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Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions: American League West

1st - Los Angeles Angels:

The Angels stole the offseason headlines for the second consecutive season with the signing of slugger Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal worth $125 million.  Besides signing Hamilton, the Angels improved their pitching staff.  The Angels signed Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett to bolster their bullpen, and acquired Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas to fill the holes in their rotation.

The Angels are an extremely talented team, with one of the best lineups in baseball led by Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  On paper the Angels are one of the best teams in baseball and expect them to win close to 100 games this season.

2nd - Oakland Athletics:

The A's have a terrific young core of players returning from last year.  Even though they have lost some  contributors from last year, do not be surprised if they are an even better team with their offseason acquisitions.  Jed Lowrie and Chris Young (OF) were both acquired in trades, and Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima was signed to fill the hole at shortstop.

If the young pitchers are able to continue from where they left off last season, and Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes do not struggle offensively, the A's will be in position to contend for a AL Wild Card.

3rd - Texas Rangers:

The Rangers had a very disappointing offseason, loosing many key players from last season and being unable to sign any big name players.

Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Ryan Dempster, Mike Adams, and Koji Uehara have all signed with other teams this offseason.  Loosing all of these quality veteran players will hurt the Rangers this season.  

Aging veterans A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman were brought in this offseason to replace some of the offensive production they lost.  These two players will help, but the Rangers will no longer have a dominating offense that they have had in previous years.

At some point Jurickson Profar will be contributing at the major league level, but the Rangers offense will struggle to much to help the Rangers make the playoffs.  The Rangers will finish just short of making the playoffs this season.

4th - Seattle Mariners:

This offseason the Mariners turned their focus to improving their dreadful offense.  Over the past three seasons the Mariners have scored the least amount of runs in the American League.  Both Kenrdys Morales and Michael Morse were acquired via trade this offseason, and they will make an immediate impact on their offense.

The Mariners have deep farm system with many talented prospects and some of them will help the Mariners this year.  The Mariners have a talented team, with even more talent in the minors, but they are still a year away from being a playoff contender.

5th- Houston Astros:

This will be the Astros first season apart of the American League, and they will have a grueling time winning games.  This offseason the Astros signed multiple low cost veterans, to go along with their young core of players.  Their biggest move was trading Jed Lowrie to the A's for young, slugger Chris Carter and pitching prospect Brad Peacock.

The Astros are in a rebuilding mode and are years from being a competitive team, and they will finish last in the AL West.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brewers, Kyle Lohse Agree to a Three-Year Deal

The Brewers stepped up to the plate today signing Kyle Lohse to a three-year $33 million deal.  Lohse posted a 2.86 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP while going 16-3 with the Cardinals last season.

Three years for Lohse is very reasonable even though he is 34 years old because of his success over the past two seasons and his track record of solid health.  Lohse will give the Brewers an innings eater right behind Yovani Gallardo, and he will provide experience in the Brewers young pitching rotation.

With the addition of Lohse, the Brewers will not only be expected to compete for the playoffs, but they will be expected to win a NL Wild Card.  Time will tell if the Brewers made the right decision by signing Kyle Lohse, but as of now the Brewers made a brilliant move with only a week until Opening Day.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions: American League Central

Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible.  For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the American League Central shaping out to be:

1st - Detroit Tigers:

The Tigers were relatively quiet this offseason signing only Tori Hunter and Anibal Sanchez.  Tori Hunter was signed to a two-year deal to play in right field, where the Tigers have had troubles finding a player to play on a regular basis and produce consistently.  Anibal Sanchez was resigned to a massive five-year, $80 million deal, to give the Tigers one of the best rotations in baseball.

Entering this season the Tigers biggest question mark will be their closer situation.  As of now, flame-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon is slated to close out the ninth inning for the Tigers.  Questions surround Rondon and whether or not he is ready to be the closer for the Tigers on Opening Day because he has never pitched in the majors and has struggled throughout Spring Training. 

If the Tigers are able to remain healthy and their bullpen is able to perform up to their potential, the Tigers will run away with the American League Central.

