National League Preview

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Just like with the American League earlier this week, here is a team by team preview for the 15 National League teams. The NL has won the last 3 All-Star games and then World Series along with that. Dominance? Maybe a little bit. But a new year is upon us.

Divisional Previews below, along with team capsules and projected order of finish.

*- denotes projected divisional winner

#-denotes projected wild-card winners

NL West (projected order of finish)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers*
  2. San Francisco Giants#
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers 2nd Place 86-76

'I See You' guys spent a lot on money on talent, will it pay off?

‘I See You’ guys spent a lot on money on talent, will it pay off?

I know what you’re thinking, why would I pick this potential train wreck to win the division? Hanley Ramirez is going to miss 8 weeks with a wrist injury, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are coming off a injuries that made them miss significant time last season, and Adrian Gonzalez might not be the same player he was before going to Boston. On the upside, the Dodgers have the best young left-hander in the game with Clayton Kershaw and a deep rotation, highlighted by Zach Grienke and Korean import Ryu Hun-Jin. If the players in question can return to form, then they should be fine, but questions still arise on whether this team is good or just overpaid. But if they get it together, they are hands down the scariest team in the playoffs. Running out Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke in a short series can propel the Dodgers to the World Series.

San Francisco Giants 1st Place 94-68, Won World Series

Hate seeing the Giants win? Too bad, they are too talented to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Hate seeing the Giants win? Too bad, they are too talented to be going anywhere anytime soon.

So the Giants won the World Series again. Somebody please awaken me from this nightmare. Okay, enough bashing of the Giants, because this team is actually really good. Not because they won the World Series 2 of the last 3 years, which by the way is pretty impressive considering they didn’t win 1 in the 1st 50 years since moving from New York. But all things considered, the Giants have a solid squad and with a rotation that features Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, they will be fine. Their lineup may not have the punch that the Dodgers have, but this lineup possesses 2 things that the Dodgers do not have. They are the defending champs, and they also have the reigning National League MVP. If they don’t win the division, they will capture the Wild-Card and be a force in the playoffs. Watch out. On a surprise note, pitcher Tim Lincecum did the unspeakable this offseason, and cut his hair! Maybe in attempts to shed the demons that haunted his season last year, which happened to be his worst since being called up. Maybe it was the drastic change in diet before the season, ever thought of that?

Arizona Diamondbacks 3rd Place 81-81

Life after Justin Upton starts now

Life after Justin Upton starts now

The Diamondbacks regressed last season. After 2011’s division title, they struggled in close games last season, to the tune of a 15-27 record in one-run games. A .236 batting average after the 7th inning didn’t help things at all. So they traded Justin Upton, potentially a terrible move, and brought in some veteran talent to help. They revamped the bullpen, but in some potentially questional moves, added the ridiculous Heath Bell contract and picked up Matt Reynolds. But can this team compete in the near future? Probably not, considering they traded away Trevor Bauer as well but who knows. The NL West has been a very unpredictable division the last 8 years with every team making a run at the division. The odds say they have no chance, but didn’t we all say that 2 years ago?

San Diego Padres 4th Place 76-86

When will this beautiful stadium host another playoff game?

When will this beautiful stadium host another playoff game?

The Padres are in Limbo. Their best player suffered a thumb injury during spring training, and will be out the first month of the season. They possess a bonafide Rookie of the Year candidate in Jedd Gyorko, but the real question is if he can put up his Triple-A numbers over the course of a full season. They also have a stacked farm system due to the many trades they have made the last few years, but the majority of that talent is in the low levels of the minors.Their rotation is awful, all while still pitching in Petco park. Reports say they will be one of the worst, but pitching in Petco park might just save them. Unfortunately it won’t keep them out of the bottom of the division.

Colorado Rockies 5th Place 64-98

The key for the Rockies in 2013, will be keeping these two on the field and healthy

The key for the Rockies in 2013, will be keeping these two on the field and healthy

So unfortunate to be a Rockies fan. Just 6 years ago, they made their first trip to the World Series in franchise history with a young nucleus. But since, years of mediocrity and injuries has kept this team at the bottom of the NL West. This team can hit, when healthy, and not because they play in Coors Field. Anchored by Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, this lineup has some upside and could compete in a less competitive division, but unfortunately not the case. Dexter Fowler quietly is becoming one of the better, young center fielders in the game, but that’s where the positives stop. This team’s pitching is atrocious. After trading Ubaldo Jimenez, which was a smart move at the time, they have lacked a true ace and will continue to do so unless they can find a pitcher who can thrive in that ballpark. They may be celebrating the teams 20th anniversary in Denver, but it should be a long long season for the Rockies.

