The more things change, the more they stay the same. That could be applied to the NL East, as there’s been alot of turnover, in terms of rosters and outlook. Injuries to two of their biggest stars have some thinking the Phillies will be finally be dethroned, however their pitching says otherwise. After their September collapse, the Braves return essentially the same roster and will contend despite many saying Chipper Jones’ retirement signals a downfall. Not only do the Marlins have new faces, they have a new stadium and new uniforms, but they will not live up to all the hype. The Nationals have their own brand of hype coming into the season, but alot of things will have go right for them to climb the standings. The Mets will end up occupying the cellar as they are in full rebuild mode and have a number of injury concerns.

1) Philadelphia Phillies
The rest of the division is getting closer, but they won’t overtake the Phillies this season. 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley will start the season on the DL, but they aren’t the whole of the lineup. RF Hunter Pence, CF Shane Victorino and SS Jimmy Rollins form a solid core that should provide the bulk of the offense until Howard and Utley return. However, without those two cornerstones, the offense will have its share of troubles. On the other hand, no matter how much the offense struggles, the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will be there to provide great starts from the rotation and Vance Worley will slot behind them. Plus the bullpen got a big boost when Jonathan Papelbon was signed to take over ninth inning duties from Ryan Madson. He’ll provide stability at the back end that the Phils have lacked to go along with Antonio Bastardo, an underrated set up man.

2) Atlanta Braves
Many will point to the September collapse as a sign that the Braves will have trouble contending. However, they still have a strong team. This will be Chipper Jones’ last season and he’ll motivated to go out with a bang. CF Michael Bourn will contend for the stolen base title, 2B Dan Uggla will slug a ton of homers and Brian McCann will continue to be one of the best catchers in the league. 1B Freddie Freeman is an emerging talent, but RF Jason Heyward will have to get back on track. The rotation has its share of questions. Tommy Hanson is struggling to come back from injury and Tim Hudson will out until at least May. However, Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor are solid, Brandon Beachy is primed for a breakout season and top prospect Julio Teheran is waiting in the wings. If the rotation has problems they have an excellent bullpen to fall back on. Craig Kimbrel won the ROTY after a big season as the closer, while Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty are a potent setup combo.

3) Miami Marlins
New ballpark, new uniforms, new players and a new manager make for a new era in South Beach. SS Jose Reyes is a premier leadoff man and the biggest prize of the Marlins’ offseason. He, along with CF Emilio Binifacio will set  set the table for 3B Hanley Ramirez, RF Mike/Giancarlo Stanton and LF Logan Morrison. That alone will ensure the team scores plenty of runs. They’ll need big seasons from their rotation to contend however. Josh Johnson is coming back from a shoulder injury, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nalasco must get more consistent and Carlos Zambrano will battle with manager Ozzie Guillen to see who has the most blowups of the season. At least Mark Buehrle will be a steady presence. Heath Bell, who was the third big signing along with Reyes and Buehrle, will hold down the closing job, though he may have to adjust to pitching outside of Petco. He will have a decent cast of relief options in front of him to help out the rotation.

4) Washington Nationals
There is a considerable amount of buzz surrounding the Nationals and there are a trendy pick to move up the standings, but they’re not quite there yet. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, LF Michael Morse and RF Jayson Werth are a dependable middle of the lineup, though young players like 2B Danny Espinosa, SS Ian Desmond and C Wilson Ramos will need to be more consistent for the offense to be more potent, though that may change when The Chosen One Bryce Harper arrives. The Nats’ Other Chosen One Stephen Strasburg heads a rotation that includes fellow Nats draftee Jordan Zimmermann, journeyman Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez, who was acquired from the A’s. The rotation more then anything will hold the team back because there are no guarantees of consistency. Drew Storen handles the closer’s role in the bullpen, while former closer Brad Lidge and Tyler Clippard are the best of the middle relief options.

5) New York Mets
It might seem odd to consider a New York team in a rebuilding mode, but that’s where the Mets are right now. That’s probably because of so many injury concerns. 3B David Wright, 1B Ike Davis, LF Jason Bay and CF Andres Torres all are dealing with current or nagging injuries and there isn’t enough else to mount a high scoring offense. No one Met epitomizes the rash of injuries more then pitcher Johan Santana. He hasn’t pitched a game for the team in what seems like forever and he’s still suffering setbacks. Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jonathan Niese will eat up innings for the rotation, but that’s about it. A bullpen that relies on Frank Francisco to handle the closer duties can’t be that good. At least fans can look forward to football and Tim Tebow.