2nd - Cleveland Indians:

The Cleveland Indians surprised everyone this offseason when they were big spenders throughout free agency.  Everyone expected them to be sellers this past winter but instead they were the complete opposite.  The Indians added many veteran pieces including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and veteran pitchers Brett Myers, Scott Kazmir, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Signing all of these veteran players were significant but their biggest move was acquiring pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and center fielder Drew Stubbs in a three team deal.  This trade gives the Indians two young, talented players with high ceilings that will help them now and most importantly in the future to be competitive.

Many people do not give the Indians a chance to compete for the playoffs because they are unsure of how the Indians starting pitching will perform.  If the Indians starting pitchers are able to perform up to their potential, do not be surprised if they make the playoffs.
3rd - Kansas City Royals:

After years of having a deep farm system, the Royals traded away some of their top prospects to acquire solid major league pitching.  The Royals acquired ace James Shields and Wade Davis from the Rays and Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels.  These three players along with resigning Jeremy Guthrie will give the Royals a solid pitching staff to go along with their young core of hitters.  The improvement of their pitching staff could give the Royals an outside chance of making the playoffs in 2013.

4th - Chicago White Sox:

The White Sox had a quiet offseason and did not do enough to improve their team from last year.  Their biggest move this offseason was the decision to not resign catcher A.J. Pierzynski.  The Sox also allowed veterans Brett Myers, Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Liriano and Phil Humber to leave via free agency.  

Jeff Keppinger was signed to a three-year deal to fill the void at third base, and Matt Lindstrom will provide the White Sox with another veteran out of the pen.  These two moves will not be enough for the White Sox to be a competitive team this year.

5th - Minnesota Twins:

The Twins biggest need this offseason was starting pitching.  Speedy outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere were both both traded this offseason.  Span was traded to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer, while Revere was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Vance Worley.

Besides trading for pitching the Twins signed veteran hurlers Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.  These two players will help provide some stability to their young pitching staff, but they will not make a significant impact.  The Twins have a talented core of players, but the lack of solid pitching will hurt their chances of being a competitive ball club.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Trade Yovani Gallardo?!

In the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, they predicted the Milwaukee Brewers to finish fourth in the NL Central.  If the Brewers do struggle this season, should they trade Yovani Gallardo?  The earliest Gallardo can become a free agent is in 2015, so he would have some value on the trade market.  If the Brewers are able to acquire two talented pitching prospects to added to their solid young core, this would be a smart trade for the Brewers to make.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Aroldis Chapman Needs to Be the Reds Closer

Aroldis Chapman is the most dominating closer in baseball, but entering Spring Training the Cincinnati Reds wanted to try him as a starter.  With three weeks left in Spring Training, the Reds have not made a decision, but Aroldis Chapman has.  He wants to be the closer.  

The left-handed 25-year-old Cuban Missile, has the most electric arm in baseball, with his high strike outs per nine innings ratio and high whiff rates.  

Last season was Chapman's first season as the Reds closer, and he was an instant success.  He appeared in 68 games and went 5-5 with 38 saves and an ERA of 1.51.  His most impressive stat was his 122 strikeouts in 71.2 innings, which translates to an overwhelming 15.32 strikeouts per nine innings.  

Putting Chapman as a starter would be a huge mistake because he has been so dominant coming out of the 'pen.  The main reason he has been so good is because of his electric fastball, that has been clocked over 100 mph.  Besides throwing a fastball, he also throws a slider.  Both pitches have extraordinarily high whiff rates of 33% for the fastball and 58% for the slider, but to be a successful starter, you have to be able to throw at least three pitches.  The two pitches he throws are great, but not enough for him to be a successful starter.  

The Reds should not put Chapman as a starter because it would weaken their entire pitching staff.  Aroldis Chapman has been a relief pitcher over his entire three-year career, and has proven to be successful.  If it is not broken, do not fix it.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Vikings Overpaid for Greg Jennings

After trading away Percy Harvin, the Vikings needed a down field threat.  The Vikings have found their man, signing veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings.   

The Vikings stepped up to the plate signing Greg Jennings to a five-year deal worth a maximum of $47.5 million.  It includes $18 million in guaranteed money and is worth $27 million over the first three seasons.

The Vikings overpaid for Jennings, even though they needed a number one receiver.  At 29 years old and his durability in question, Jennings was not worth the contract the Vikings gave him.