NL Central (projected order of finish)

  1. Cincinnati Reds*
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds 1st Place 97-65, Lost NLDS to San Francisco Giants

Look for the Reds to celebrate again in 2013

Look for the Reds to celebrate again in 2013

Joey Votto missed 1/3 of the season last year, and the Red still coasted to the NL Central crown. Weak division? Probably the case, especially considering the Reds blew a 2-0 lead in the NLDS to the eventual World Champion Giants. In the offseason, the Reds flipped Drew Stubbs for Shin-Soo Choo in hopes that Choo can be a spark plug at the top of the lineup. The huge downside, he is probably the worst defensive CF in baseball and down the line could cost them a few games, even with his offensive superiority over the players he replaces. But Billy Hamilton, fresh off his record setting 151 stolen bases in the minors last season, is right around the corner. If he can parlay himself into a midseason call-up, he could shore up the outfield defense and move Choo to one of the corner spots, especially since Ryan Ludwick will miss significant time. The Reds pitching staff isn’t bad, just not what you would expect from a team that won 97 games last season. I expect Mat Latos to continue to evolve into the stud he is on the mound, but will it be enough to overlook the struggles of the back end of the rotation? We will see. But don’t forget, this team has the Cuban Missile aka Aroldis Chapman still closing games. As long as he isn’t messing around this season, the Reds should coast to another division title.

St. Louis Cardinals 2nd Place 88-74, Lost NLCS to San Francisco Giants

The Cardiac Cards are ready to make another run, but do they have more postseason magic in them?

The Cardiac Cards are ready to make another run, but do they have more postseason magic in them?

Year one of life without Albert Pujols was not as bad as they might have envisioned. The Cardinals captured the 2nd Wild-Card, and then beat the Braves in the Wild-Card game, with some controversy. While the Cardinals were able to foil the Braves playoff aspirations once again, they had trouble with the Giants in the NLCS, blowing a 3-1 lead in the Series to lose in 7 games. The Cardinals have a potent lineup, but their are still questions that arise. Can Carlos Beltran play another full season at a high level? Can the middle infield produce just enough pop to keep the Cardinals in contention? How will Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia’s arm’s hold up? These questions need to be answered if the Cardinals want to return to the postseason. But this team is scrappy and can has the magic to put together late runs. Just ask the 2012 Texas Rangers and the 2013 Washington Nationals.

Pittsburgh Pirates 4th Place 79-83

Andrew McCutchen has made the leap to Superstar, will this be the year they make the playoffs?

Andrew McCutchen has made the leap to Superstar, will this be the year they make the playoffs?

Man the Pirates were some story last season, until they fell apart. But you think Manager Clint Hurdle is worried? Not at all. This team is going to learn from last season and move forward. The offense for this team broke out last year. McCutchen developed into a bonafide MVP candidate, Pedro Alvarez hit 30 bombs, and and 2nd Baseman Neil Walker had a solid season. But the offense ranked 26th last season, partly to blame for the collapse in the 2nd half. Adding Russell Martin to the fold should help with depth and give this team some much needed leadership. The pitching staff however is the WIld-Card. A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, both acquired in the last 12 months, both pitched well their first season with the Pirates, and if they can help keep the Pirates afloat until Gerrit Cole is called up, they might, just might challenge the Cardinals for 2nd place. But everything could easily fall apart again, and it could be a long season in Steel City.

Milwaukee Brewers 3rd Place 83-79

Brewers are talented offensively, but can the pitching keep up?

Brewers are talented offensively, but can the pitching keep up?

The Brewers are a hard team to diagnose. A few years ago they were a playoff team, a few wins away from the World Series, then last year without Prince Fielder, they posted an under the radar 83 win season. Ryan Braun has become the leader of this team, even if his name keeps swirling in and out of the headlines with rumors about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). If he can avoid suspension, Carlos Gomez can build off his breakout season and the Brewers can stay afloat until Corey Hart returns then they can compete. But all are big IF’s and the pitching is this team’s achilles heel. But they do have a legitamite number 1 in Yiovanni Gallardo and the addition of Kyle Lohse will help, but can they keep up with the 6th best offense in the league? Time will tell.

Chicago Cubs 5th Place 61-101

Another year, more misery for the Cubbies.

Another year, more misery for the Cubbies.

Now that the Houston Astros moved to the American League, the Cubs are now the whipping boys of the NL Central. Wait, they lost 100 games last year, they already were the whipping boys of the division. But let’s get real, the Cubs are in the middle of a major rebuilding phase. They will be getting another year of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, young stars they hope can lead the Cubs to the playoffs in the near future. When you look at the pitching staff, they actually are not terrible. Led by Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, these guys could both reach double digits in wins, and when Matt Garza comes back from injury they could have a nice threesome. But that’s a huge if that those guys can all get double digits, and from the looks of it, the friendly confines won’t be too friendly to the home team this season, even if Anthony Rizzo has a breakout season.

