We’re taking a break from Cardinals history this week to participate in a United Cardinal Bloggers project to forecast the 2012 big-league baseball season. Today, we look at the National League East.
Predicted 2012 outcomes:
1. Miami Marlins: Because the Cardinals share a spring training facility with the Marlins, we have seen a lot of the Miami team and there is a lot to like:
_ First-year manager Ozzie Guillen has brought positive energy.
_ Acquisitions such as shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, and closer Heath Bell fit well with an existing foundation of young talent.
_ Hanley Ramirez appears to have transitioned well from shortstop to third base and may be poised to reclaim his status as one of the elite performers in the National League.
_ Josh Johnson looks healthy and may rival the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright as one of the top right-handed aces in the league and a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
_ The new ballpark on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl could play a factor in giving this franchise a confidence boost.
2. Atlanta Braves: The starting pitching is solid, with impressive youngsters such as Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy joining veterans Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens. The bullpen is filled with hard-throwing talent.
If outfielder Jason Heyward can pair with first baseman Freddie Freeman to generate consistent run production, the Braves will be wild-card contenders again and could provide a rousing sendoff for retiring third baseman Chipper Jones.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: With a starting rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies remain formidable. But first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley are injured and the lineup is aging (third baseman Placido Polanco is 36 and catcher Carlos Ruiz and shortstop Jimmy Rollins each is 33).
4. Washington Nationals: With a few breaks, it wouldn’t surprise if the Nationals finish higher than fourth and contend for a wild-card spot. More likely, they are a year away but will progress with a full season under manager Davey Johnson.
Phenom Stephen Strasburg receives the most attention, but Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez are effective starters who each could be poised to win 15 or more this season. Edwin Jackson, the right-hander who helped the Cardinals in the stretch drive last season, will be a veteran asset to the Washington staff.
It appears former Cardinal Rick Ankiel will get most of the playing time in center field for the Nationals.
5. New York Mets: The Mets, facing financial headaches, could be moving players such as starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey and reliever Jon Rauch by July.