For first time since 1995, Chipper Jones will not be in the Braves opening day lineup. After losing the one game playoff, the Braves were left with a bitter taste in their mouth. Atlanta will add the Upton Brothers to Jason Heyward in a young, athletic outfield with a ton of speed. Tim Hudson will anchor a rotation with talented but unproven starters behind him. The starters are a bit of a question mark, but the bullpen is really strong and if the starters get through the sixth, it could be lights out for opponents with O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel shutting it down. A very good team but will have to settle for a wildcard spot. (Scott Boutcher)
The 2012 season was suppose to be a promising one, with the additions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell and the opening of their new Marlins Park, but it did not work out like it was planned. Instead, they ended up in last in the NL East and trading all, but one of their top players, Giancarlo Stanton. The 2013 season does not look too bright, with no improvement throughout the roster. This season can be a long one, but the young and talented players can have the opportunity to develop and gain valuable Major League experience. (Kevin Langner)
New York Mets
The future is finally starting to look brighter for the New York Mets. Unfortunately, the present is still about as bleak as it’s been since the start of the decade. Pitching prospects Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey – the latter got some big-league experience under his belt in ’12 – and top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud have Met fans salivating; but with Wheeler and d’Arnaud bound for the minors, some patience will be needed. For now, Harvey joins Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, Shaun Marcum, and whoever ends up replacing the injured Johan Santana in the rotation. And while the pitching in 2013 should actually be pretty decent for the Mets, the offense doesn’t figure to produce a whole lot. David Wright and Ike Davis should provide the power in the middle of the lineup, but it looks pretty dicey everywhere else on the field, including an outfield that may rank as the worst in the Majors. Another year of 70-something wins is likely. (Matt Sherman)
2012 was not kind to the Philadelphia Phillies. After starting the season without former MVP Ryan Howard and All-Star Chase Utley the Phillies struggled to an 81-81 third place finish. It snapped the franchises 5-year run on top of the NL East and was their worst finish in 9 seasons. The 2013 campaign is off to a healthier start and can only mean good things. Michael Young joins an infield of former All-Stars, looking to prove that there is still some something left in the tank. The outfield features new addition Ben Revere, who could evolve into a fan favorite with his hustle and speed in both the outfield and on the base paths along with former #1 prospect Domonic Brown who has had a spectacular spring training. The pitching staff ultimately will be the key to success in Philadelphia. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee give the Phillies two Cy Young candidates from the left side at the top of the rotation while Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick & John Lannan round out a sold veteran rotation. The Phillies bullpen was a disaster last season, but could potentially be a strength in 2013 with Jonathan Papelbon closing out games behind Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Phillipe Aumont. Clearly the Washington Nationals are the “team to beat” going into the regular season and the Braves made the big bold moves, but don’t count out the Phillies just yet as they should make a run at a wild card birth pending health. (Mike Orzechowski)
After spending an entire season and off-season second guessed about their handling of Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals will now get an opportunity to show what they can do across the board. Gio Gonzalez was a strong pitcher but came into his own as a strike first pitcher in 2012. With Strasburg full time and apparently a permanent fixture start to finish he should get the chance to shine again. Bryce Harper turned heads as the one of the best rookies in baseball last year but with Mike Trout changing the landscape probably didn’t get enough credit. With Jayson Werth back and Denard Span the Nats have a strong combination of speed and power coming from the outfield. Their infield remains productive as well with Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, and Adam LaRoche. Washington is a tough team that will test the NL East in 2013.