By Josh Flagner
Since we’ve already been together for the starting rotation, bullpen, outfield, and infield snapshots, the only thing left for me to do is give my 2012 National League East season predictions. AND, since the rest of the National League East preview series has largely concentrated on players by position, I’m choosing my National League All-Stars before we get down to the nitty gritty of destroying hopes and dreams on (one of baseball’s) Opening Day.
Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies
Josh Johnson – Miami Marlins
Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
Tim Hudson – Atlanta Braves
That’s the top five starters in the division, in that order. I’m confident that Halladay and Lee will both contend for the Cy Young Award again in 2012, and I also feel good about taking a flier on the health of Johnson and Strasburg. I spent a lot of time deciding who to plug in as my fifth starter. Hudson seemed like the right choice because I feel like I’d be able to rely on his consistency. If you’re willing to argue pitching with me, I’m going to have a hard time disagreeing if you want Johan Santana, Gio Gonzalez, or Mark Buehrle. Any one of those guys could get onto rotation.
The Phillies were tops in my Starting Rotation Snapshot, and I wrote that the Marlins and Nationals pitching could step up into contention this year. It’s no surprise that the four hurlers in their own class are from those teams.
Long Reliever – Kyle Kendrick – Philadelphia Phillies
Set-Up Man – Tyler Clippard – Washington Nationals
Closer – Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves
There are a million different ways to rate relief pitchers, I’m giving you the meat and potatoes, bare bones bullpen positions. Every pen needs a solid long reliever to get them through the rough days, and a dominant set-up man/closer combination to ensure that every close game is a win.
Philly’s Kyle Kendrick gets the nod as the best long reliever in the division going away. His 3.22 ERA over 114 IP last season lock him up as the guy I want to put out there as a spot starter or in the second inning when there’s a bit of a mess happening.
Tyler Clippard and Craig Kimbrel are my choices at the back end of the bullpen. Clippard was as easy to pick as Kendrick, but Kimbrel was a much tougher decision. The Marlins Heath Bell posted 43 saves last year, as did the Nationals Drew Storen, but neither could match Kimbrel’s ERA or strikeout total. Kimbrel fanned 127 batters in 2011. That’s 53 more than Storen and 76 more than Bell. Ultimately, I want my closers to strike batters out. Kimbrel does that better than any reliever in the division.
Catcher – Carlos Ruiz – Philadelphia Phillies
First Base – Gaby Sanchez – Miami Marlins
Second Base – Dan Uggla – Atlanta Braves
Shortstop – Jose Reyes – Miami Marlins
Third Base – Hanley Ramirez – Miami Marlins
Left Field – Logan Morrison – Miami Marlins
Center Field – Shane Victorino – Philadelphia Phillies
Right Field – Hunter Pence – Philadelphia Phillies
The Marlins got a lot more love on this list than I thought they would when I started the column. There are a few decisions among the position players that were pretty tough, and a few that were really obvious. What I’m 100% sure of is that at least half of the readers will disagree vehemently. Perfect, that’s why we have a comment field. I’ll happily take suggestions, and feel free to leave a comment and bookmark the page so you can throw it back in my face six months from now. I won’t mind, it happens all the time.
Well, there’s only one thing left to do. That’s go on record with my picks for the National League East. Oh boy.
New York Mets
The National League East is going to be good this year. I think the Marlins, Phillies, Nationals, and Braves will all finish .500 or better. Of course, they’ll beat up pretty badly on the Mets to do so, but every division needs a whipping boy.