NL East  (projected order of finish)

  1. Washington Nationals*
  2. Atlanta Braves#
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins

Washington Nationals: 1st Place 98-64, Lost NLDS to St. Louis Cardinals (2013: 1st)

The Nationals are primed for a deep run in the playoffs

The Nationals are primed for a deep run in the playoffs

Last year, the Washington Nationals made huge strides forward and became a bonafide juggernaut. Unfortunately for them, they were beaten in the 1st round when they could not get the final 3 outs in the 9th inning at home. But adding Soriano to the fold separates them from the pack. The Nationals should repeat as division champs. But the real question is, can they get it done in the postseason? Last season’s collapse in game 5 at home was tough to watch. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are the future of this franchise, and look for those two to lead the Nats to the Fall Classic.

Atlanta Braves: 2nd Place 94-68, Lost Wild-Card to St. Louis Cardinals

The Braves are talented no doubt, but also possess the best meme of the year.

The Braves are talented no doubt, but also possess the best meme of the year.

Behind them, the Braves should challenge them for the division crown. Adding the Upton brothers, Bossman Junior and Justin, should add a significant punch to an already potent lineup. With hopes that their young guns can have breakout seasons, the Braves are all in. It may prove to be too tough for them to overcome the Nationals, but the Braves should compete for the Wild-Card. They have talent up and down the lineup, starting with youngster Andrelton Simmons. After his coming out party in the World Baseball Classic, he is ready to make a splash on the MLB scene.

Philadelphia Phillies: 3rd Place 81-81

Even the local paper can see the writing on the wall

Even the local paper can see the writing on the wall

Has the window of hope closed on this Phillies team? Their stars are all on the wrong side of 30, and dealing with injury concerns. The biggest concern of them all is Roy Halladay, whose velocity has now dipped below 90mph. The Phillies need him to get back to full strength and then some if they are going to compete for the Wild-Card this year. The division is definitely out of reach for this team, but if players such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can play more than half the season at a somewhat all-star level, the Phillies just might sneak into the second Wild-Card.

New York Mets: 4th Place 74-88

Can the Mets win this season? It will all depend on the offense now that Johan is out for the season

Can the Mets win this season? It will all depend on the offense now that Johan is out for the season

It must be rough to be a Mets fan, and in no way am I intentionally trying to bash them. Last season, R.A. Dickey went from journeyman to 20 game winner and eventually won the CY Young, and then was subsequently traded in the offseason. Johan Santana threw the 1st No-Hitter in New York Mets history back in June, and has had shoulder soreness since, resulting in being shut down during spring training and undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. Cursed? Sure hope not for their sake. In another bit of unfortunate news, during the World Baseball Classic David Wright was showing Mets fans signs that he was ready to have a breakout season by leading the USA through the first round of the tournament. That is until he suffered an abdominal strain and was shut down until this past weekend. Luckily, Wright was able to play Opening Day and hopefully he can have that monster season. The Mets will meddle somewhere around the 70-75 win plateau this season, maybe even worse, but the arrival of Zach Wheeler at some point this season should help. Along with the fact that Citi Field will be hosting the All-Star Game.

Miami Marlins: 5th Place 69-93

No Words. Other than this is HILARIOUS!

No Words. Other than this is HILARIOUS!

Yes, we have seen this before, and it is unfortunate. It’s crazy that 12 months ago, we were all talking about the possibility of the Marlins competing for a World Series berth, now I can barely name 3 guys on the roster. New manager, all new roster, but none of the flair and pizzazz of last seasons bunch. Giancarlo Stanton is still there (for now), but we have to wonder if the Marlins are going to flip him if the right deal comes around. Juan Pierre is dangerous as always. WAIT.  This isn’t 2003, its 2013. Juan Pierre is still in baseball? But all jokes aside, its going to be a long season for the Marlins. Jefferey Loria has gone from somewhat beloved, keyword being somewhat, to most hated man in Florida.

 

Playoffs

In case you forgot about my American League picks..

Wild-Card:

Toronto Blue Jays over Los Angeles Angels

Division Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Toronto Blue Jays

Oakland Athletics over Detroit Tigers

League Championship Series:

Tampa Bay Rays over Oakland Athletics

National League

Wild-Card:

San Francisco Giants over Atlanta Braves

Division Series:

Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers over Cincinnati Reds

League Championship Series:

Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers

 

World Series

Washington Nationals over Tampa Bay Rays

 

Finally the World Series we have wanted to see. The young talent in baseball takes over and has its coming out party. We see Evan Longoria face off against Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the rest of the talented Nationals. Unfortunately for them, the Nationals have very few holes and should win the series in 6. Seems a little outlandish, but how many people seriously thought that the Giants would win the World Series last year?

 

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