We're only about 40 hours away from the opening pitch of the 2010 Atlanta Braves season, it's time to take a look at the division and how the year might play out.
Predicted Divisional Standings
1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils lineup is so much better than any other team in the NL East, that they should be able to slug their way to another divisional crown. To me, Chase Utley is their most dangerous hitter - he's the type of guy that just can't be pitched to. Ryan Howard can change a game in the blink of an eye, but he good pitchers can get him out. With all due respect to Johan Santana, Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in the division and one of the best in the National League - watch his numbers explode with his first full season outside of the AL East. The rest of their staff is rather ordinary for me, J.A. Happ isn't going to put up those numbers again, and Hamels looked lost last year.
2. Atlanta Braves
The rotation is the best in the division and should carry the club to a strong 2010 season. The Braves have five quality arms, and two studs in Jurrjens and Hanson that will anchor their pitching staff. The key to the season will be an offense that needs to be better than it was last year. If Troy Glaus can stay healthy, and Jason Heyward is as good as everyone thinks he is - the Braves should score enough to complement their strong pitching.
3. Florida Marlins
The Marlins finished second in the division last year and return plenty of talent to form a competitive team in 2010. Hanley Ramirez is in another world, and despite being only 26 years old, he may be the best offensive player in the game. Last season he led the league with a .342 batting average to go along with 65 extra-base hits. The rotation is led by Josh Johnson - who is one of the better young pitchers in baseball. The Marlins need young arms Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad to become more consistent pitchers.
4. Washington Nationals
The Nationals won't challenge for a playoff spot, but they have some interesting pieces in place. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is a tremendous all-around talent and along with Adam Dunn anchors a decent Nationals offense. The pitching staff lacks star quality, veteran Jason Marquis is a solid pitcher but he isn't the type of guy that should be starting on opening day. The pitching rotation could get better in a hurry when Stephen Strasburg gets promoted and Jordan Zimmerman gets promoted.
5. New York Mets
If Beltran and Reyes get back to full health the lineup should be okay, but the Mets really need David Wright to rediscover his power stroke. The rotation after Johan Santana is full of problems and could tax the bullpen early and often. The trio of Oliver Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey have struggled mightily this spring having given up 39 earned runs.
Top Player - Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez is an outstanding player with a skill-set that few players in baseball can match. We're talking about a guy that that hit .342 with power, and is just now entering his prime years. Scary good.
Most Underrated Player - Jayson Werth
Werth smacked a quiet 36 home runs last season, but outside of Philadelphia and fantasy baseball, he rarely gets any love. He ranked seventh in the NL in homers in 2009 and also put up a nice OBP of .373.
Most Overrated Player - Gary Matthews Jr.
Fans like the name, scouts like the possible power/speed combo, but Matthews has been a below average player since he left Texas in 2006.
Top Pitcher - Roy Halladay
Halladay isn't just the best pitcher in the NL East, he may be the best pitcher in baseball; his numbers are going to explode now that he doesn't have to face the Yankees, Red Sox or the DH on a regular basis.
Most Underrated Pitcher - Jair Jurrjens
Jurrjens turned in his second strong season in a row, but is generally overlooked outside the NL East. In 2009 the only National League starters to finish with an ERA lower than Jurrjens' 2.60, was Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum.
Most Overrated Pitcher - Derek Lowe
One year into a $60 million deal, Lowe already looks overpaid. Despite the big name and high salary, he probably isn't any better than the fourth best pitcher.....on Atlanta's staff.
Top Newcomer - Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward has been getting love all spring, and the Braves were so impressed by his play that he'll open the 2010 season in the starting lineup. Watch for Stephen Strasburg to come up at some point in the season for the Nationals.
Check out the divisional previews from the other NL East examiners to see how the Braves look from another team's perspective.