***All projected rosters according to Baseball Prospectus***

 

1 - Atlanta Braves (91-71)

Projected Starting Lineup:

RF - Jason Heyward

LF - Justin Upton

1B - Freddie Freeman

C - Evan Gattis

3B - Chris Johnson

SS - Andrelton Simmons

2B - Dan Uggla

CF - B.J. Upton

Projected Bench:

C - Gerald Laird

1B/OF - Ryan Doumit

IF - Ramiro Pena

OF - Jose Constanza

OF - Jordan Schafer

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Julio Teheran

2 - Alex Wood

3 - Freddy Garcia

4 - David Hale

5 - Gus Schlosser

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Craig Kimbrel

SU - David Carpenter

SU - Luis Avilan

MID - Jordan Walden

MID - Anthony Varvaro

MID - Ryan Buchter

LR - Cory Gearrin

To say Spring Training has been a disaster for the Atlanta Braves would be a pretty substantial understatement.  Atlanta is slated to have three starting pitchers on the disabled list to begin the season with another one who likely will not be ready to pitch until mid-April.

Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are two very talented young arms on the Braves and they have one notable dire similarity.  They both went through their second Tommy John surgeries of their careers this past month.  Both Beachy and Medlen will miss the season which will prove to be extremely detrimental to the Braves' pennant hopes.  This also coming with the news that Mike Minor, another starting pitcher, will be on the disabled list to start the season while newly signed Ervin Santana will not be game ready until a few weeks into the season.

That leaves no-name pitchers like David Hale and Gus Schlosser in the mix to try and take advantage of their opportunities.  Atlanta is hoping guys like Minor, Gavin Floyd and Santana can return to the Majors and bolster a fragile pitching staff.  With the injuries, young studs like Alex Wood and Julio Teheran have shots to fast forward their careers and become the aces Atlanta believes they will become, now.  The starting rotation just needs to get leads into the 7th inning with great bullpen arms in David Carpenter (just not when pitching to Juan Uribe) and Luis Avilan, as well as the best closer in baseball, Craig Kimbrel.

The lineup is stellar. Freddie Freeman is one of the most underrated players in baseball and should shed such label before the end of the season as his on-base percentage, power and fielding ability make him a dark-horse candidate for National League Most Valuable Player. With Jason Heyward, still somehow maturing and growing, along with the powerful Justin Upton, Atlanta just needs Chris Johnson to at least somewhat match the great production he had last year while Evan Gattis matures into a more complete all-around hitter.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Dan Uggla still exists. Hopefully he will be overshadowed in the middle of the infield by Andrelton Simmons, who is on the verge of stardom.

The pitching question marks are prominent, and Atlanta's rotation may go through some growing pains (both figuratively and literally) but it should come together in time for the Braves to capture the Division title.

 

2 - Washington Nationals (87-75)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Denard Span

3B - Ryan Zimmerman

LF - Bryce Harper

RF - Jayson Werth

1B - Adam LaRoche

SS - Ian Desmond

C - Wilson Ramos

2B - Anthony Rendon

Projected Bench:

C - Jose Lobaton

1B/OF - Tyler Moore

IF - Danny Espinosa

OF - Scott Hairston

OF - Nate McLouth

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Stephen Strasburg

2 - Gio Gonzalez

3 - Jordan Zimmermann

4 - Doug Fister

5 - Tanner Roark

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Rafael Soriano

SU - Tyler Clippard

SU - Drew Storen

MID - Mike Gonzalez

MID - Craig Stammen

MID - Jerry Blevins

LR - Ross Detwiler

Many would argue that Washington's growth has gone backwards in recent years. And after missing the playoffs in 2013 when they won the Division in 2012, it is hard to oppose such an assertion.  There is no denying the young talent as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are still maturing, but the ability to put it all together consistently year by year is the real test.

