We are going to start the tried-and-true Red Reporter Previews with the NL East. This is because we kind of forgot to plan ahead of time this year, and anyways Farney kinda freaked us all out last year.
Because we have to fit in a bunch of previews in one space, things might be a bit quicker this time around. So we'll just try to cover the major storylines, major new additions, Reds connections, and which European Union country they most resemble to give you an idea of what teams we'll almost certainly be rooting for the NL West against come October.
Teams organized by my predicted order of finish.
Who's New: Doug Fister, Jose Lobaton, 1/4 of Bryce Harper's body weight
Storylines: Do they have the bench or the defense to get the wins that their stars don't?
Reds Connections:Scott Hairston's brother Cherry is an ex-Red. Jose Lobaton was only available because the Rays traded for Hanigan. Clay Hensley, Koyie Hill, and Josh Roenicke spent some time in the Reds' minors.
Oddities: Steven Souza, Jr. is not just Sammy Sosa's off-union counterpart. I always liked the name "Will Rhymes" for being a declarative sentence about Will's hobbies.
What's the Gist? If Werth can stay healthy and Rendon can build off of a solid rookie campaign, it's a solid lineup. The pitching is very, very, good. If the bench can avoid embarrassing themselves (or the starters can all play ~150 games) than they should have another 2012-ish year.
Which EU Country is this? Ugly uniforms. Utterly terrifying. Need to bring in a bunch of backups from wherever they can find to put around a backbone of talent. GERMANY.
Who's New: Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd, rookie Christian Bethancourt
Storylines: The Fun Police McCann is gone, but so are all their pitchers' elbows.
Reds Connections: Terry Pendleton was weirdly a Red and weirderly an MVP. Now he's 1st Base Coach
Oddities: Horacio Ramirez is now an assistant coach despite being only 34. There's a pitcher named Atahualpa Severino
What's the Gist? It's a weirdly laid-out team. Tons of OF depth, especially if BJ Upton rebounds. They hope that Freeman and Simmons only get better. Both Uggla and Chris Johnson are bits of wildcards, as is the catching collection of Bethancourt backed up by Laird (who can't hit/play) and Doumit (who can't catch). And then there's the slight issue of multiple Tommy Johns in their rotation and no idea what its gonna look like. The bullpen's good, but I don't think that the Braves wanted to lean on ~350 innings out of Santana and Gavin Floyd. Or Santana at all, for that matter.
Which EU Country is this? Ostensibly bristling with talent and looking very good, but outward appearances are masking deep issues that need to get addressed (social benefits system, pitching depth). FRANCE.
Who's New: Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), Marlon Byrd....mlb.com lists Bobby Abreu?
Storylines: MLB.com lists Bobby Abreu and I'm liable to believe them. Too bad he can't pitch.
Reds Connections: Jeremy Horst came over in the Wilson Valdez trade. Pete Mackanin is over at third base.
Oddities: Bobby Abreu can't really be here, can he? Well, Jeff Manship can.
What's the Gist? Cliff Lee is great! Cole Hamels is still probably very good. Chase Utley is good if healthy, and Dom Brown can hit the ball hard. Everything else is kind of a bummer.
Which EU Country is this? Name recognition is supposed to be great. Not all name recognition is for positive things. ITALY.
New York Mets
Who's New: Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Bartolo Colon, Daisuke Matsuzaka
Storylines: If you're gonna be bad, be fun and bad. Not like the Marlins.
Reds Connections: Zach Lutz isn't related to Donald. Kyle Farnsworth once beat up Paul Wilson.
Oddities: A lot of lowercases, as Matt den Dekker and Travis d'Arnaud don the upside-down "P"s. Omar Quintanilla has been wearing a number zero at camp.
What's the Gist? David Roth, the writer, has been talking a lot about this team being very bad, but at least entertainingly bad. Chris Young is a fun guy to have on a going-nowhere team since he plays good defense and hits dingers. Zack Wheeler is a good healthy prospect, which is one adjective more than Matt Harvey. David Wright is not unpleasant, Bartolo Colon is. Nobody will have more fun watching their team lose 2-9 than Mets fans.
Which EU Country is this? If you're going to be a basketcase, you may as well be the most entertaining basketcase money you don't have can't buy. SPAIN.
Who's New: Carlos Marmol! Jarrod Saltalamacchia! Rafael Furcal! This would be a big deal in 2008!
Storylines: Stanton and Yellich and Fernandez and a bunch of the blandes(t).
Reds Connections: Henry Rodriguez the pitcher is not the same as the now-cut Hank. "Austin Barns" kinda sounds like "Austin Kearns" in a Kentucky accent.
What's the Gist? Jose Fernandez is a very fun pitcher to watch. Giancarlo Stanton can do some mean things to a baseball, and Christian Yellich could be a lot of fun. That's about it in the otherwise saddest story in baseball. In fact, having bright spots in some ways makes them even sadder.
Which EU Country is this? If you've been to Greece, it's not that the entire country is destroyed that's the worst part. It's how obvious it is that parts of the country are still quite wonderful that's the worst part. GREECE.