He has missed 11 games due to various injuries over the last couple seasons, and in 2012 he was a non-factor for the Packers.  Last season Greg Jennings only played in eight games, and caught a career-low 36 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns.  

Over Jennings' career, he has proven to be a number one receiver, but that was with Aaron Rodgers passing him the ball, not Christian Ponder.  Unless Jennings is able to remain healthy and produce at a high level, the Vikings overpaid for him.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions: American League East

Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible.  For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the American League East shaping out to be:

1st - Toronto Blue Jays:

No other team had as busy of an offseason as the Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays went all in this offseason trading away their top five prospects, in two blockbuster deals.

Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio were all acquired from the Marlins, while reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey was obtained from the Mets.  Besides making two blockbuster deals, the Blue Jays signed veterans Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis.

The Blue Jays have the best pitching rotation in baseball and an offense that will be able to score an enormous amount of runs.  The Blue Jays will win the American League East, and they will also win the World Series this season.

2nd - Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays made a huge trade this offseason, trading away James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for a package of prospects centered around Wil Myers.  Even though the Rays trade away two of their better pitchers, they still will be a very competitive team.

In addition to acquiring some talented prospects, the Rays traded for Yunel Escobar and signed Kelly Johnson and James Loney via free agency to shore up their lineup.  Roberto Hernandez, Juan Oviedo and Jamey Wright were all added to improve the Rays' pitching staff, that is already one of the best in the game.

The Rays will be an improved team from last season, but the Blue Jays will be to much for the Rays to overtake.  Expect the Rays to win one of the AL Wild Cards.

3rd - Baltimore Orioles:

The Baltimore Orioles had a very quiet offseason, and their biggest move was resigning Nate McLouth.  In free agency the O's brought in Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Conner Jackson and pitcher Joel Piniero.  None of these move were very substantial and none of them will make a significant impact for the Orioles.  The key to the Orioles success will be their starting rotation.  Expect the Orioles to compete for a Wild Card spot, but do not be surprised if they are not playing in October.

4th - Boston Red Sox:

The Red Sox signed many veteran players this offseason to go along with a very talented core group of players.  The Red Sox are full of talent this season, but their season will be determined on if they are able to live up to their potential.

Ryan Dempster, Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara were all brought into bolster their pitching staff, that struggled all last season.  Veterans Johnny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli were signed this offseason to help add some new life and energy into their lineup.

The Red Sox roster is full of talent, but they have to live up to their potential.  If their core group of players are able to remain healthy the entire season, the Red Sox could surprise some people.

5th - New York Yankees: 

This offseason the Yankees did not do anything to improve their team.  The Yankees signed aging veteran players Ichiro Suzuki, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Juan Rivera to improve their lineup.  Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda were resigned on one-year deals to boast their strong starting rotation, and Mariano Rivera will be back at closer after being injured for most of last season.

There are many questions surrounding the Yankees including their health, who will be their Opening Day catcher, and if these veteran players will be able to produce at a high enough level for them to be competitive.  The Yankees will not be able to remain healthy over a 162 games season, and because of that they will finish in the basement of the AL East.

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers dominate the air each and every season, but year-after-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers and gang are lacking a ground attack.  This team needs to draft a game changer with the 26th overall pick in the draft, a guy like Montee Ball.  Drafting Montee Ball would not just take the Packers offense to the next level this season, but he would give the Packers an explosive, dominating offense for the years to come.

The Packers will not spend a huge amount of money on a running back during the offseason, and even if the Packers do add a cheap, veteran running back, they should still make this pick.  Montee Ball is a workhorse who is able to run well between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.

Throughout his four-year career at Wisconsin he produced at the highest level, averaging 231 carriers for 1,285 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns per season.  Not only did he rush all over defenses, he proved that he could catch the ball.  He averaged almost 15 catches per season for 150 yards.

Over Montee Ball's remarkable career he won numerous awards including the Doak Walker Award in 2012 (given to the top running back in college football), the Archie Griffin Award in 2011 (given to college football's MVP for the entire season), and he was a consensus All-American in 2011 and 2012.  Besides winning many awards, Montee Ball set the Division 1 FBS All-time touchdowns record (83) and rushing touchdowns record (77).

