NL East Division Preview: A Tale of Different Talent Levels

The NL East has a fairly abundant collection of talent. However, it's safe to say that said talent is not evenly distributed in the least. While the Marlins have the most powerful player in the division in the person of Giancarlo Stanton, there isn't much else in the way of talent on their roster. The Mets, meanwhile, have some nice potential in their starting rotation with Matt Harvey and the seemingly ever-ready-to-break-out Jonathan Niese. Then there are the Phillies, who boast three of the very best starting pitchers in Major League Baseball. The Braves have the finest outfield in the game and Washington has a great rotation and arguably the best young talent in the game. How's this all going to shake out? Starting at the bottom, there are the Florida Marlins. We all know about the fire-sale and we all know that there isn't much there. If you're a Marlins fan, I guess you can take solace in the fact that you're not the Astros. Stanton's pursuit of prodigious homers will be just about the only interesting thing to watch with this team. Perhaps we can see Ricky Nolasco return to form or see if Juan Pierre can still steal a few bags, but there's not much worth watching in Miami. As far as a win total goes, I'd venture a guess that they'll win somewhere between 65 on the low side and 75 on the high side.

Moving up north, we get to the Mets. As a Yankee fan, I do not dislike the Mets. I don't root against them unless they're playing the Yankees, etc. However, that doesn't mean I don't find a tiny bit of joy in their frequent follies. This year, there's just enough talent on the team that they'll be far from a laughing stock, even if they're not quite division or Wild Card contenders just yet. One fun thing about the Mets last year was watching Matt Harvey pitch, and it'll definitely be exciting to watch him pitch a full season. There's a good chance we'll see Zach Wheeler up at some point in 2013 and the highly touted catching prospect Travis D'Aurnaud should get some playing time, too. With Ike Davis and David Wright, they should also have a respectable offense, despite a fairly weak looking outfield. Baseball Prospectus has the Mets pegged for 82 wins and a third place finish in the division, but I think that's a bit aggressive. I'd say 80 is about their ceiling, though that's not a huge difference. The big difference with this organization, though, is that things definitely don't feel hopeless or lost. There seems to be a plan in place and this year, they should be markedly better than they were last year.

Remember that time Cliff Lee picked the Phillies over the Yankees in part because of the Yankees' collective team age and how it didn't bode well for the future? Well, he was right in that the Yankees are old, but it's not exactly like the Phillies are full of a bunch of spring chickens or youthful exuberance. Dominic Brown may finally be getting his shot and Darrin Ruf is a little exciting (if not a little "old" himself), but in terms of talent, after the Big Tree of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Halladay, there isn't much talent to speak of on the Phillies. Chase Utley, Ryan Howad, Jimmy Rollins, and Michael Young most definitely aren't what they used to be and Ben Revere is no great shakes. I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish under the Mets for fourth place in the division. How the mighty have fallen, eh?

With Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, and Jason Heyward across, the Braves unquestionably have the most talented outfield in all of baseball. Add in Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons and the Braves have a great young core that will carry their offense throughout the year. Dan Uggla may not make it look pretty at times, but he still packs a potent punch at the plate. Tim Hudson leads a solid if not spectacular starting staff that'll be joined by the long-touted prospect Julio Teheran. People have been expecting him to make an impact for a while now and he just might do it. The rest of the rotation--Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, and Mike Minor--may not be the flashiest bunch, but it'll get the job done. The Braves play in a big park, but have great outfield defense and no fewer than five players who will hit for solid power. I'm guessing they'll fall just short, but they'll still give the Nationals a run for their money at the division title.

The Nationals are my pick not only to win this division, but to win the World Series. As we enter the season, they look like the strongest team in Major League Baseball. Their corners are strong with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Zimmerman. Up the middle, Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond will hit for a bit of power and Denard Span will provide good defense and on-base ability to set up for the heart of the order. Kurt Suzuki..well, nevermind his offense. His main job will be catching an absolutely stacked rotation, headed by Stephen Strasburg, who'll be backed up by a fantastic quartet of Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmerman, and Ross Detweiler. There aren't many starting fives that can compete with that bunch. Rafael Soriano joins Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen in the bullpen, a wonderful three-headed monster that will wreak havoc in the late innings. This is the team to beat in the NL.