers.  Another young stud is Kris Medlen who put up absurd numbers as a starter in 2012 and dominated the second half.  He'll have a full season to show off his pitching prowess and I'm predicting an All-Star campaign. 

It's going to be an epic battle between Washington and Atlanta for the Division but I'm positive both teams will end up making the playoffs.

3 - Philadelphia Phillies (84-78)

Projected Starting Lineup:

SS - Jimmy Rollins

2B - Chase Utley

3B - Michael Young

1B - Ryan Howard

LF - Laynce Nix

RF - Domonic Brown

CF - Ben Revere

C - Erik Kratz

Projected Bench:

C - Humberto Quintero

IF - Kevin Frandsen

IF - Freddy Galvis

OF - Ender Inciarte

OF/1B - John Mayberry, Jr.

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Cole Hamels

2 - Roy Halladay

3 - Cliff Lee

4 - Kyle Kendrick

5 - John Lannan

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Jonathan Papelbon

SU - Mike Adams

SU - Antonio Bastardo

MR - Mike Stutes

MR - Jeremy Horst

MR - Chad Durbin

LR - Raul Valdes

The best positional player for the Phillies last season was their catcher Carlos Ruiz.  Unfortunately, Ruiz will miss the first 25 games due to a suspension from his use of Adderall

The once dominate team of the National League has fallen back in the pack and become a much more average team.  The top three in the rotation still have the potential to be the best in all of baseball with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as they alone make it impossible to count out the Phillies.  Not to mention Jonathan Papelbon who has plenty of experience closing out games and was fantastic in his first year in the National League. 

The 2008 World Series champions have gotten significantly older in a very short time.  Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed quite of bit of the 2012 season while Utley hasn't been fully healthy since 2009.  Jimmy Rollins has also had his own health issues the past few years. 

There's three new faces in the lineup with Ben Revere, Michael Young and Delmon Young all being brought in.  Delmon Young is a head-case who has not remotely lived up to his promise he once had as a top prospect for the Rays (and looking at a DL stint to start the season), but Revere and Michael Young are both sensational pickups.  Young is a great clubhouse presence while Revere has the potential to be a Gold Glove center fielder. 

If Utley, Halladay, Howard, Rollins and Ruiz can all return and stay healthy, then the Phillies will have a very strong chance to compete for a Wild Card spot.  Big "if".

4 - New York Mets (75-87)

Projected Lineup:

CF - Jordany Valdespin

2B - Daniel Murphy

3B - David Wright

1B - Ike Davis

LF - Lucas Duda

RF - Marlon Byrd

C - John Buck

SS - Ruben Tejada

Projected Bench:

C - Anthony Recker

IF - Omar Quintanilla

OF/1B - Mike Baxter

OF - Collin Cowgill

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Jon Niese

2 - Dillon Gee

3 - Matt Harvey

4 - Jeremy Hefner

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Bobby Parnell

SU - Brandon Lyon

SU - Scott Atchison

MR - Josh Edgin

MR - LaTroy Hawkins

MR - Robert Carson

MR - Greg Burke

LR - Aaron Laffey

​The Mets are a mess, plain and simple.  There's key players ridded all through the disabled list with their closer Frank Francisco dealing with elbow issues, new SP pickup Shaun Marcum having neck discomfort and former ace Johan Santana - who was supposed to start opening day - already having shoulder fatigue.

It's not all bad in New York.  David Wright was one of the more impressive players in the World Baseball Classic as Captain America put up clutch and impressive numbers.  Other than him, there's no much to write home about in this lineup.  I mean, Marlon Byrd could be announced as the opening day right fielder.

The beginning of the season is just around the corner and their rotation is already thin.  Jon Niese is the "stud" of the rotation and he's hardly a top-of-the-line pitcher.  That being said, Dillon Gee - when healthy and not dealing with a blood clot - showed plenty of promise last year and Matt Harvey has an electric young arm.  He could put up huge strikeout numbers in a full season.

It's going to be a pretty brutal battle between the Mets and Marlins as to who will finish in the cellar of the East.  Expect to see top prospects like Travis d'Arnaud (catching prospect they received from trading last year's Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays) and pitcher Zack Wheeler to make their Mets' debuts some time this summer.

5 - Miami Marlins (67-95)

Projected Starting Lineup:

LF - Juan Pierre

3B - Placido Polanco

RF - Giancarlo Stanton

C - Rob Brantly

CF - Justin Ruggiano

2B - Donovan Solano

1B - Casey Kotchman

SS - Adeiny Hechavarria

Projected Bench:

C - Kyle Skipworth

IF - Wilson Valdez

IF/OF - Greg Dobbs

OF - Chris Coghlan

OF - Austin Kearns

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Ricky Nolasco

2 - Nathan Eovaldi

3 - Wade LeBlanc

4 - Henderson Alvarez

5 - Kevin Slowey

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Steven Cishek

SU - Jon Rauch

SU - Ryan Webb

MR - Mike Dunn

MR - A.J. Ramos

MR - Chad Qualls

LR - John Maine

A year ago this time, the Miami Marlins were a sexy pick for World Series contenders.  They had just spent mega-bucks on Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and others along with a brand new stadium, new manager in Ozzie Guillen and new look.  Now?  They're the laughing stock of baseball. 

Reyes, Buehrle and Guillen are gone along with their former ace pitcher Josh Johnson in a trade with Toronto.  All that's left is a franchise led by a very shady owner who promises his players one thing and does another. 

There's not much talent here but two guys to really keep an eye on.  Steven Cishek is one of the more underrated relief pitchers in baseball while Giancarlo Stanton is the strongest player in the MLB at just 23-years old.  If Miami was any good, Stanton would be in the MVP discussion. 

Ricky Nolasco is a solid pitcher in his own right and I wouldn't be surprised if they tried trading him some time this season because that's Miami's M.O.  Once a player gets a shred of respect in the baseball world - trade him.

Miami is dreadful and will likely only get worse as they continue to trade anyone worth any sort of value.


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