NL East Storylines Heading to Spring Training – Phillies Nation
2012 Spring Training

NL East Storylines Heading to Spring Training

Just three days, count ’em – three, until Spring Training begins for the Phillies. All over Florida and Arizona, teams will begin filing in for the extended beginning of the baseball season. It’s nice to know we’re so close to having baseball in our lives for the next seven or eight months.

If you’ve been keeping track – and I’m sure you have – you know the rest of the NL East has undergone a transformation. Each team has done something to try and dethrone the Phillies from their perch atop the division. Below, we look at some things to watch for when Spring Training opens.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: Can Juan Pierre win a spot on the roster?

We know what Jonathan Papelbon is capable of. He’s been in the league forever and is one of the best at his position. It’s a foregone conclusion he will make a difference. Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, Jim Thome; they all figure to get steady playing time. Dontrelle Willis is an interesting subject, but he seems to have solid chance at a late-inning bullpen role. That basically leaves one spot remaining on the roster.

The man to win it could very well be veteran outfielder Juan Pierre. Look for the Phillies to give him plenty of opportunities to make the team. If he has any speed remaining in those 34-year-old legs, he could be nice asset to have as the Phillies 5th outfielder. He’ll also be in a fight with Scott Podsednik, among others, for the final roster position.

ATLANTA BRAVES: Can they hit?

What a wild season for the Braves in 2011. Heading into the season, the lineup looked rather formidable. Jason Heyward tore it up in his rookie season, so the Braves were hoping for more. They brought in Dan Uggla. Martin Prado, Brian McCann, and Chipper Jones still resided there. On the surface, it didn’t look awful. But it pretty much came crashing down.

Uggla had pronounced ebbs and flows throughout 2011, Heyward had a sophomore slump, Prado and Jones, of course, dealt with injuries.

Can they overcome those and have a better offense in 2012? Their playoff lives depend on it. The starting rotation and bullpen can only do so much.

MIAMI MARLINS: How will Hanley Ramirez adjust?

In talking with many people around the league, there is a resounding negative opinion of Hanley Ramirez. His true character will be tested even more as the Marlins brought in Jose Reyes to man his old position, shortstop, leaving him as the everyday third baseman for 2012. Fantasy nerds rejoice, as Ramirez will have dual position eligibility!

Beyond that, we’ll find out what kind of player Ramirez is. The 28-year old had his worst season as a major leaguer in 2011, hitting just 10 home runs while missing 70 games, many of them stemming from a bum shoulder that required surgery.

An awful 2011 and now questions as to whether or not he’ll accept his new role; not good.  “I don’t think he’s 100 percent on board, not yet,” Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen told “Not from the last time I talked with him. I don’t expect him to be. I expect him to be 100 percent on board with this move when we play St. Louis, the first day of the year”

Sounds like a team with a lot of talent and a lot questions pertaining to their best player.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS: Will Bryce Harper make the team

I’m also interested to see how the team will handle Stephen Strasberg this spring and into the season. Will they coddle him after he missed a full year due to Tommy John surgery?

Another interesting dilemma is, how will the Nats proceed with prospect Bryce Harper. We’ve all seen the videos, we’ve seen the ability, we know what he’s capable of. Can that sweet swing translate to the big leagues this season? The Nationals organization has to be chomping at the bit to see what he’s made of at the next level. However, they’ve stated many times before that they won’t rush the prodigy. Is that a good move or bad move?

The Nationals look close to being a full breakout team after 80 wins a season ago. If Bryce Harper hits the big stage, he could provide them a few more.

NEW YORK METS: Will they lose 100 games?

In Port St. Lucie, the Mets will need to find someone, anyone, to pick up the slack that was left when Reyes took $100 million-plus to go to Miami. Who can that be? Who knows.

Firstly, they’ll need Johan Santana to be close to the Johan of old, which is asking a hell of a lot. Not sure anyone knows what the Mets will get from a guy who has been crushed by shoulder surgery. He may not be ready for opening day. Beyond Santana, the starting rotation is probably the best thing they’ve got going.

Offensively, who do they have? David Wright heads a cast of misfits and injury risks, like Jason Bay and Ike Davis. It’s going to be an ugly season in Flushing.

Click to comment


  1. Lefty

    February 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    They are so pathetic that it’s not even fun rooting against the Muts anymore.

    Well, almost not as fun.

    On third thought, it’s still a blast!

  2. betasigmadeltashag

    February 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I reallly think that the first thing is how is the team going to look for the first month with out the Big Piece playing. Will Wiggington, Nix, JMJ, and who ever wins the spot in the OF step up and have a big first month of the season, or will they just tread water until Ryan is at full strength. The Bench is going to be a big part of the season for the phillies in my opionon

  3. Gregg

    February 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Rollins, Utley, Howard, Thome, Pierre are hurt or “over the hill” I hope the young guys can play.Go Phillies. I had a “Pain Clinic” for 14 years. Anything ruptured means it was dysfunctional and not working properly. Everything starts at the feet.

