- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:


Atlanta Braves

2013: 96-66, first place (lost to Dodgers in division series).

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (fourth season).

He’s Here: RHP Gavin Floyd, C Ryan Doumit, RHP Aaron Harang, 1B Mat Gamel, 2B Tyler Greene.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Tim Hudson, C Brian McCann, LHP Paul Maholm, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, RHP Freddy Garcia, SS Paul Janish, 2B Elliot Johnson, RHP Cristhian Martinez, LHP Sean Gilmartin.

Projected lineup: RF Jason Heyward (.254, 14 HRs, 38 RBIs, 104 games), CF B.J. Upton (.184, 9, 26, 12 SBs, 151 Ks), 1B Freddie Freeman (.319, 23, 109, .501 slugging percentage), LF Justin Upton (.263, 27, 70, 94 runs, 161 Ks), C Evan Gattis (.243, 21, 65), 3B Chris Johnson (.321, 12, 68, 34 doubles), 2B Dan Uggla (.179, 22, 55, 171 Ks), SS Andrelton Simmons (.248, 17, 59).

Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA, 170 Ks), RH Ervin Santana (9-10, 3.24, 190 hits, 211 IP with Royals), LH Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21, team-leading 181 Ks), LH Alex Wood (3-3, 3.13, 31 games, 11 starts), RH Aaron Harang (5-12, 5.40, 26 starts with Mariners and Mets) or RH David Hale (1-0, 0.82, 14 Ks, 1 walk in 2 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (4-3, 1.21, 50/54 saves, 98 Ks, 67 IP), LH Luis Avilan (5-0, 1.52, 75 games), RH David Carpenter (4-1, 1.78, 74 Ks), RH Jordan Walden (4-3, 3.45, 1 save).

Hot Spots: After Hudson and Maholm departed as free agents, the Braves lost two more starting pitchers - projected opening day starter Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy - to season-ending elbow injuries in spring training. Braves general manager Frank Wren quickly signed Santana, but the rotation remains thin, especially early in the season. Minor, who had a sore shoulder early in the spring, is expected to be ready in mid-April. Gavin Floyd, recovering from surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament and a torn flexor muscle in his right elbow, could join the rotation in May. Atlanta cut Garcia late in spring training and signed Harang after he was released from a minor league contract by Cleveland.

Outlook: The Braves had the majors’ best ERA in 2013, when they won the division even as Uggla and B.J. Upton hit below .200 and lost their starting jobs. The team expected to again lean on its pitching before losing Medlen and Beachy. Wood has impressed in spring training and could help replenish the rotation. The club invested in its future when it gave multiyear contracts to top young stars Kimbrel, Freeman, Heyward and Simmons this spring. Only Heyward’s two-year deal is for fewer than four years. Gattis showed impressive power as a rookie and now replaces McCann as the starting catcher. The injuries to Medlen and Beachy probably make the Braves an underdog to Washington in the NL East. A full, healthy season from Heyward and even modest improvements from Uggla and B.J. Upton could make the lineup stronger despite the loss of McCann.


Washington Nationals

2013: 86-76, second place.

Manager: Matt Williams (first season).

He’s Here: RHP Doug Fister, LHP Jerry Blevins, OF Nate McLouth, C Jose Lobaton.

He’s Outta Here: Manager Davey Johnson, RHP Dan Haren, INF Chad Tracy, INF-OF Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Fernando Abad.

Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span (.279, 4 HRs, 47 RBIs, 11 triples), SS Ian Desmond (.280, 20, 80, 38 doubles), RF Jayson Werth (.318, 25, 82), LF Bryce Harper (.274, 20, 58), 3B Ryan Zimmerman (.275, 26, 79), 1B Adam LaRoche (.237, 20, 62), C Wilson Ramos (.272, 16, 59), 2B Anthony Rendon (.265, 7, 35).

Rotation: RH Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.00 ERA, 191 Ks), LH Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.36, 192 Ks), RH Jordan Zimmermann (19-9, 3.25, 213 1-3 IP), RH Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67 with Detroit), RH Tanner Roark (7-1, 1.51) or RH Taylor Jordan (1-3, 3.66).

