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On Monday, we previewed the American League. And now, it’s time for our NL preview.
Mary: Division winner – Washington Nationals
Stephen: Division winner – Atlanta Braves
KJ: Division winner – Washington Nationals
GG: Division winner – Washington Nationals
Preview by Darrin: Division winner – Atlanta Braves
The NL East is going to only be a two-team race with the Braves coming out on top. They have averaged a total of 91 wins for the past three years making the playoffs in two of those years. Adding BJ and Justin Upton this year shows that they want to be a power team. If Uggla can find his swing again and Freddy Freeman doesn’t strike out as much, they can power their way to a division title.
Winning the division in 2012 for the Washington Nationals was not a fluke. They have a good team and could possibly win the division again. In order for them to do that, they will need to upgrade their outfield. Denard Span won’t cut it and Jason Werth’s best days may be behind him.
The remaining teams are not in a battle for third but rather a battle for who won’t be last. The Phillies have an infield made up of players all born in the 1970s. There is a veteran presence on the team but that presence may be on the disabled list more than the field. Miami’s only good player is Giancarlo Stanton. He can only hope to become a MVP on a losing team. The Mets seem to be a team that has no destination set. They have David Wright signed until 2020. But they also traded away Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey for a few minor leaguers. They may be a team trying to build around Wright but if they finish last, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Mary: Division winner – Cincinnati Reds
Stephen: Division winner – St. Louis Cardinals
KJ: Division winner – Cincinnati Reds
Darrin: Division winner – Cincinnati Reds
Preview by GG: Division winner – Cincinnati Reds
The only thing that holds me back from picking the Cardinals to win the division is simply injury possibilities. And while that stuff isn’t always predictable, it’s hard to believe that Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, David Freese and company will all play 145 games this season. If that does happen, pencil them in. I like their pedigree more than I like the Reds’. But those injury possibilities loom over them.
It should be a fantastic race for the NL Central and I think the second place finisher will win the wild card. The Reds are loaded offensively after trading for Shin-Soo Choo. If Joey Votto can hit for power again this season, they could lead the National League in runs scored. They have a strong two in their starting rotation with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos and will need someone else to break out. I’d have more faith in Homer Bailey than Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake, especially after how well Bailey pitched in the divisional playoffs last year.
The Cardinals are a professional baseball team. They remind me most of the Giants in how workmanlike they are. And with Jaime Garcia back, I trust their starting rotation one through five more than I trust the Reds’. I think it will be nip and tuck all season long.
I think either the Pirates or the Brewers finish third here, but I have a feeling that we’re going to hear a lot more about what a cheater Ryan Braun is based on this Biogenesis case in which he is named. Now, he’s innocent until proven guilty, but this is also a guy who had a steroid failure overturned because his fully sealed and untampered sample wasn’t delivered in time. If Braun misses any amount of time, the Brewers are done for.
The Pirates have the NL MVP runner up who is on the cover of the video game I just bought my kids. That has to be worth something. I like the Russell Martin addition more for the pitching staff than for his bat as they have a clear veteran there who can bring some leadership to a young club. Someone other than McCutchen will have to have a great year. Can this finally be the year that Pedro Alvarez stops his Dave Kingman impersonation and becomes an above average hitter?
I like the top three hitters in the Cubs lineup; David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo. But it’s more for their upside than for their current production. Castro and DeJesus need to hit for high averages to get on base enough to be useful and Rizzo is in a spot where he can quietly become something. Their starting staff throws up many no-names and includes former Golden Domer Jeff Samardzija as the ace. It could be a very underrated staff. I’d love for the Cubbies to make a move up the ladder, but they are the easy choice for last place.
GG: Division winner – San Francisco Giants
Stephen: Division winner – San Francisco Giants
KJ: Division winner – Los Angeles Dodgers
Darrin: Division winner – San Francisco Giants
Preview by Mary: Division winner – San Francisco Giants
The Rockies are going to have a tough go of it this season. There is little hope for their pitching staff and CarGo and Tulo have seen better days. Even if they stay healthy, the team has no true cohesion.
The Padres looked good toward the end of 2012 but I don’t think they have done anything to convince me that they can claw their way up the standings. Their pitching staff is decent but AT&T South makes them look a little better than they actually are. The offense is scrappy but capped with just a spot of power. I don’t expect too much but I suspect they’ll play well within the division.
The Diamondbacks have a few things going for them and could plausibly sneak into 2nd for a prolonged period of time. I think they’ll fall off late in the season. They have a nice veteran presence with Ross, McCarthy, and Chavez. They have some pitching, some hitting, and some defense. They also have the ball busting Kirk Gibson at the helm and the man can manage.
I have two feelings about the Dodgers. The first is this; they will struggle and Mattingly will be fired. Because somebody will have to take the blame when this super team super sucks. Mattingly doesn’t have the instinct or the gusto to manage the big names in his clubhouse. But this is probably unrealistic. My second feeling is this; the Dodgers have a hell of a season after overcoming injury and ego. With that much talent, there is little doubt they can edge out the Padres, Rockies, and D-Backs.
The Giants are my pick to win the NL West. Their offense is designed to grind out the home wins and thrive on the road in the smaller, hitter-friendly parks. They have sound fundamentals and a strong coaching staff. While the Dodgers look better on paper, the game is played on the field. Until they do something to prove otherwise, the Giants are the favorites in this division.