National League East

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WHY THEY'LL FINISH FIRST: As if baseball's version of the Broad Street Bullies hadn't already staked a claim on the National League pennant as its own personal territory, the addition of Roy Halladay confirms it. Coming over from the AL East where he dominated, Halladay should be a lock for 20 wins. With Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer following Halladay to the mound, the Phils have all the pitching they need. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO PITCH FOR A LINEUP THAT LED THE LEAGUE IN RUNS (820) IN 2009? They have a combination of power and speed (224 HRs and 119 SBs) unmatched in the league and will go into the season as the odds-on favourite to become the first NL team in 66 years to make three consecutive trips to the World Series. THE PHILS COULD GO SOUTH IF: Closer Brad Lidge doesn't get his act together. He is currently recovering from off-season knee surgery and probably will open the season on the disabled list, which may be a good thing. He is, however, expected to be back no later than mid-April. He was all over the map last season. Yes, he had 31 saves but he also blew 11 and had a 7.21 ERA. Ryan Madson will start the season as the closer. 2. ATLANTA BRAVES WHY THEY'LL FINISH SECOND: A testament to the confidence the Braves have in their pitching is the fact they were willing to trade Javier Vazquez (15-10, 2.87) to the Yankees for outfielder Melky Cabrera. Derek Lowe is at the front end of a rotation that includes Tommy Hanson, who won 11 games in 21 starts, with a 2.89 ERA as a rookie; Jair Jurrjens, with 14 wins and a 2.60 ERA; and Tim Hudson, hopefully fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. The Braves would love to send manager Bobby Cox off into retirement with a championship but to accomplish that, Cox will have to manage his derriere off to cobble together an offence to support his solid pitching staff. THE BRAVES COULD CLIMB HIGHER IF: Highly touted rookie rightfielder Jason Heyward lives up to expectation and veterans Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus can stay healthy and productive. They are rolling the dice that free agent closer Billy Wagner still has enough left in his left arm to save 35-40 games. 3. FLORIDA MARLINS WHY THEY'LL FINISH THIRD: The Marlins nearly doubled their payroll in 2009 (to $36 million from $21 million in 2008) and they'll come in at just over $40 million this year. That said, they will probably once again have the smallest payroll of MLB's 30 teams. The Marlins continue to be competitive because of a prolific farm system that keeps churning out solid young ball players who are then peddled for even younger talent. THE MARLINS COULD CLIMB HIGHER IF: Outfielder Mike Stanton, who is going to start in the minors but should be in the bigs by July, is the real deal. They're also hoping that centrefielder Cameron Maybin, whose skillset includes both speed and power, finally can get over the hump at the ripe old age of 22. They have one of baseball's best hitters in Hanley Ramirez and one of the best young pitchers in Josh Johnson. They're not deep enough to win but they'll be a thorn in everyone's side, as always. 4. NEW YORK METS WHY THEY'LL FINISH FOURTH: The Mets are the anti-Marlins, willing to keep tossing money into a big black hole that leaves them on the outside looking in every October. Last year, they had the second-highest payroll ($139 million) behind the Yankees and still finished with 70 wins. Behind Johan Santana, there is not much depth in the rotation and that will prove to be this club's Achilles Heel. THE METS COULD CLIMB HIGHER IF: Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay can develop some chemistry in the middle of the lineup. Shortstop Jose Reyes, if he can get healthy and stay that way, is an imposing table-setter at the top of the lineup. 5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS WHY THEY'LL FINISH LAST: The Nats still are taking baby steps. To avoid last place, they first have to get out of the 100-loss rut they've been in the last two seasons and they have some pieces in place to accomplish that. Young offensive stars like Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Zimmerman will give masher Adam Dunn plenty of RBI opportunities. Relievers Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, Eddie Guardado and Doug Slaten should plug some of the holes in the bullpen. THE NATS COULD CLIMB HIGHER IF: First-round draft sensation Stephen Strasburg arrives by mid-season and is able to establish some front-of-the rotation stability.

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