Key Relievers: RH Rafael Soriano (3-3, 3.11, 43/49 saves), RH Tyler Clippard (6-3, 2.41, 73 Ks in 71 IP), RH Drew Storen (4-2, 4.52, 3 saves), LH Jerry Blevins (5-0, 3.15 with Oakland), LH Ross Detwiler (2-7, 4.04 as a starter).

Hot Spots: Fister was bothered by right elbow inflammation after his first spring start and missed about three weeks of Grapefruit League action. The fifth spot in the rotation also will be worth watching because Detwiler, who came to the Nationals as the No. 6 overall pick in the amateur draft and has a lot more experience in the majors than Roark or Jordan, competed with that duo for the job before being relegated to the bullpen to begin the season. Will Washington stick to the stance that Detwiler is better suited for relief than starting?

Outlook: The Nationals went from the best record in the majors in 2012 to missing the playoffs in 2013 - and for 2014, a lot could depend on the shift from the lame-duck Johnson to Williams, who gained a reputation as a fiery guy during his playing days. Williams promised to add an emphasis on defensive positioning, and when he was hired by Washington after being Arizona’s third base coach, he even brought along an extra coach to oversee that part of the game. Two big keys for the Nationals will be young stars Harper and Strasburg, a pair of No. 1 draft picks who had offseason surgery. The lineup is expected to be mostly the same as last season, other than some tinkering with the batting order. GM Mike Rizzo upgraded an already strong rotation by trading for Fister, who joins Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmermann.


New York Mets

2013: 74-88, third place.

Manager: Terry Collins (fourth season).

He’s Here: OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Bartolo Colon, OF Chris Young, RHP Jose Valverde, LHP John Lannan, 1B Brandon Allen, C Taylor Teagarden, RHP Ryan Reid, 1B Matt Clark.

He’s Outta Here: RHP LaTroy Hawkins, LHP Johan Santana, INF Justin Turner, RHP Aaron Harang, OF Mike Baxter, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP David Aardsma, RHP Scott Atchison, OF-2B Jordany Valdespin, LHP Robert Carson, LHP Pedro Feliciano, LHP Tim Byrdak.

Projected Lineup: LF Eric Young Jr. (.249, 2 HRs, 32 RBIs, NL-best 46 SBs, .310 OBP), 2B Daniel Murphy (.286, 13, 78, 38 doubles, 23 SBs, 188 hits, .319 OBP), 3B David Wright (.307, 18, 58, 17 SBs, 430 ABs, .390 OBP), RF-LF Curtis Granderson (.229, 7, 15, 69 Ks in 61 games with Yankees), CF Chris Young (.200, 12, 40 in 107 games with Oakland) or Juan Lagares (.242, 4, 34), 1B Ike Davis (.205, 9, 33, 317 ABs, .326 OBP) or Lucas Duda (.223, 15, 33, 318 ABs, .352 OBP), C Travis d’Arnaud (.202, 1, 5, 99 ABs), SS Ruben Tejada (.202, 0, 10, .259 OBP, 12 extra-base hits in 208 ABs) or Omar Quintanilla (.222, 2, 21, .306 OBP, 315 ABs).

Rotation: RH Dillon Gee (12-11, 3.62 ERA, 199 IP), RH Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65, 190 1-3 IP, 29 BBs, AL-best 3 shutouts with Oakland), RH Zack Wheeler (7-5, 3.42, 17 starts), LH Jonathon Niese (8-8, 3.71, 24 starts), RH Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 4.42, 7 starts) or RH Jenrry Mejia (1-2, 2.30, 5 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Bobby Parnell (5-5, 2.16, 22/26 saves, 1 HR, 50 IP), RH Vic Black (3-0, 3.71, 1 save, 18 games with Pirates and Mets), LH Scott Rice (4-5, 3.71, 73 games), RH Jeurys Familia (0-0, 4.22, 1 save, 9 games), RH Gonzalez Germen (1-2, 3.93, 29 games), RH Carlos Torres (4-6, 3.44, 33 games, 9 starts), LH John Lannan (3-6, 5.33 in 14 starts with Philadelphia), RH Jose Valverde (0-1, 5.59, 9 saves in 20 games with Detroit).

