MLB Preview: National League East

Even though the Philadelphia Phillies have had a lock on the top spot in the National League East these past few seasons, their competition is looking to shake things up with new players, new managers, and for one team, a new name.

New York Mets

It's simply a Mets mess for the faithful in Queens who live in the shadows of their crosstown rival, the New York Yankees.

Ownership may have saved the team from a legal battle with Irving Picard, who has been trying to recoup as many pennies as possible for those that were victims to Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme.

Picard was seeking as much as $1 billion from the team but in the end got the owners to settle for $162 million payment, which in the long run could be even less.

As a result of the ownership’s financial misfortunes, fans will be stuck with a team that can challenge Pittsburgh, Kansas City or any other small market but one that cannot compete at a World Series level.

After trading Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodríguez, the contracts of Oliver Pérez and Luis Castillo came off the books as well. It did not end there though, as fans were sucker punched when no real attempt was made at retaining Jose Reyes, last year’s batting leader, who was sent to the Miami Marlins. As of now, the lone positive going into the team’s season opener Thursday against the Atlanta Braves is starting pitcher Johan Santana. A healthy Santana will be key to the team’s success this season as this will be Santana’s first appearance since September 2, 2010.

Aside from Santana, many questions remain unanswered. Replicating what Reyes did last year will be the goal of right fielder Lucas Duda and Panamanian Rubén Tejada while fans could see the old David Wright return to his former glory. However, it remains to be seen if first baseman Ike Davis can rebound after losing almost all of last season to an ankle injury.

Miami Marlins

This year will have to see how everything plays out for the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins in their first season at Marlins Park. With a new ballpark, new uniforms, new managers, and new players, the newly minted Miami Marlins are looking to be on top once again.

Since winning the World Series in the 2003 over the New York Yankees, it's been downhill for the Marlins. Managers have clashed with and been fired by owner Jeffrey Loria. Most recently, manager Edwin Rodríguez quit last season.

However, Loria is hoping for a new era with manager Ozzie Guillen. With a flashy new ballpark, the Marlins knew they need to create the right product to excite the fans once again.

Trying to mimic what the Miami Heat did, the Marlins have brought in their own set of stars. Adding extra dollars and years to a deal that Jose Reyes could have never gotten from the Mets, the Marlins are hoping their new shortstop can repeat or come close to his 2011 season by staying healthy.

After Reyes signed the deal, reports came out saying Hanley Ramírez would not play third base. Since then, Ramirez has been putting in extra time this spring training by working with coach Joey Cora.

With Reyes leading off, Emilio Bonifacio batting second and Ramírez third, early leads could be the team’s common trend.

Aside from the offense, Miami's three best starting pitchers, Jason Johnson, Mark Buhrle and Ricky Nolasco, are not too shabby. The team’s wild card will be Carlos Zambrano as the Marlin’s hope for a new beginning in his pitching career. Adding All-Star closer Heath Bell to the movement, the Marlins could have one of the top bullpens in the league.

Atlanta Braves

The Brave’s first season in the post-Bobby Cox era had a surprise ending. No one could have imagined that the Braves would do the impossible last season- making history by losing, after being up by 10 1/2 games, to St. Louis in the NL Wild Card race.

The Brave’s became the first team in major league history to squander a lead of at least eight games.

The main question now is how new manager Fredi González will keep his team focused.

One thing the Braves need is a better season from Jason Heyward, who as a 20-year-old in 2010 showed signs of promise. Since then, Heyward has suffered a setback as his numbers have declined since battling a shoulder injury. Starting off the season on the disabled list after undergoing knee surgery, the face of the franchise, Chipper Jones, announced that this year will be his last as he plans on retiring.

As for the pitching staff, Tim Hudson will be starting off on the DL with Livan Hernández filling in during his absence. However, with two more injured starters, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the team will be relying on new young pitchers Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor to lead the way.

Philadelphia Phillies

Adding Cliff Lee to a rotation that already included Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels should have meant that the Philadelphia Phillies would rule the National League. While this held true in the regular season, October was a whole different ball game as the Phillies were sent home early by the NL Wild Card winners and eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Despite last season’s playoff run, the Phillies are still this season’s favorites to take the division, even with the health of key offense players, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, in question. Relying on their stellar pitching rotation and other key offensive players, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Hunter Pence will be what the Phillies rely on until Utley and Howard regain their true form.  

Washington Nationals

The Nationals are slowly getting something going with new manager Davey Johnson in his first full season since Jim Riggleman’s abrupt resignation last year. After being bashed for overpaying outfielder Jayson Werth, the organization is showing that they are willing to spend in order to put a winning team on the field.

A lot of the team's hopes in staying in the playoff race depend on how pitcher Stephen Strasburg handles his first full season in the majors after returning from his 2010 Tommy John surgery. With the addition of pitchers, Gio González from the Oakland Athletics and veteran starter Edwin Jackson, the Nationals have a solid rotation. Closer Drew Storen will start off the season on the disabled list so the team will be relying on Brandon Lidge and  Henry Rodríguez’s 100 mph fastballs.

The offensive lineup could be one of the toughest in the league now that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is healthy. As long as Werth can perform as he did with the Phillies, the absence of Mike Morse at the start of the year due to shoulder muscle problems will not slow the team down.

And of course there is Bryce Harper, the young player with power hitter potential. While Harper is currently doing a Triple-A stint to get acclimated to big league level pitching and playing center field, the Nationals will bring him up to the big leagues no later than June.

Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc

MLB Preview : AL East

MLB Preview : AL Central

MLB Preview: AL West

MLB Preview: NL East

MLB Preview : NL Central

MLB Preview: NL West

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