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Ervin Santana makes Braves Debut: NL East Roundup

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves will finally get a look at their replacement for Kris Medlen this season.  With Medlen undergoing Tommy John surgery this week, Atlanta has little time to wait for Ervin Santana to get in game shape.  They are plagued by injuries in the pitching staff, and Santana is a welcome addition who will get his first action of the spring Thursday in Port St. Lucie.

Santana was one of the more talented pitchers this off season but had a high price tag that did not particularly match his performance.  Although he posted a 3.24 ERA last season in Kansas City, Santana is prone to much higher ERAs.  In his nine professional seasons, he has posted an ERA over 5.00 a third of them.

It is really a coin flip as to which Santana will emerge from a shortened spring training.  However, the more he throws the better his numbers.  The seasons that Santana threw 211 innings or more, his ERA was 3.92 and below.  Those in which he threw less innings, his ERA was at or above 4.28.  If Santana can get into game form quickly and eat up innings by going deep into games, he could be as good, if not better, than Medlen was.  A four man rotation wouldn’t seem to be out of the picture with a guy like Santana mixed in as well.

Miami Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton is due for a big season.  If he can stay healthy, he is due for an even bigger season.  Whether or not that continues in Miami is still to be seen.  He is locked up through the 2016 season, but long term deal discussions for players of Stanton’s caliber are usually done with some time left on the current contract.

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Stanton is no lock to stay in Miami, and they are no lock to re-sign the star outfielder.  His price tag will be much greater than the $6.5 million he is making this season.  The Marlins are always one of the lower spending teams with a microscopic payroll compared to the likes of Los Angeles and New York.

All of that chaos is a few years away, but Stanton is showing that he is ready to help the Marlins win this season.  He has four homeruns and is batting .333.  The player formerly known as Mike Stanton is poised to have an all-star caliber year at this rate.  Miami isn’t keen on signing big name free agents to help their team immediately, but rather signing lower priced players to fill holes in the field and trying to develop prospects in the farm system.  This won’t sit well with Stanton when he eligible to become a free agent and looking to sign a long term deal with a winning team.

New York Mets

New York has some interesting options in the outfield this season.  While 12 players started for the Mets last year in the outfield, that number should be considerably less this season.  The most notable new addition is Curtis Granderson, who was an all-star with the Tigers and Yankees.  Although a .261 lifetime hitter, Granderson is known more for his power.  He belted 41 and 43 homeruns in 2011 and 2012 before having 2013 shortened by injuries.  His bat would be an everyday necessity and would put him in the lineup throughout the season if he can return to the type of player he was before the injury.

Chris Young was also signed alongside Granderson by the Mets.  After spending the first seven years of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he spent 2013 in the American League in Oakland.  Young is now back in the National League and could find success as he had earlier in his career.  Young hasn’t broken the 20 homerun mark since 2011, but with a more hitter-friendly ballpark, that streak should end if Young is one of Terry Collins’ choices for an everyday outfielder.

Eric Young Jr. and Juan Lagares are the two players competing for the third outfield spot.  Young seems to be more of a filler for voids rather than a viable everyday option.  He is an average player who does what he needs to do but nothing more.  He won’t stand out and won’t give the Mets much more than they could get from a younger prospect such as Lagares.  Lagares is more known for his defense than his offense, which wouldn’t be a bad thing with the Mets.  They are not a loaded lineup but have the wiggle room to allow him to develop during the course of the season while providing web gems and defensive highlights.

Philadelphia Phillies

Jimmy Rollins has been making headlines for the Phillies as of late for his lack of play and possible trade.  The fact is that a player like Rollins who has been a key member of the team for so long isn’t easily traded.  While the Phillies could get some prospects in return, if Rollins was willing to agree to a trade (he can veto any trade the team proposes), the team would likely regress without his leadership.

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Rollins was part of Philadelphia’s World Series run and knows what it takes to win.  He is essentially to the Phillies what Derek Jeter is to the Yankees.  He was drafted by the team and has been with them his entire career.  A trade would be more demoralizing for the team than it would be a boost.  At 35 years of age, Rollins has a lower batting average over the last few seasons than he did early on in his career.  His production won’t be higher anywhere else than Philadelphia at this point in his career though.

I am an avid fan of players sticking with one team their entire career.  I would rather see Rollins retire than switch uniforms, whether he left on his own or was traded.  It seems reasonable that Phillies fans would feel the same way, but Philadelphia has a mind of its own when it comes to sports.  Nobody is going to come in and make them forget about Rollins and rightfully so.  Baseball is a game of “what have you done for me lately,” but I can’t see the Phillies ever planning to get rid of their star shortstop after what he has contributed to the team the past 14 seasons.

Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter.  No argument here over that choice.  Ross Detwiler is now in the bullpen though.  We’ll have to see how that plays out for the 2012 NL East champions.  After going 10-8 in 2012 and 2-7 in 2013 as a starter, Detwiler will find himself a reliever this season.

Going from the rotation to the bullpen isn’t unheard of at the Major League level.  Joba Chamberlain was once a starter for the Yankees and ultimately found himself in a relief role as well.  It can be debated whether or not he has been successful in that role, but Detwiler has a luxury that Chamberlain does not – he is a lefty.  Left-handed pitchers can be used in both long relief and as specialists, giving the Nationals some flexibility with his new role.

It has not yet been determined by skipper Matt Williams what Detwiler’s role will be, and it will probably vary from game to game and on the situation.  Washington has formidable late inning options in Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, so having Detwiler only adds to that mix.  He hasn’t seen too much success as a starter anyways, going 18-29 in his first five seasons in the rotation.  Williams is hoping to find better results from him in a new role.  If he does, Washington could have a lockdown bullpen with the lead late in games this season.

Tags: Atlanta Braves Ervin Santana NL East

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