Top 10 NL East Starting Pitchers to Watch For

I've been looking over this blog now for a couple of weeks, and I've thought about a possible FanPost, and this is it. With baseball season soon approaching, and previews and predictions rolling out, I thought I might do some of my own. This Post is a Top 10 list featuring the Top 10 pitchers in the NL East to watch for this year, and my predictions for them. But do know, this list is for the Top 10 Pitchers to look out for, like what changes may happen, surprising performances, records, disappointments, etc., not in increasing order of likely sucess.

10. Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals

This may be hard to see, but Jordan Zimmmermann is a strong, young pitcher to compliment Stephen Strasburg in the Nats' rotation. Jordan Zimmermann was a bright spot when the Nationals had little strength in their rotation, going 4-7 with a 4.71 ERA in 23 starts over two partial seasons in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, though, Zimmermann showed his real stuff, going 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA and 3.16 FIP. Zimmermann will take a back seat in 2012 however, due to the additions of Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, and the return of Stephen Strasburg. Bill James' projection give Zimmermann an 11-8 record and a 3.39 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 175 innings.

My Final Thought:Zimmermann will be a young pitcher to go to should Gonzalez or Jackson regress in their new environments. However, he will be a somewhat average pitcher for them.

My Projection:8-7 record, 4.00 ERA, 110 strikeouts

9. Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies

Rookie Vance Worley was a legitimate 4th ace of the Phillies staff last year. In his initial year in Philadelphia in 2010, he was strong in 5 games, 2 of them starting, to earn a 1.38 ERA and a 3.16 FIP. You guys know his stuff and stats, 11-3, 3.01 ERA, and 3.32 FIP last year. Vance Worley was a strong pitcher in the second half of the season for the Phillies, and can do even more damage with a full season to come next year. However, Bill James' projection doesn't think too highly of him, giving him an even 8-8 record with a 3.86 ERA and FIP.

My Final Thought:Vance Worley will be an unsung hero for Philadelphia, and I think he'll be a 10-game winner, but as a number 4 starter.

My Projection:12-6 record, 3.22 ERA, 130 strikeouts

8. Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins

Mark Buehrle has had a long and successful career with the Chicago White Sox, and will begin a new chapter in Miami. Buehrle's FIP has fluctuated around 4.00 since 2007, but has kept it under 4.00 for the last two years, 3.90 in 2010 and 3.98 in 2011. I still see Buehrle as a reliable number 3 starter for the Marlins. I expect Buehrle to keep pitching over 200 innings in 2012, as he has in each season since 2001. Bill James' projection give Buehrle a 12-11 record in 2012 in addition to a 3.98 ERA and 4.08 FIP.

My Final Thought:Buehrle will regress a little in 2012 in his new environment, and opponents will jump on him easily in the first half, but I do think he'll settle in when the time comes.

My Projection:12-12 record, 3.89 ERA, 105 strikeouts

7. Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves

This man has been flying under the radar since he started in Atlanta last year. Brandon Beachy was an undrafted free agent, and was signed by the Braves in 2007, and worked his way up to the Majors, earning a September nod in 2010, and made the best of it. In 3 games, Brandon was 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a 2.48 FIP. This small sample was enough to earn him a nod as a permanent starter in the Braves' rotation last year, and he sure didn't disappoint. In 25 games in 2011, Beachy was 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA, and 3.16 xFIP, and led the Braves in strikeouts with 169. However, his first full season as a Braves was hampered by an injury that caused him to miss over a month. This year, hopefully Brandon will have a full, healthy season, and Bill James' projection gives Beachy a 11-6 record, a 3.14 ERA, and 183 strikeouts over 155 innings of work.

My Final Thought:I see Brandon Beachy as a strong number 4 starter for the Braves, and as a reliable guy to go to.

My Projection:13-8 record, 3.83 ERA, 172 strikeouts

6. Carlos Zambrano, Miami Marlins

Where do I start? I'm putting Zambrano on this list to see how he responds to a number of factors. One, his new environment. Two, his new opponents. Three, his new manager. Fourth, his new teammates. Any old thing will seem to set Zambrano off and his season in doing so. Zambrano was a disappointment last year, going 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA and 4.59 FIP. Can Zambrano fight back (not literally I hope) and regain his form and dominance? His new team will need it. Bill James' projection says Zambrano will be 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 4.01 FIP.

My Final Thought:Zambrano will be no match for what is to come in the NL East. The hitters are better, Ozzie won't tolerate any of his frustration, and his career will collapse. Zambrano's role will liekly fluctuate from the rotation to the 'pen, and the Marlins will wish they still had Chris Volstad.

My Projection:9-10 record, 4.50 ERA, 130 strikeouts

5. Johan Santana, New York Mets

I believe that Johan Santana is going to comeback with a vengeance for the New York Mets. When absent, New York always seems to be struggling with finding a reliable starter (you know, when they're not climbing mountains). But, Santana will be back soon, just not on Opening Day. Johan will settle easily back in as the ace of the Mets' staff. Hopefully, I hope he will get injured again just to see the Mets' fans cry he will regain his true dominance he had with the Minnesota Twins. Bill James' projection gives Santana a 14-7 record, a 3.19 ERA, and a 3.49 FIP.

