The Biggest Question Mark: NL East
Today as we continue the Over Under series I am beginning another series as well. This one will look at each team trying to define what player is the biggest question mark for their team. A player whose success is vital to their team yet has uncertainty surrounding them. This does not mean the team will fall apart if they do poorly, nor does it mean that the team will win the division if they do great. Obviously for a team to do poorly or a team to do well it relies much more on than on just one player. That being said, lets take a look.Phillies: This one is a tough one because honestly they have so many. Again, don't get me wrong they are still the class of the league for now but there are a lot more question marks than there were 2 years ago.Ryan Howard: The slugging 1B provides much of the pop in a pop lesser lineup. He will miss at least the first month, maybe more and then will he be able to generate the power that we are all accustomed to?Chase Utley: This guy has yet to play a spring training game and has not played even close to a full season since 2009. For 2010 and 2011 he averaged: .267 .367 .435 .802. Bad for a 2nd baseman? Obviously no. Bad for the Phillies and Chase Utley? Yeah. Even if you average those out to 162 games he would be at 21 HR and 81 RBI, not really the production you want from your #3 hitter on a championship club.Roy Halladay: It's spring training.Winner: To me it's Chase Utley. The team just plays at a different level when he is on the field. The confidence, composure and swagger all seem to take a hit when he is out.Braves:Jason Heyward: This young slugger was supposed to take the Braves to the next level. However, if there was ever a definition of a sophomore slump, Heyward would be it. A .227 .319 .389 .708 slash line has him keeping pace with Jason Bay.Winner: Jason Heyward. Really was there any need to go on? He is the key. Their pitching will be fine, Chipper will hit when he is healthy and we know he won't be part of the time. McCann will hit and the bullpen will be solid.Nationals:Oh wow, this one will not be as easy.Jayson Werth: Signed an awful contract and played like his contract. Here is another guy who wishes he had not produced like Jason Bay. If the Nationals want to take the next step then Werth needs to produce. Not only that but if it comes out that they did not make a better offer to Prince because of Werth's contract then all 3 Nationals fans should rise up and storm the Bastille.Ryan Zimmerman: Wright's buddy also dealt with injuries and poor play last season. Now the pressure will be on after signing a contract extension.Stephen Strasburg: When healthy the guy is showing flashes of taking the status of MAN. However, can he hold up for an entire season? The Nationals are already saying they will limit his innings. How they do this will be a good question. Can they do it early so he will be there for the pennant race? Having Wang get injured again is a blow to that plan.Winner: I could have went in another direction here but for me it's Strasburg. Without him the Nationals pitching staff goes from Really Good to Above Average.Marlins: They have two guys in my opinion.Hanley Ramirez: Man oh man, the questions surround this guy. Was he that injured last year or did pouting become a major issue? Contrary to the opinion of some, Hanley has shown himself to be a ME and ONLY ME first kind of guy. If the Marlins struggle or he struggles at 3B he could be a ticking time bomb of disgruntle team killing poison. The Marlins really need him to have a quick start.Josh Johnson: The dominant Josh Johnson has been in the league now for 7 years and has pitched 1, count them, 1 full season. He has averaged only around 18 starts per season the last 5 years and only 111 innings. Last year was more of the same logging only 60 innings over 9 starts. The Marlins Ace will have to be able to shake off that inability to produce a full season and come in firing for the Marlins to be the darling that everyone predicts. Without him their rotation takes a severe hit and Mark Buehrle becomes your ace.Winner: Tough call, their pitching staff is average without Josh but their team chemistry could be destroyed with a pouting Hanley. I am going with Hanley Ramirez.Mets: Obviously the Mets have a slew of question marks from Davis, to Duda, to Murphy at 2B, to Tejada, to Pelfrey, to Niese, ... Of course you might be able to list more for these other teams as well and some of these seem more severe to us because we live and breath Mets. However, there are two names that seem clear to me.David Wright: Another guy who has yet to see Spring Training action. Wright is coming off his worst season of his career that was mired with injury and starting off the season mired with injury. Without Wright's RH bat in the lineup the lineup becomes very LH dominant and honestly just plain awful.Johan Santana: Obviously a healthy Johan does more than just log some decent innings for the Mets. His presence on the mound, in the clubhouse and in the media is huge for this rebuilding team.Winner: David Wright. In so many ways this year and the Mets future depends on a healthy David Wright. Even if they decide to trade him, for the Mets to net the prospects they need Wright will have to return to his previous form.