MLB Picks 2009 National League Previews
LAST YEAR: 72-90
The Braves fell hard last year, and the once pitching-rich organization went out to improve their No. 12 NL ranked staff ERA. They came back with Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez, and Japanese starter Kenshin Kawakami. Add in Jair Jurgens, and the Braves certainly have a different and improved outlook on the mound. Mike Gonzalez will start as the closer, and Rafael Soriano could be there with him, if he can overcome the arm problems he dealt with much of last year. The Braves strength is at the corners wih Chipper Jones and Casey Kotchman. They will have to make up for a powerless outfield that combined for just 27 HRs last season. The Braves have fallen, and this doesn’t look like the year they will get up.
ON THE RISE: TOMMY HANSON RHP – He could find himself in the roration out of spring training, or certainly before the year is out.
LAST YEAR: 84-77
The Marlins keep losing talent, but bringing in the young players they get in return to stay competitive with by far the lowest payroll in baseball. The Marlins have pitching and subsequently, will win some games. Ricky Nolasco emereged last season winning 15 games. Josh Johnson coming off of Tommy John surgery, won seven games in the second half, and should be better. Anibal Sanchez is also fully recovered from surgery, and should have a better ’09. Then there is Chris Volstad who has electric stuff. Matt Lindstrom closed five games in September and throws very hard, and will get a shot at closing in ’09. The lineup is strong enough with Ramirez, Cantu, and Uggla in the middle, and future star, Cameron Maybin set to be the leadoff hitter. The Marlins could be a big surprise if all goes well.
ON THE RISE: BRETT SINKBEIL RHP – Injuries have slowed him down, but his nasty slider could push him into a setup role before the year is out.
LAST YEAR: 89-73
The Mets have disappointed their fans now for two straight seasons as most felt they should be NL Champions instead, they didn’t even make the playoffs. The Mets’ flaw was the back of the bullpen which led to an unbelievable 29 blown saves. The additions of J.J. Putz, and Fransisco Rodriguez should immediately take care of that poblem. The Mets’ starters, led by Johan Santana, had the sixth-best ERA in baseball, and should be a strength again this season. Jose Reyes led the Mets to 139 first inning runs a year ago – more than any team in baseball. The Mets have a solid lineup and a blend of youth and experience, and finally look like a team ready to win.
ON THE RISE: EDDIE KUNZ RHP – Made a cameo last year, has solid stuff and is insurance if someone goes down in the pen, or isn’t getting it done.
LAST YEAR: 92-70
The Phillies won it all last year, but their margin of error over the Mets was a slim three games, and the Mets may be ready to reverse those numbers. The Phillies have an ace at the top of the rotation in Cole Hamels, and with Bret Myers in a free agency year, he is likely to duplicate his second half all season this year. The ageless Jamie Moyer is back, and can still pitch, and Joe Blanton came into his own right at the right moment in the postseason. The Philly starters are a strength and their 966 innings was fourth best in the majors. Brad Lidge went 41 for 41 in save opportunities last year, so the pen can close the deal. The lineup is fierce and another strength, so the Phillies should be ready to fight it out in the NL East with the Mets.
ON THE RISE: KYLE DRABEK RHP – Spent last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, could help if someone in the rotation goes down.