Projected Standings: NL East
NY Mets 86-76
The Phillies and Mets battling for the top spot is no surprise, but the Braves coming back from three seasons of non-contention is. It has little to do with the signing of Griffey, who will probably platoon in left with Matt Diaz. Griffey will give back on defense whatever he contributes on offense. That is, unless Griffey can post a .900 OPS season batting primarily against right-handed pitching. The projection doesn't know anything about platoon splits, and projects only a .764. If it did know about platoon splits, it could go a bit higher, maybe the .800 range, but I think .900 is dreaming at this stage.
I'd be happy if Griffey did have one last great season in him, but at his age it is highly unlikely. The big reason behind a contending Braves team will be a rebuilt rotation featuring Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Kenshin Kawakami. Vazquez always disappoints the projections, which always love his K/W ratio. In his favor, he'll be pitching in a reasonable park with a decent defense for the first time in his career. He and Lowe are as good bets for 200 innings as you can find, and it will be appreciated.
The Nationals could have a very impressive offense this season. With Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham, and Elijah Dukes they have the makings of an excellent middle of the order. Their defense should be really bad (what do you expect when you add Dunn and Willingham and don't have a DH spot to hide them?). Don't expect much from an unimpressive pitching staff in DC, but there should be plenty of souvenirs for fans in the bleacher seats.
The Phillies have not improved the team from last year, as they kept most of the team the same while going for less power, more age, and equally crappy defense in left field. Sure, they won the world series so they don't need to improve, right? Wrong. The history of World champions who do not take steps to continually improve the team is not filled with repeaters.
Mets didn't really act like a big market team heading into a new stadium this offseason. While they have a talented core, they have done little to surround it with the kind of players to make a postseason appearance likely. I guess they could still make a surprise big for Manny Ramirez, otherwise Mets fans just have one more reason to hate Bernie Madoff. Marlins? I just don't see it this year.