MLB Analysis: Marlins and Braves May Change Complexion of NL East in 2012

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Philadelphia Phillies (2011 finish 1st place, 102-60) Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels were the three biggest reasons the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011 and they all return in 2012. That’s the good news. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley aren’t getting any younger however and have been breaking down the past few years. If that weren’t bad enough, Ryan Howard is coming off an achilles injury sustained in his last at bat of the season/playoffs.

Philadelphia is playing with a narrow margin for error here, a hiccup or injury to any one of their big three and a 2012 playoff berth is no certainty in the city of brotherly love. Most people will still have them as the favorite thinking one last hurrah, but not me.

Atlanta Braves (2011 finish 2nd place, 89-73) Atlanta boasts arguably the best pitching staff in the game top to bottom. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hamson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor provide Atlanta with five solid starters and Jonny Venters & Craig Kimbrel take a back seat to no one closing out games.

The Braves offense is paced by arguably the best hitting catcher in the game, Brian McCann. Health seems to always be a problem with Chipper Jones these days and surprisingly, it’s been a problem for Jason Heyward in his young career so far too. Dan Uggla is hot and cold and is who he is, but the biggest potential problem I see is that the shortstop position. Shortstop is apparently being handed to an unproven rookie, Tyler Pastornicky. I’m not saying he can’t hack it, but being the field general as a rookie is a monumental task and how Pastornicky plays may make the difference on whether or not the Braves have a legitimate shot at a World Series title.

Washington Nationals (2011 finish 3rd place, 80-81) In Washington Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez, who was one of the hottest commodities on the market this off season, will join a rotation that already features Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Both Strasburg and Jordan should both be healthy, making this one of the most promising rotations in the league. Jayson Werth, who signed a seven-year, $126 million contract prior to the 2011 season, played like a guy no longer protected in the lineup by Utley and Howard but a healthy Ryan Zimmerman (12 homers, 49 RBIs in 101 games last season) should help him this season. Things are definitely looking up in the nation’s capital and a finish above .500 wouldn’t shock me. With Bryce Harper on the way and the young talent they already have, fans have good reason for optimism… A playoff run in 2012 wouldn’t be the wildest notion, but it’s a stretch.

New York Mets (2011 finish 4th place, 77-85) I don’t exactly what to say about the Mets. Being a Mets fan only makes what I have to describe worse. There is no sugar coating this as they have absolutely no shot to contend in the division whatsoever. To be honest, if they don’t finish in last place, it should be considered a good year. On the bright side, if you want to take the family to watch a major league baseball game, there should be plenty of great seats at Citi Field found on Stub Hub this summer at great prices.

The reality in New York is that the Mets best player Jose Reyes is gone. The money they would have been spent on Reyes, instead went to Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston. That pretty much sums up where they are at…. Johan Santana should be back, and if the lefthander can recapture his pre-injury ace form, and Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey and Dillon Gee can keep them in games, the Mets have a shot at playing some exciting baseball. I really don’t know what to expect out of young Ruben Tejada at shortstop, so for me, I’ll take solace in the fact that if Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy can hit like they showed signs of last year and also find permanent defensive positions, the Mets will have something to build on.

Miami Marlins (2011 finish 5th place, 72-90) Besides the Los Angeles Angels, perhaps no other team in MLB had a more meaningful roster changing winter than the Miami Marlins. While there are no certainties here, they are my pick to win the division. Jose Reyes will be short and if he can remain in the lineup, he’s arguably the best SS in the game. Hanley Ramirez will move to third. Reports are that he’s healthy and if he’s not still sulking because he had to move, the Marlins have the best left side in the game. Carlos Zambrano will be slotted in the #5 slot with his mentor Ozzie Guillen’s looking over his shoulder, and that might actually work as there’s a chance he might avoid a major mental meltdown. Big-Z should be able to pitch effectively with some great matchups in the #5 spot.

If Logan Morrison can keep his mouth shut, Gabby Sanchez can build on last year, and the combo of Emilo Bonifacio and Chris Coghlan can man center field together, the Marlins have an excellent shot to take the division. Adding those pieces together with man-child Mike Stanton hitting with Reys and Ramirez in front of him and a pitching staff led by a healthy Josh Johnson (for my money, the best pitch in the game when healthy), I think they have the best roster top to bottom. If Josh Johnson can remain healthy, rainbows should shine regularly above the new stadium and the Marlins should capture a playoff spot and play well into October.

Predicted 2012 Finish

  1. Miami Marlins – Division Winner (98-64)
  2. Atlanta Braves  - Wild Card (95-68)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (83-79)
  4. Washington Nationals (82-82)
  5. New York Mets (77-85)

The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.