The Nationals did finish 10 games over .500 last season, but it did not translate to postseason games. For Washington to reach its maximum potential, they need to finally let their young players loose. Every season they seem to baby Strasburg, which greatly hindered their 2012 hopes. He did pitch 183 innings in 2013, so it appears that Washington will finally let their electric hurler pitch from beginning to end as he anchors the rotation as the ace. Strasburg did have arthroscopic elbow surgery back in October, so injury concerns still remain.

Meanwhile, Harper missed more than 40 games last year due to injury, but when he is on the field, he terrifies opposing pitchers. He has added an incredible amount of muscle over the offseason and seems primed to become the MVP candidate he has been hyped to be since his junior college days.

Believe it or not, the Nationals have more players on their roster than Strasburg and Harper. Jayson Werth being the most notable as he absolutely crushed the baseball last season -- especially in the second half. He is the true stabilizer in the lineup -- a role many believe the oft-injured Ryan Zimmerman holds.

You may not find a more underrated yet highly talented middle-infield tandem than Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon. Desmond is already a proven stud while Rendon is coming off a very successful rookie season and should see full-time duties at second base this year.

Guys like Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have done a phenomenal job of easing the pain National fans feel in regards to Strasburg's use issues over the past two years. With Doug Fister in D.C. now, Washington has an extremely deep rotation to support Strasburg and get the ball to a very talented trio of arms in the bullpen. Washington may see October baseball once again in 2014.

 

3 - Philadelphia Phillies (79-83)

Projected Starting Lineup:

CF - Ben Revere

SS - Jimmy Rollins

2B - Chase Utley

1B - Ryan Howard

RF - Marlon Byrd

LF - Domonic Brown

C - Carlos Ruiz

3B - Cody Asche

Projected Bench:

C - Wil Nieves

1B/OF - John Mayberry

IF - Kevin Frandsen

IF/OF - Freddy Galvis

OF - Bobby Abreu

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Cliff Lee

2 - A.J. Burnett

3 - Kyle Kendrick

4 - Roberto Hernandez

5 - Jeff Manship

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Jonathan Papelbon

SU - Antonio Bastardo

SU - Brad Lincoln

MID - Jake Diekman

MID - Justin De Fratus

MID - B.J. Rosenberg

LR - Shawn Camp

It is one thing to go from being the class of the league like Philadelphia once was in the National League to rebuilding, it's another to fall from grace with no real direction or future. The Phillies have watched former MVPs on their roster dwindle to barely marginal everyday players.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ratings for Philly's former stars in 2013: Jimmy Rollins (0.2), Ryan Howard (0.6) and Chase Utlery (3.5). As you can see, Utley is the only one left of the trio who can still be considered a positive, contributing player to the team. Combined, Rollins and Howard were not worth a single win last season.

Cody Asche may not be a sexy prospect, but at least he will be getting his shot to establish himself as a Major League player. At the very least, he will keep third base warm until top prospect Maikel Franco is ready to go.

Cole Hamels will miss the beginning of the season and the words "dead arm" have been tossed around to describe his issues. While Hamels will likely be fine by the end of the season and put up good numbers, those two words are terrifying to hear about a pitcher. Especially one like Hamels who only has an aging Cliff Lee and newcomer A.J. Burnett in the rotation with him as fellow game-changers. Kyle Kendrick is inconsistent while Roberto "Don't call me Fausto" Hernandez is a question mark. Don't be surprised if Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon are mired with trade rumors all season long.

Philadelphia needs more impactful prospects on the roster with only Franco and pitchers Jesse Biddle (top pitching prospect) and number-four prospect Miguel Gonzalez expected to make the club sometime in 2014.

 

4 - New York Mets (73-89)

Projected Starting Lineup:

LF - Eric Young Jr.

