The young Washington Nationals look to establish their National League East dominance for years to come as Futures favorites on the MLB odds boards to capture a second straight division crown.
This was supposed to be the season when the Washington Nationals came of age. Perhaps impatient, as youngsters are prone to be, they decided not to wait and instead enjoyed their coming out party in 2012.
It was definitely a shock to see the Nationals post a 98-win campaign a year ago after the best the franchise had done since moving to DC was an 81-81 mark in 2005, the first season after moving from Montreal. But let's remember that Washington was a middling choice on the MLB futures odds last April at 25/1 to win the World Series, and was supposed to be part of a competitive National League East Division as a 9/2 choice.
The real surprise in the National League East was how poorly the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins performed, and that definitely played into the Nats' first division title as much as their own fine play. Philadelphia was the favorite to win the NL at around 5/3 and needed a strong close to finish 81-81, while Miami completely washed out in what was supposed to be a big season for the Fish.
Washington won't sneak up on anyone in 2013. The hunters have become the hunted, and the Nationals share co-favorite status with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL, both teams priced at 8/1 to win the World Series according to the latest numbers at Bovada.
Manager Davey Johnson has a roster to envy, packed both with star power and depth. The rotation begins with Stephen Strasburg who should be ready to carry his first full season, and postseason, load. Gio Gonzalez's name is mixed up with this latest PED mess, but if he has to sit for a while, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and free agent addition Dan Haren are on hand.
Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman pace the DC lineup, and Johnson will have a very deep bullpen after Washington brought former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano aboard.
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Braves & Phillies To Challenge Nats
Atlanta is not going to step aside and simply let the Nationals have the division. The Braves, who have seen their 2013 World Series odds sliced to 12/1 in recent weeks, have an equally impressive roster for manager Fredi Gonzalez to tinker with, and can easily slide into the top slot of the division with the slightest stumble from Washington.
Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen form a strong 1-2- punch at the top of the rotation where the key will be the contributions from Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Hotlanta's bullpen is capped off by Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in the game today.
Atlanta beefed up the offense during the winter with the Upton Brothers, BJ and Justin, to form the outfield trio along with Jason Heyward. Getting a healthy Brian McCann back behind the plate will be crucial to the attack, along with the development of young shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
A more detailed preview of the Philadelphia Phillies was filed earlier this offseason, and we noted then they were more than capable of jumping back into the postseason mix. A deep pitching staff makes the Phils an intriguing choice at 18/1 to win the World Series.
Mets' Battle Cry: At Least We're Not As Bad As The Marlins
The NL East wraps up with a couple of teams that are not expected to be in the postseason hunt, as the New York Mets and Miami Marlins are each 100/1 long shots to win the 2013 World Series.
New York was in the running early on last year, but most of that magic was due to the fine season that eventual NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey enjoyed. Dickey has since been dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Mets will spend 2013 trying to develop young hurlers Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler, along with catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud who was part of the return from Toronto for Dickey.
Anyone who has been following baseball for the last dozen or so years shouldn't be surprised by what happened to the Marlins in '12. Owner Jeffrey Loria has been involved in one questionable move after another since he assumed managing general partner status with the old Montreal Expos in the late 90s, and dealing away talent time and time again has been his calling card.
With the exception of slugger Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, neither of whom is guaranteed to still be in Miami come September, Marlins fans will need to buy a program this April to learn just who fills out the roster now. But hey, at least they can watch their team lose 90+ games in comfort inside the new ballpark they built for Loria.
Make sure to check back with SBR throughout spring training to get the latest updates and previews before making your MLB futures picks.
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