Last week, EJSIC previewed the Major League Baseball season by looking at two questions surrounding the American League teams. Now, we’ll check out the Senior Circuit and begin with the NL East.
1. How good will Jason Heyward be? At the beginning of March, this question was actually, Will Jason Heyward make the team out of Spring Training? Now that manager Bobby Cox has announced he will be the starting right fielder, how well will the twenty year old phenom perform? If Spring Training is any indication, he will make the transition relatively smooth. He has posted a .347 batting average with a .467 on-base percentage. Perhaps the best stat has been his patient approach at the plate with 9 walks.
2. Do the Braves have enough offense? Atlanta has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, but the offense is not as potent. Franchise player Chipper Jones will need to have a come back season after his struggle for most of the second half in 2009. The Braves are also hoping for a healthy Troy Glaus at first base. If they get some more consistency and power in the lineup, the Braves will be contenders for the NL East crown.
1. Does Chris Coghlan pick up from his rookie season? Coghlan won the NL Rookie of the Year award last season after a spectacular offensive campaign. He routinely got on base and portrayed great base running skills. The Marlins need him to get on base consistently again this season. He sets the table well for MVP candidate Hanley Ramirez.
2. Do the Marlins have enough rotational depth to catch the Phillies? Florida has a good rotation mixed with young talent and settled veterans. But to catch the Phillies, the Marlins will need the consistency at the lower end of the rotation. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are set at the top. Can Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Andrew Miller step up?
New York Mets
1. How healthy are the Mets? There’s no doubt that the Mets have talent on the team, but rarely were fans treated to a full lineup at Citi Field last season. Jose Reyes missed most of last season and has experienced thyroid problems in Spring Training. The Mets offense is just not the same without him at the top of the lineup.
2. Does ace Johan Santana get any help? Santana was hurt a lot last season, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Truthfully, he’s the only pitcher in the Mets rotation that is consistent. Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez need to step up.
1. Can the Phillies make it to three straight World Series? No National League team has accomplished the feat since the 1942 to ’44 St. Louis Cardinals. The addition of Roy Halladay makes it seem more of a possibility. Plus, the Phils have one of the best offenses that is hard to shut down for 9 innings.
2. Does Cole Hamels return to form? In 2008, Hamels was dominant all season and it culminated in the World Series victory. He was a disappointment in 2009 however. Now, he has Roy Halladay all season for help. If Hamels can pitch effectively, it gives the Phils a lefty-righty combo at the top of the lineup that can shut down any team.
1. How soon do we see Stephen Strasburg? The Nationals were in the headlines positively before last summer’s amateur draft. Will they take Strasburg and if they do, can they sign him? They took the Scott Boras client and they signed him. He’ll start in the minor leagues, but if he performs as well as some envision him, he may be pitching in D.C. by late summer.
2. Does the defense improve? The Nationals had a lot of problems last season, but their offense was serviceable for most of the season. They really struggled in the field though, committing 143 errors. Baseball has seen a resurgence in emphasis on pitching and defense. The Nats can help themselves by improving with the leather.