Hot Spots: First Base, Shortstop, Catcher. With the Mets unable to upgrade at first base, Davis and Duda were left to compete for playing time this spring. Then both were sidelined for weeks with leg injuries, making the decision more difficult. New York needs one of them to finally emerge for good. … The light-hitting Tejada, who broke his leg in September, has regressed the past couple of years, and this might be his last chance to hold down the job. There are questions about his fitness, focus - and now even his fielding, which was supposed to be a strength. Tejada is only 24, but the organization doesn’t seem to have much faith in him anymore. Problem is, there aren’t many viable alternatives. Quintanilla provides veteran insurance but little pop. The latest idea is to try moving prospect Wilmer Flores back to shortstop in Triple-A despite his defensive deficiencies. … The Mets are banking on d’Arnaud behind the plate, but the prized prospect didn’t hit much during a late-season call-up last year and then struggled mightily with the bat for most of spring training. He’s got a good-looking swing but has been prone to injuries at times - and there’s no Plan B right now.

Outlook: After three years of bargain hunting, GM Sandy Alderson spent more than $87 million on a trio of free agents this offseason. Granderson and Chris Young finally give the Mets some depth and potential power in the outfield, without sacrificing speed and defense. The beefy Colon, who turns 41 in May, is coming off an All-Star campaign with Oakland that followed a drug suspension. New York gave him a two-year deal, augmenting a promising rotation. Niese originally was slated to start on opening day, but he’s been stalled by back discomfort, triceps soreness and an elbow problem in what he called “the spring training from hell.” The team still thinks he could be ready to pitch during the first week of the season, but Gee now gets the opener instead. Parnell is coming off neck surgery, the rest of the bullpen is inexperienced, and the flawed lineup is prone to strikeouts. There’s talent on the farm, though, particularly in touted pitching prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. They could be called up by summer. Following five straight losing seasons, the roster has improved. Maybe not enough to contend just yet, but the Mets expect to make big strides as they wait for All-Star ace Matt Harvey to return from Tommy John surgery in 2015.


Philadelphia Phillies

2013: 73-89, fourth place.

Manager: Ryne Sandberg (first full season).

He’s Here: RHP A.J. Burnett, OF Marlon Byrd, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Brad Lincoln, C Wil Nieves, OF Bobby Abreu.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Roy Halladay, C Erik Kratz, LHP John Lannan.

Projected Lineup: CF Ben Revere (.305, 0 HRs, 17 RBIs, 12 extra-base hits, 22 SBs), SS Jimmy Rollins (.252, 6, 39, 36 doubles, 22 SBs), 2B Chase Utley (.284, 18, 69), RF Marlon Byrd (.291, 24, 88 with Mets and Pirates), 1B Ryan Howard (.266, 11, 43), C Carlos Ruiz (.268, 5, 37), LF Domonic Brown (.272, 27, 83), 3B Cody Asche (.235, 5, 22).

Rotation: LH Cliff Lee (14-8, 2.87 ERA, 222 Ks), RH A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30, 209 Ks with Pirates), LH Cole Hamels (8-14, 3.60, 202 Ks) or RH David Buchanan (10-13, 4.40 in Double-A and Triple-A) or RH Jeff Manship (0-5, 7.04 with Rockies), RH Kyle Kendrick (10-13, 4.70, 110 Ks), RH Roberto Hernandez (6-13, 4.89 with Rays).

Key Relievers: Jonathan Papelbon (5-1, 2.92, 29/36 saves), LH Antonio Bastardo (3-2, 2.32, 2 saves), RH Brad Lincoln (1-2, 3.98 with Blue Jays), LH Jake Diekman (1-4, 2.58), RH B.J. Rosenberg (2-0, 4.58, 1 save).