Montee Ball has proven that he is the best running back in this years draft class, and he would give the Packers the threat of running the ball on any given down.  Montee Ball is a game changer and explosive player, who the Packers need to take with the 26th overall pick in the NFL draft.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Green Bay Packers Need to Sign Steven Jackson

Since 2008 the Packers have had one of the best passing attacks in all of football, but they have lacked a consistent running game.  Steven Jackson would be a great solution for the Packers because he would be affordable, reliable, and improve the Packers offense.

Steven Jackson is one of the better running backs in the NFL today, but he is getting older and steadily declining.  Although he will be turning 30 by the start of the regular season, he did have a solid season last year.  He rushed for 1,042 yards with four touchdowns in 16 games.  Steven Jackson still has gas left in the tank, and he could be a solid option for the Packers at an affordable price.  

He would also be a reliable veteran running back for the Packers.  Even though he is getting older, he has been able to remain healthy and consistent over his career.  Over his nine year career he has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of those seasons besides his rookie year, and most importantly he has shown solid ball security, averaged only two rushing fumbles per season.  

Steven Jackson will be affordable and reliable for any team, but most importantly he would be an excellent fit for the Green and Gold.  With the Packers being a pass first team, he would not need to be relied upon as much, as he has been with the Rams over his career.  He would also be a great addition to the Packers' passing attack.  Over his career he has proven, that he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and in 2012 he caught 38 passes for 324 yards.  The Packers offense would become more explosive with the threat of running the ball on any given down, and Steven Jackson is a perfect solution for the Packers.  

Steven Jackson is a veteran running back who would be reliable and improve the Packers running game at an affordable price.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions: National League West

Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible.  For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the National League West shaping out to be:

1st -  San Francisco Giants:

The Giants have been the best team in the MLB over the last three seasons, but this season will be their toughest, with the improvement of both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.  This offseason the Giants made key moves by resigning players from last seasons World Series team.

Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and Jeremy Affeldt were all brought back on multi-year deals, and the Giants also added free agent outfielder, Andres Torres, to platoon in left field with Gregor Blanco.  With these key transactions, along with their stellar pitching rotation, the Giants will win a competitive NL West.

2nd - Arizona Diamondbacks:

This offseason the Diamondbacks finally pulled the trigger on trading Justin Upton to the Braves for a solid package of players, led by Martin Prado.  They also traded away highly touted pitching prospect Trevor Bauer in a three team deal, that landed them shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius.  

Even though both of these moves improved their team, the biggest addition was signing pitcher Brandon McCarthy to a two year, $15.5 million deal.  When healthy, McCarthy has ace potential, and he will improve the D-backs pitching staff.  The Diamondbacks will surprise many people, and expect them to be competing for a NL Wild Card the entire season.

3rd - Los Angeles Dodgers:

The Los Angeles Dodgers spent a huge amount of money this offseason, and they will find out that money does not buy everything.  They signed pitcher, Zack Greinke to a mega deal worth $147 million over six years, and left handed Korean pitcher, Ryu Hyun-jin to a six year, $36 million deal.  This will improve the Dodgers rotation, but it will not guarantee success.

Even though the Dodgers have added many quality players since last seasons' trade deadline, injuries and the lack of team chemistry will hurt their chances at winning the pennant.

4th - San Diego Padres:

The Padres had a very quiet offseason, besides signing pitchers Freddy Garcia and Tyson Ross, and they will be relying on their deep farm system to improve their big league club.  The Padres are in rebuilding mode, and they will not be competing for a playoff spot within the next few seasons.

5th - Colorado Rockies:

The Colorado Rockies had the worst pitching rotation last season, and they did very little to improve it this winter.  They brought in some veteran pitchers, including Chris Volstad, Jeff Francis, and Miguel Batista, but they will not help a young, inexperienced pitching staff.  The one positive move the Rockies made was, trading for relief pitcher Wilton Lopez to improve their bullpen.

Troy Tulowitzki is returning from injury and the Rockies pitching staff has another year of experience, but it will not be enough to keep them out of the cellar in the NL West.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What Should the Green Bay Packers Do With Johnny Jolly?

