This is the sixth and final piece in a week-long series in which the staff of Rising Apple previews each of the six divisions for the 2013 MLB season…
Of most concern to Mets fans in this baseball league of ours is what most people consider the top-heavy National League East. I heard the Braves announcers say in their broadcast of the ATL-NYM game the other day that they feel the bottom of the division has become less competitive. Though there is of course lots of love for the Nationals and the Braves (and less for the aging and ailing Phillies) people are underestimating how feisty and annoying the bottom of the division might be.
Let’s take a trip down Interstate 95.
Washington Nationals (2012 finish: 98-64, 1st place)
Key Losses - The Nats sent Michael Morse to the Mariners in a 3-team deal that netted them A.J. Cole once more, the top prospect they sent to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez last year. Morse became expendable with the resigning of Adam LaRoche and the outfield completely full. Other subtractions include John Lannan (signed with Phillies), Edwin Jackson (signed with Cubs), Mark DeRosa (signed with Blue Jays), Sean Burnett (signed with Angels), Tom Gorzelanny (signed with Brewers) and Jesus Flores (signed with Dodgers).
Key Additions - In the trade for Denard Span, the Nationals shored up not only their lack of a natural leadoff hitter (Jayson Werth?) but also the revolving door in center. After Drew Storen‘s injury last year threw Tyler Clippard into the closer role and forced Drew into the setup role while making his way back in the middle of last season, the Nationals said, “You’re both going to setup,” and signed Rafael Soriano to a 2-year, $28 million deal. Edwin Jackson is now Dan Haren at the back of that rotation, though he is coming off a down year. And as stated before, Adam LaRoche was resigned to a 2-year, $24 million deal.
Rookie to Watch - Anthony Rendon, 3rd Base: The 6th pick of the 2011 draft, Rendon, though injured last year, moved quickly through the organization to play at 4 different levels, ending the season in AA. He is blocked by mainstay Ryan Zimmerman, but if Zim is injured again at any point and/or they figure out another position for the prospect, Anthony Rendon could get the call, though it is very likely he’ll be used to strengthen the team via trade midseason.
…There was no way after the letdown in the playoffs that the Nationals would stay dormant this winter. Though they lost some key bullpen arms in Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, they have the depth out there to let those two guys walk, especially with the signing of Soriano, who was great for the Yankees last year when fate gave him the chance to be a closer once more. Though Edwin Jackson is a serviceable pitcher, having Dan Haren in the 5th spot of the rotation, when he is normally a 1 or 2, has made the rotation that includes Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann, most likely that much better. And as stated before, Denard Span has made that already formidable lineup that much longer. An easy out is no where to be found. Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy and Roger Bernadina help to shore up depth on that bench, and spell the regulars on any given day, and serviceably.
Projected 2013 Finish:
If everything comes to fruition in Davey Johnson‘s final managing year, the Nationals will once again win the East.