My Final Thought:The paragraph above says it all. He'll return to dominance and win at least 13 games.

My Projection:16-8 record, 3.14 ERA, 172 strikeouts

4. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves

Tommy Hanson was a force for the Braves in the first half of last season and was arguably an All-Star snub, going 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA. However, he showed a very disappointing second half, sidelined by an injury, in which he went 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA. Hanson has showed this offseason that he has revamped his delivery and has gotten healthier. Tommy will be the number 2 starter in a Braves' rotation that is healthy, strong, and is getting a fresh start. Last year in total, Hanson was 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA and 3.67 FIP compared to a 3.29 xFIP. Bill James' projection gives Hanson a 10-7 record with a 3.18 ERA and 3.39 FIP.

My Final Thought:As a Braves fan, I hope Hanson can stay healthy all year, and is a young force for the Braves throughout the year. Hanson should be able to get double-digits in wins, and keep an ERA under 3.50 while racking up over 150 strikeouts.

My Projection:14-10 record, 3.41 ERA, 152 strikeouts

3. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg is coming off Tommy John surgery, with a repaired arm that is prepared to create dispair. I see Strasburg as a strong ace for the Nationals, something they badly need. In 2011, Strasburg was 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24 innigs, in addition to a 1.28 FIP. That is absolutely crazy. Bill James dosn't have a projection for Strasburg, so I'll give the projection RotoChamp has for him. RotoChamp gives him a 13-7 record, a 2.38 ERA, a 1.97 FIP, and 185 strikeouts in 155 innings.

My Final Thought:I see Strasburg winning at least 14 games for the Nationals in 2012, and with his stuff he certainly earns it. I wouldn't be surprised to see Strasburg with double-digit strikeouts in a few games.

My Projection:14-6 record, 3.02 ERA, 202 strikeouts.

2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

I'm up to Halladay now. You guys know him better than he knows himself. A 19-6 record, 2.35 ERA and 2.20 FIP, and 220 strikeouts in 233 innings. Halladay has been one of the most electric guys in baseball, if not the most impressive. Halladay is a potential HOF man, and he has the tools to get him there. Bill James' projection gives Halladay an impressive 17-8 record, a 3.03 ERA, and a 2.96 FIP, but only 188 strikeouts in 232 innings, the same amount of innings last year (233) where he collected 32 more strikeouts (220), over the projected 188 this year.

My Final Thought:Halladay will remain an electric ace and will dominate the NL East as usual, but not as good as the next guy on my list.

My Projection:18-9 record, 2.97 ERA, 210 strikeouts.

1. Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins

First, remember. This list is about the top 10 pitchers to watch for. This doesn't mean in increasing order of projected success. This list means pitchers to look for changes, impressive years, record-setting performances, and disappointments. That's why Carlos Zambrano is number 6. You may be angry at me for this pick for number 1, but the fact is, many people have forgotten about Josh Johnson. In 2010 with the Marlins, a full year, Johnson 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA and 2.41 FIP, and 186 strikeouts in 183 innings pitched. In 2011, a year cut drastically short, Johnson was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 2.64 FIP, and 56 strikeouts in 60 innings. Bill James' projection gives Johnson a 12-6 record with a 3.09 ERA, and 2.92 FIP, and 146 strikeouts in 160 innings.

My Final Thought:Josh Johnson will have a full season with the Miami Marlins, one to be remembered. As the ace, he will be responsible for the most reliability, which he will give to his team.

My Projection:18-8 record, 2.96 ERA, 200 strikeouts

Honorable Mention from TGP: Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals

You guys suggested him, and I believe now he should. Unlike my thoughts on Mark Buehrle, I'm expecting Gio Gonzalez to fit right in. The reason: Gio is adaptable to change. He started 12 games for the Athletics' AAA club, and was then thrust into the Major Leagues. In 2009, Gio was 6-7 with a 5.75 ERA, starting 17 games. Then, in 2010, he turned up the fire and finished with a record of 15-9 and an ERA of 3.23. Last year, Gonzalez's numbers were 16-12, a 3.12 ERA, and a 3.64 FIP. Compared to Mark Buehrle, Gonzalez is much younger and is in the prime of his career. I expect Gio to pitch at least average for the Nationals, and so does Bill James. James' projection gives Gio Gonzalez an 11-13 record, 3.83 ERA, and 3.94 FIP.

My Final Thought:Gio Gonzalez was the ace of the Oakland Athletics a year ago. This year, he'll be the #2 starter for a team that needs him, Edwin Jackson, and Stephen Strasburg to pitch and to be in the best shape of their lives. And I think Gio will prove as a reliable starter.

My Projection:14-12 record, 3.78 ERA, 190 strikeouts.

That completes my list of the Top 10 NL East Starting Pitcher to Watch For [coming from a Braves fan]. What's your opinion? Vote in the poll too.

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