Troubled Green Bay Packers' defensive linemen Johnny Jolly has been reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Johnny Jolly has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL since 2010 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.  When he was suspended in 2010, the Packers had tendered Jolly, a restricted free agent, with a one-year $2.521 million.  His salary will remain the same this season, and the Packers have to decide if they want to bring him back at $2.521 million or restructure his contract.  The Packers also have the option of just releasing him.  

Jolly was with the Packers for four seasons before he was suspended, and he started 39 of 48 games that he played in.  In 2009, the first season of Dom Capers' defense, he was disruptive at defensive end and tackle, with a sack, interception and two fumble recoveries.

The Packers have a need for defensive linemen this offseason, and Jolly would be a great fit for the Packers if they can restructure his contract, and if he is in decent shape.  The Packers should restructure his contract, so it would pay him the league minimum salary with incentives that would pay him up to $3 million.  This would be a great deal for the Packers because he is a veteran, who has experience, and if it does not work out, they would hardly lose any money.

2013 MLB Predictions: National League Central

Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible.  For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the National League Central shaping out to be:

1st - Cincinnati Reds:

The biggest news the Reds made this offseason was their decision to move flame throwing closer Aroldis Champman to the starting rotation.  This move is an interesting decision because he was a lights out closer last season, (38 saves in 43 opportunities, 1.51 ERA, 122 strikeouts in 71.2 innings), and he has no experience has a starting pitcher.  This season the Reds will have Jonathan Broxton, who they resigned this offseason, as their closer.  Broxton does have experience as a closer, and throughout his nine year career he has been an average relief pitcher at best; with an ERA of 3.10 with 111 saves in 149 opportunities in 450 innings.  

Besides the news to move Champman to the rotation, the Reds resigned Ryan Ludwick to play left field, and acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians.  This fills a huge need at the top of the batting order and in center field.  If he is able to stay healthy the entire season he will make a significant impact with the Reds.  The Reds pitching staff needs to have another solid season, and if the Reds' core players are able to remain healthy, the Reds will win the NL Central . 

2nd - Milwaukee Brewers:

Throughout the last decade the Brewers have struggled to develop young pitching besides, Ben Sheets and Yovani Gallardo.  This season the Brewers have decided to go with a younger and inexperience pitching rotation behind Gallardo, and this decision by Doug Melvin, has led to a lot of criticism from baseball fans.  This is one of the smartest decisions Melvin has made in his tenure as Brewers GM because instead of over paying for veteran hurlers, they are allowing their highly touted pitching prospects to develop. 

Instead of over paying for starting pitching, the Brewers have used the money to revamp their awful bullpen from last season, with the acquisitions of Burke Badenhop, Michael Gonzalez, and Tom Gorzelanny.  Their bullpen was so bad last season, that they had 29 blown saves in 73 opportunities, with a 4.66 ERA, which was the worst in the majors.  If the Brewers bullpen would have converted half of those blown saves, they would have made the playoffs for a second consecutive season. 

With a young, but talented starting rotation, a revamped bullpen, and the best offense in the National League expect the Brewers to surprise everyone and win one of the National League Wild Cards.

3rd - St. Louis Cardinals:

The Cardinals did not need to make many moves this offseason, and their few needs were to sign a left handed relief pitcher and improve their bench.  The biggest free agent the Cardinals signed was left handed specialist Randy Choate to a three year deal worth $7.5 million.  They also improved their bench by signing two utility men, Ty Wigginton and Ronny Cedeno.  The Cardinals will be competing for a Wild Card spot the entire season, but they will come up just short because their pitching staff will be to inconsistent throughout the season.

4th - Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Pittsburgh Pirates are still trying to have their first winning season since 1992, after two straight late season collapses.  The Pirates acquired multiple veteran players, including the signings of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin.  Russell Martin will be an improvement over Rod Barajas, offensively and being able to handle the pitching staff.  

The Pirates traded away All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox, for a group of average veteran players.  Jason Grill will start the season as the Pirates closer, even though he has no experience at closing out the ninth inning.  Closing games will be a major weakness for the Pirates, and it will hurt their chances at being competitive this season.  The Pirates will have an average pitching staff and batting lineup, and expect the Pirates to be around .500 this season.