2B - Daniel Murphy

3B - David Wright

RF - Curtis Granderson

CF - Chris Young

1B - Ike Davis

C - Travis d'Aranud

SS - Ruben Tejada

Projected Bench:

C - Anthony Recker

1B/OF - Lucas Duda

IF - Omar Quintanilla

IF - Josh Satin

OF - Juan Lagares

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Dillon Gee

2 - Bartolo Colon

3 - Zack Wheeler

4 - Daisuke Matsuzaka

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Bobby Parnell

SU - Jose Valverde

SU - Scott Rice

MID - Jeurys Familia

MID - Kyle Farnsworth

MID - Vic Black

MID - Carlos Torres

LR - John Lannan

Unlike Philadelphia, the Mets have a bright future ahead of them. There are several impactful prospects itching to get their shots in New York and their futures are set to begin this summer. However, that means the current roster is putrid -- luckily this means there will not be many people standing in the way of the young guys looking for openings.

The disabled list is painful to look at as a Mets fan, especially with Jon Niese most likely starting there this season. Without Niese, it would be just as gut wrenching as Matt Harvey will etch his name into the D.L. for the duration of the season thanks to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. New York will have to wait another year to see a full season of the incredible duo of Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Patience should pay off, however, as top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard could be a full-time pitcher this time next year should he make his debut in 2014.

Syndergaard came over from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade from over a year ago that also brought catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud to Queens. The trials and tribulations of d'Arnaud are well-documented with injury issues and overall question of his quality of play. His foot injury kept him sidelined for an extended period of time last season and when he did play, he was unimpressive. His Spring Training has been less than stellar but should still get the catching role for the Mets once the season begins.

It is much more fun to talk about the unproven guys on the Mets as current roster placeholders hardly garner a moment's thought. Chris Young, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are more detrimental than assets while the face of MLB David Wright can only do so much. Curtis Granderson is one of the favorites to be the biggest offseason signing bust of 2014.

The Mets are not competing, but with d'Arnaud getting a true shot to play a full season and Syndergaard waiting in the wings, there should be plenty to talk about for the intense New York media.

 

5 - Miami Marlins (67-95)

Projected Starting Lineup:

2B - Rafael Furcal

CF - Christian Yelich

RF - Giancarlo Stanton

1B - Garrett Jones

C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia

LF - Brian Bogusevic

3B - Casey McGehee

SS - Adeiny Hechavarria

Projected Bench:

C - Jeff Mathis

3B/1B - Greg Dobbs

IF - Donovan Solano

IF/OF - Jeff Baker

OF - Reed Johnson

Projected Starting Rotation:

1 - Jose Fernandez

2 - Jacob Turner

3 - Nathan Eovaldi

4 - Henderson Alvarez

5 - Tom Koehler

Projected Bullpen:

CL - Steve Cishek

SU - Mike Dunn

SU - A.J. Ramos

MID - Carlos Marmol

MID - Arquimedes Caminero

MID - Dan Jennings

LR - Brad Hand

I know this sounds silly for a write-up pertaining to a last-place team flirting with 100 losses, but I love Miami's rotation. Jose Fernandez was arguably the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw last season and despite what tunnel-visioned Dodger fans want you to believe, he was the correct choice for Rookie of the Year. Mix him in with Jacob Turner, once Detroit's top pitching prospect, who had a very fine first season in Miami and Henderson Alvarez who epitomized the idea of a finishing a season strong in 2013 by capping it off with a no-hitter and underrated Nathan Eovaldi -- you have a very formidable rotation.

Just don't count on the bullpen to secure leads those four guys will hand to them. Steve Cishek is a perfectly fine closer, but the rest of the bullpen is suspect. Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos had fine years, but as set-up men, they could falter. Carlos Marmol won't help things.

Miami seems to be very comfortable with showcasing young talent as they attempt to rebuild after their disastrous 2012 campaign. Christian Yelich has struggled in Spring, but still has a very high talent ceiling while Giancarlo Stanton could finally be healthy again and ready to murder baseballs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia got a nice contract coming off a World Series ring with Boston, but the rest of the lineup is filled with bench guys.

The rotation is awesome and has potential through the roof -- without even yet mentioning top prospect Andrew Heaney who had people talking about him making the Major League club out of Spring Training ala Jose Fernandez a year ago. The rest of the roster needs a lot of work.

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