Baseball 2011 preview: NL East outlook

Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies swings in

Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies swings in the on-deck circle during a spring training game against the Yankees at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Feb. 27, 2011) (Credit: Getty)

1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2010 Record: 97-65 (First place, lost NLCS to Giants)

Manager: Charlie Manuel (seventh season 972-544, .428; overall 1,382-764, .618)

GM: Ruben Amaro Jr.

Last World Series: 2009 (lost to Yankees, 4-2)

Outlook: Once a punching bag in their own town, the Phillies have now attained a Yankees-esque level of both expenditures and expectations. You know you're on a roll when LHP Cliff Lee pretty much falls in your lap. Nevertheless, 2B Chase Utley's right knee injury looms as a serious concern.

Keep an eye on: RHP Roy Oswalt. With a $16 million mutual option (against a $2 million buyout) for next year, he's the only starting pitcher whose immediate future is unsettled.

Final word: Their rotation gives them so much room for error. Reserve their fifth straight NL East crown and third World Series appearance (and second title) in four years.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

SS Jimmy Rollins .243

3B Placido Polanco .298

2B Chase Utley .275

1B Ryan Howard .276

CF Shane Victorino .259

LF Raul IbaƱez .275

RF Ben Francisco .268

C Carlos Ruiz .302

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Roy Halladay 21-10

LH Cliff Lee 12-9

RH Roy Oswalt 13-13

LH Cole Hamels 12-11

RH Joe Blanton 9-6

CLOSER Saves

RH Ryan Madson / 5

RH Jose Contreras 4

2. FLORIDA MARLINS

2010 Record: 80-82 (Third place)

Manager: Edwin Rodriguez (first full season, 46-46, .500)

GM: Larry Beinfest

Last World Series: 2003 (defeated Yankees, 4-2)

Outlook: As they close out Sun Life Stadium (previously Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Joe Robbie . . . ah, forget it), the Marlins seem poised to make a real playoff run. They have oodles of young talent and a revamped bullpen.

Keep an eye on: Javier Vazquez. The two-time failed Yankee looks to rehabilitate his career once more. His velocity in camp has been a constant conversation item.

Final word: They'll reach the 90-win mark for the first time since their 2003 championship season, yet they'll just miss the playoffs.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

CF Chris Coghlan .268

2B Omar Infante .321

SS Hanley Ramirez .300

RF Mike Stanton .259

LF Logan Morrison .283

1B Gaby Sanchez .273

C John Buck .281

3B Donnie Murphy / Emilio Bonifacio .318 / .261

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Josh Johnson 11-6

RH Ricky Nolasco 14-9

RH Javier Vazquez 10-10

RH Anibal Sanchez 13-12

LH Chris Volstad 12-9

CLOSER Saves

RH Leo Nunez 30

3. ATLANTA BRAVES

2010 Record: 91-71 (Second place, lost NLDS to Giants)

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (first season; overall 276-279, .497)

GM: Frank Wren

Last World Series: 1999 (lost to Yankees, 4-0)

Outlook: Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2005, the Braves replaced the retiring Bobby Cox with old pal Fredi Gonzalez and acquired second baseman Dan Uggla from Florida.

Keep an eye on: 3B Chipper Jones. He turns 39 in April and is coming back from left knee surgery. How much can he give the club?

Final word: There are many changes afoot here -- don't forget the retirement of closer Billy Wagner (they'll use Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters as co-closers) -- and the hunch is the Braves will wind up with a slightly worse team than last year's. Back to the golf courses in October.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

LF Martin Prado .307

CF Nate McLouth .190

3B Chipper Jones.265

C Brian McCann .269

2B Dan Uggla .287

RF Jason Heyward .277

SS Alex Gonzalez .240

1B Freddie Freeman .167

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Derek Lowe 16-12

RH Tim Hudson 17-9

RH Tommy Hanson 10-11

RH Jair Jurrjens 7-6

LH Brandon Beachy 0-2

CO-CLOSERS Saves

RH Craig Kimbrel 1

LH Jonny Venters1

4. NEW YORK METS

2010 Record: 79-83 (Fourth place)

Manager: Terry Collins (first season; overall 444-434, .506)

GM: Sandy Alderson

Last World Series: 2000

(lost to Yankees, 4-1)

Outlook: You might have heard they experienced a rough winter. Sure, new GM Sandy Alderson came aboard, but the Wilpons' serious financial concerns have become very real. Nevertheless, they'll play a baseball season at Citi Field.

Keep an eye on: SS Jose Reyes. He appears fully healthy. Can he convert that into his best season since 2008? And if that happens, how much can Alderson get for Reyes in a July trade?

Final word: These are trying times for Mets fans. They're headed in the right direction under Alderson, yet there's no telling whether Alderson will even still be around in a year, given the ownership uncertainty.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

SS Jose Reyes .282

CF Angel Pagan .290

3B David Wright .283

RF Carlos Beltran .255

LF Jason Bay .259

1B Ike Davis .264

C Josh Thole .277

2B Brad Emaus ---

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Mike Pelfrey 15-9

LH Jon Niese 9-10

RH Chris Young 2-0

RH RA Dickey 11-9

LH Chris Capuano 4-4

CLOSER Saves

RH Francisco Rodriguez 25

5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS

2010 Record: 69-93 (Fifth place)

Manager: Jim Riggleman (second full season 102-135, .430; overall 1,412-624, .442)

GM: Mike Rizzo

Last World Series: None

Outlook: This is their seventh season in the nation's capital since moving from Montreal. Don't think of it as a lucky seven. Even after signing Jayson Werth to a ginormous contract, the Nationals don't look as if they could even sniff .500.

Keep an eye on: RHP Stephen Strasburg. He probably won't throw a pitch that counts all season, as he rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery. The key is to make sure he's ready for 2012.

Final word: Very curious to see how Werth, an eccentric fellow, deals not only with being the focal point of a team, but also the focal point of a last-place team.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

SS Ian Desmond .269

RF Jayson Werth .296

3B Ryan Zimmerman .307

1B Adam LaRoche .261

LF Mike Morse .289

2B Danny Espinosa .214

CF Rick Ankiel .232

C Ivan Rodriguez .266

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Livan Hernandez 10-12

RH Jordan Zimmermann 1-2

LH John Lannan 8-8

RH Jason Marquis 2-9

LH Tom Gorzelanny 7-9

CLOSERS Saves

RH Drew Storen / 5

LH Sean Burnett 3

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