5th - Chicago Cubs:

The Chicago Cubs are in a rebuilding mode, but this offseason they made it a priority to improve their starting rotation.  Their biggest move was signing Edwin Jackson to a huge four year deal this offseason.  They also signed Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva to short, team friendly contracts.  Besides their improvement to the starting rotation, the Cubs signed Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, as a back up plan to Carlos Marmol.  

Veteran outfielder, Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston, were signed this offseason to platoon in right field and provide an experience bat off the bench.  The Cubs signed some quality pitchers, but these moves will not drastically improve their team, and they will finish last in the NL Central. 

2013 MLB Predictions: National League East

Every team starts the season tied for first place, and in baseball anything is possible.  For the players and fans there are hopes, and even for some, dreams, that their team will be a top their division at the end of the season. With Opening Day less than a month away, here is how I see the National League East shaping out to be:

1st - Washington Nationals: 

Last season the Nationals were the best team in baseball, and they have gotten even better with their offseason acquisitions.  They have acquired Denard Span from the Twins, and he gives the Nationals an excellent leadoff hitter and center fielder that they have needed for years.

Besides improving their batting lineup and defense, the Nationals have significantly improved their pitching staff.  They added Dan Haren to replace Edwin Jackson and they signed Rafael Soriano to close out the ninth inning.  With many young, talented players and solid veterans, except the Nationals to be one of the top teams in the NL for a second consecutive season.

2nd - Atlanta Braves:

Chipper Jones will no longer be handling the hot corner for the Braves, but even with the lose of Jones and other solid veteran players, the Braves still have one of the more talented teams in the NL.

This offseason the Braves stole the headlines with the acquisitions of B.J. and Justin Upton.  The Upton brothers, along with Jason Heyward, will give the Braves the most athletic outfield in baseball.  The Braves will be able to score a huge amount of runs, but their biggest weakness, will be their starting rotation.

This offseason the Braves took a chance by trading away Tommy Hanson, Randell Delgado, and non-tendering Jair Jurrjens, but if Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Tehran can live up to their potential, the Braves will have a solid starting rotation.  The Braves might not win the NL East, but they will win one of the NL Wild Cards, and make it to the World Series for the first time since 1999.

3rd - Philadelphia Phillies:

The Philadelpia Phillies struggled last season due to injuries and finished a disappointing third in the NL East with 81 wins.  The Phillies continue to get older and this season, might be there last shot at making the playoff for the foreseeable future.  This offseason the Phillies were able to improve their team with multiple transactions.

Michael Young was acquired from the Rangers to play third base, and provided a right handed bat in the Phillies' lineup that is left handed heavy.  John Lannan, Mike Adams, and Delmon Young were all free agent signings that should make a solid impact this season, but the biggest move the Phillies made was acquiring speedy Ben Revere.  This move gives the Phillies a talented center fielder for this season and for the future, as well as a solid top of the order hitter.  Even though the Phillies acquired some talented players, it will not be enough to push them into the playoffs.

4th - New York Mets:

The New York Mets made two significant moves this offseason.  The Mets were able to lock up the face of the franchise, David Wright, to a long term extension, and they traded reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dicky to the Blue Jays for top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergarrd.

The Mets did sign multiple veteran pitchers to help their young pitching staff, and their most notable signing was starting pitcher, Shaun Marcum, who is a number four starter at best.  The Mets are obviously looking to the future with many off their talented young prospects, and this season they will have trouble being a competitive team.

5th - Miami Marlins: 

Last season the Marlins were expected to be in the playoff mix after making many huge signings, but they ended up struggling the entire season finishing in last place.  Instead of helping themselves become competitive this season, the Marlins decided to trade their entire team to the Blue Jays.

This offseason the Marlins traded away Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck to the Blue Jays for prospects.  They also shipped Heath Bell to Arizona and Yunel Escobar, who they acquired from the Blue Jays, to Tampa Bay for prospects.  All of these moves were to dump salary and build towards the future, and this season the Marlins will be in the basement of the NL East for a third consecutive season.