2007 Season: 2nd Place (88-74)
Best Off-Season Move: Trading for Johan Santana
Why They’ll Be Better: After one of the worse end-of-season meltdowns in baseball history, the Mets are pissed off. Not only do they have a chip on their shoulder, but they have got be excited after landing, umm, THE BEST PITCHER IN BASEBALL! Santana will do very well in the NL East, where he will face depleted lineups in Florida, Atlanta, and Washington (Philly is tough). Their lineup is very good, but will need 2006 MVP candidate Delgado to at least be a servicable bat after a dissapointing ’07 campaign. The starting staff will be great if Pedro Martinez, El Duque and John Maine can stay healthy, but their bullpen leading up to Billy Wagner concerns me.
2007 Season: 1st Place (89-73) Lost in NLDS
Best Off-Season Move: Signing Pedro Feliz
Why They’ll Be Better: Throwing Brett Myers back into the rotation should have been done a long time ago – that will help them a lot this year. Cole Hamels will anchor the staff, and if healthy is a sure fire ace. Reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, ’06 MVP Ryan Howard and possible future MVP Chase Utley make up arguably the best trio in baseball on the offensive side – those guys in one lineup is scary. Feliz is a major upgrade at third base and I like the addition of Geoff Jenkins to the lineup.If newcomer Brad Lidge can return to ’05 form and Tom Gordon doesn’t blow leads like he has been lately, these guys could win 100 games this year.
3. Atlanta Braves (86-76)
2007 Season: 3rd Place (84-78)
Best Off-Season Move: Trading for Mark Kotsay
Why They’ll Be Better: Their pitching staff got a little better and wiser with the signing of Tom Glavine. I think the signing will re-energize John Smoltz and Glavine, and they will put up as good of a season as they physically can at this point. Getting Kotsay after losing Andruw Jones was not a bad move – Kotsay has a good glove and fits into the lineup nicely with Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann shouldering the power load. I think they have a good team, with one weakness – their bullpen. Rafael Soriano as the closer? He’s got good stuff, but not closer stuff. The rest of their bullpen is inexperienced – Peter Moylan is alright, but they’ve got no one else.
4. Washington Nationals (79-83)
2007 Season: 4th Place (73-89)
Best Off-Season Move: Trading for Elijah Dukes
Why They’ll Be Better: What was a headache for the Tampa Bay Rays may be a blessing for the Nationals – Dukes is a VERY talented player, and if he can shape up his image, the Rays will regret that move forever. I think the Nationals had a tremendous off-season – re-signing Chad Cordero, trading for Paul Lo Duca and Lastings Milledge, and trading for Yankees prospect Tyler Clippard. They are building for the future, yet have a nice mix of young and old. Dmitri Young looks to capitalize on a surprising ’07 season, and Shawn Hill and John Patterson will continue to develop in to good pitchers. Playing in a brand new stadium this season, things are looking up for the Nationals.
5. Florida Marlins (60-102)
2007 Season: 5th Place (71-91)
Best Off-Season Move: Signing Luis Gonzalez
Why They’ll Be Worse: It is going to be a loooong season for the Fish. They have some talented young bats, including the most talented young bat in the MLB, Hanley Rameriz, but they have some very weak bats in that lineup too. Their pitching staff is loaded with young pitchers, including newcomer Andrew Miller (who they got in return for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis), but they just can not shoulder the load. Their bullpen is horrendous too. Enough said. Signing Gonzalez was a good move because he can give some good insight and be a teacher to guys like Rameriz, Jeremy Hermida, and Dan Uggla.