The Phillies are still the class of the division, but the Braves, Marlins and Nationals are stocked with young talent and should all be in the wild card hunt in 2012. The numbers used here are courtesy of the LVH Sportsbook. See overviews of other divisions here: AL East AL Central AL West
Atlanta: Under 87.5
The Braves, coming off last year’s collapse, are already starting the year with some injuries in the rotation. While they have very good young pitching depth, it won’t serve them well to have those guys throw lots of innings. The back end 1-2 punch of Craig Kimbrell and Jonny Venters is as good as it gets. The offense is probably relying too heavily on young talents Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. Even with the collapse, they did win 89 games last year. They should be in the wild card hunt but I do think they slide back a couple of games.
Miami: Over 84.5
I would have liked them at this number before making all their offseason acquisitions. You have to expect a bounce back year from Hanley Ramirez after last year’s disaster. They have excellent speed in their lineup and a legitimate slugger in Mike Stanton. The pitching is good, especially if Josh Johnson stays healthy. If he can make 30 starts this season, I think they’re a 90-win caliber team. Either way, I think they’re slightly better than Atlanta right now.
New York: Over 70.5
The Mets are in disarray right now, but they did win 77 games last year with a banged up team. The Mets had a quiet offseason, other than re-tooling the bullpen, which is not a bad thing, considering they’re far away from competing in this division. At this point, anything you get from Johan Santana is a bonus, so it’s a waiting game to get him and Jason Bay off the books. The starting rotation should be competitive enough to slide them into the 70-win total.
Philadelphia: Over 92.5
I think the Phillies offense is beginning to age, and they have to deal with the uncertain time table of Ryan Howard‘s return. It’s too difficult, though, with the three durable aces they throw out there, who cover roughly 100 starts, to envision them not cracking this number. I expect a fair drop off from the 102 wins of a year ago but 95 sounds about right.
Washington: Over 82.5
The Nationals are on the rise and have a very good starting rotation to go with a solid bullpen. The offense is not quite there yet, but they have young players on the way, and they are becoming one of the more aggressive franchises in baseball. They got a torrid second half last year from Mike Morse and are getting Adam LaRoche back from injury. They can forget about Jayson Werth living up to his contract, but they need him to be more productive. If they can sustain average offensive production, I think they can stay in a playoff race most of the year and win about 85 games.