    • EricL

      February 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Why is “Pain Clinic” in quotations? Was it not really a pain clinic? Some shady basement pill-mill office? A tax-shelter sham of a corporation? Your interesting use of punctuation intrigues me.

      • Lefty

        February 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

        Maybe it’s a “torture chamber”?

    • George

      February 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Peeing doesn’t start at the feet, and I’d hate to even think about #2 being done while standing.

      • brooks

        February 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm

        Ok George – I totally get it..

  4. Don M

    February 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I think the Braves hopes rest on the arms of Jurrgens and Hanson … if they are healthy, I think the Braves finish 2nd …. If not, I could see the Braves finish 4th…

    We know that the Braves and Marlins will have solid teams … and that the Mets will be bad.

    The biggest question to me is the Washington Nationals…. Werth has to improve on last year’s numbers … but are Espinosa, Desmond, and Morse legit??

    I think the “Can they hit?” question belongs to the Nats … I think with Strasburg, Zimm, Gio Gonzalez, and Edwin Jackson … they’ll “be kept in games” just about every night – this isn’t Jason Marquis anymore … but can they put 4+ on the board to get wins, to allow Lidge, Clippard, Storen to finish things up . . . .If they stay healthy (missing Ryan Zimm, and Adam LaRoche for chunks hurt them last year), but to go along with Pat’s stanc -if Bryce Harper can contribute, they could be a very dangerous team

    • Jeff Dowder

      February 15, 2012 at 7:50 pm

      Washington scored 624 runs with a .691 OPS last year, and the Phillies scored 713 runs with a .717 OPS. Washington’s pitching should be better this year, and they have several positional players (Zimmerman – age 27, Espinosa – 25, Ramos – 24, and Desmond – 26) who are just entering what is traditionally considered to be a player’s prime years. If Harper (age 19) lives up to the hype, this is a team set up to contend for quite a while. I like what they’re doing down there.

  5. Lefty

    February 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Strasburg will be coddled. I read he is on a strict 160 innings limit. It will be interesting to see them actually shut him down in early/mid August if they are in a pennant/ wild card contention.

  6. Don M

    February 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I read that too about the 160-innings limit …. don’t know if that’s a strict thing or not, but i’d imagine they’ll try to limit his early outings anyway … strict in-game pitch counts etc ..

    Jordan Zimmerman is going to be a key to their season … great stats except for “wins” last year – had an 8-11 record , but a 3.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP … 124 Ks in 161 innings… his k’s per 9 went down but so did his walks, and his ERA/WHIP … I think he’s going to be a good one

  7. Manny

    February 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I think the real storyline for the Phillies heading into ST should be: Will our key guys be healthy enough for the season?

    Whether Pod, Pierre, or whoever makes the 25-man roster is a decision that will have minimal impact. But if Utley’s knee is not cooperating, or Polanco’s arm is dangling off, J-roll’s legs are betraying him…(you get the drift)… then we’d be in big trouble.

    All I wanna see this ST is health, health, health.

    Oh and D-brown smashing the ball left and right 🙂

  8. brooks

    February 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    ST – this is too exciting.
    Look, what potential we still have – the young pitchers who have to prove themselves all over again – Stutes, Worley, Bastardo – all great stuff. Who will be stepping up this year?

  9. Brooks

    February 15, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Here are my thumbs down before the season starts:
    Martinez –
    Nix – never showed much of anything, Gload/Jenkins combined… still not much
    Thome – people please dont expect too much from the big gentleman from Peoria, I would hate to see him get booed again in Philly
    Schnieder –
    Poly – sorry guys, if he is able to play more than 100 games I would be surprised. I am thinking that Wiggy will take his place in the lineup.

    High hopes – Brown (of course)
    Junior – play it again!
    Jimmy – just be healthy, please
    Utley – give me 140 games, please
    Howard – coming back strong, relaxed and determined
    Wiggington – I think he’ll replace Poly and look good doing it
    Pierre – contact!

    Sure things (always get hurt here…)
    Pence hitting close to .300, close to 30 hrs – he seems to be improving every year
    Vic – somewhere between .290-.300
    Ruiz – I really dont care what he hits, Choochie is the man.

    • George

      February 16, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Martinez is a thumbs down only if he has to play on a regular basis.That may not happen with options like Wigginton (or even Pete Orr in a total emergency).

      I think you also missed a few “sure things” named Halladay, Lee, and Hamels. Papelbon should pretty much be guaranteed to perform, too.

      I’d expect maybe .280-290 out of Victorino, not your slightly higher numbers

  10. Manny

    February 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Boy oh boy.. don’t expect .300 avg and 30 HRs out of Pence. Odds are he’ll fall more in the .285 avg, 20-25 HR area.

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