Hot Spots: Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, is expected to miss the first month and could be out longer with a shoulder problem. Adding Burnett helps fill the void and gives the Phillies a solid 1-2 punch atop the rotation, but they don’t have much depth and haven’t been able to rely on their offense in a few years. Howard hasn’t played a full season since 2011 and the Phillies are counting on the 2006 NL MVP to be the slugger that plays up to his contract. Rollins and Utley are also on the decline, and the Phillies gave a lot of money in the offseason to Ruiz and Byrd, both in their mid-30s.

Outlook: These aren’t the Phillies who dominated the NL East from 2007-11. They may look like it because half the starting lineup is still here, but those core players are trending downward. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s offseason moves were an indication he’s trying to win now before the window completely closes on this group. Re-signing Utley and Ruiz and adding Byrd and Burnett weren’t rebuilding moves. The Phillies are hoping to make one more run with an old, aging group of veterans and a few young guys who are potential stars such as Asche and 2013 All-Star Brown. Sandberg, who took over for Charlie Manuel last August, has to try to get the most out of the older players while developing the younger ones. If things go right, the Phillies should compete. If not, it’s time to start from the bottom.


Miami Marlins

2013: 62-100, fifth place.

Manager: Mike Redmond (second season).

He’s Here: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B-OF Garrett Jones, 2B Rafael Furcal, 3B Casey McGehee, INF-OF Jeff Baker, RHP Carter Capps, OF Brian Bogusevic.

He’s Outta Here: 1B Logan Morrison, 3B Placido Polanco, OF Juan Pierre, OF Justin Ruggiano, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Chad Qualls, INF-OF Chris Coghlan, OF-1B Austin Kearns.

Projected Lineup: 2B Rafael Furcal (missed entire season with elbow injury), LF Christian Yelich (.288, 4 HRs, 16 RBIs), RF Giancarlo Stanton (.249, 24, 62), 1B Garrett Jones (.233, 15, 51), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273, 14, 65, 40 doubles with Boston), CF Marcell Ozuna (.265, 3, 32), 3B Casey McGehee (.292, 28, 93 in Japan), SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.227, 3, 42).

Rotation: RH Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA, 187 Ks in 172 2-3 IP, NL Rookie of Year), RH Nathan Eovaldi (4-6, 3.39), RH Henderson Alvarez (5-6, 3.59, no-hitter), RH Jacob Turner (3-8, 3.74), RH Tom Koehler (5-10, 4.41).

Key Relievers: RH Steve Cishek (4-6, 2.33, 34/36 saves, converted final 29 chances), RH A.J. Ramos (3-4, 3.15), LH Mike Dunn (3-4, 2.66), RH Carlos Marmol (2-4, 4.41 with Cubs and Dodgers), LH Dan Jennings (2-4, 3.76).

Hot Spots: Here’s how the Marlins scored in the bottom of the ninth in last year’s final game: single, single, wild pitch, wild pitch. With that, they won Alvarez’s no-hitter, 1-0. So it went all season for an offense that ranked last in the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, hits, doubles and home runs. No wonder the Marlins lost 100 games and finished last in the NL East for the third consecutive season. Larry Beinfest was fired as president of baseball operations, but the payroll remains small, and baseball execs Mike Hill and Dan Jennings could only afford to add veterans with question marks. Saltalamacchia, Jones, Furcal and McGehee are expected to start at positions where Miami’s run production ranked among the worst in the majors.

Outlook: The young rotation has abundant promise, led by the effervescent Fernandez, the hard-throwing Eovaldi and Alvarez. None is older than 24, and another youngster, top prospect Andrew Heaney, could join the rotation at some point this season. Holdovers in the daily lineup are youngsters, too, including Stanton, who will spend this season fending off questions about how much longer he expects to be in Miami. If the Marlins hit at all they’ll be better than last season, and in a year or two they might actually be a force in the NL East, especially if they sign Stanton to a long-term contract.

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