Predicting the N.L.

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Updated: March 28, 2017

After predicting the Angelsall-stars and the league’s major award winners, we’re in part three of our prediction series leading up to Opening Day, and today we’re going after the National League. Last season, the Chicago Cubs won it all, and are not just projected but expected to be the best in baseball again. How will the rest of the N.L. shake out, though? Let’s take a look!

N.L. East – The N.L. East hasn’t been all that competitive for a few years, with some of the worst teams in baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves residing there. That should change a little bit, as both teams are making positive strides, but neither is close to contending just yet. Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins have had some of the best young players in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcel Ozuna, and Jose Fernandez, (RIP,) but have failed to be all that competitive. It seems petty and wrong to mention Fernandez’s loss in the context of baseball because it’s so much bigger than that, but it will have on-field consequences that really hurt the Marlins. This division is shaping up to be a two-team race between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals. The Nats are so stacked that they’re going to have to have a lot go wrong for them and a lot go right for the Mets to lose this division. If Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg don’t stay healthy, Bryce Harper plays more like he did last year than in 2015, and their bullpen implodes, then maybe the Mets have a chance. That’s if the Mets’ young rotation stays healthy and effective and if enough players like Michael Conforto, Travis D’Arnaud, Jay Bruce, and Curtis Granderson stay healthy and support Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup. Basically, this is the Nationals’ division to lose. They won’t. 1.) Nationals 2.) Mets 3.) Braves 4.) Marlins 5.) Phillies

N.L. Central – This one is pretty easy. The Central was one of the more competitive divisions for a few years, but the fact that the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds have been so bad drags down the quality of the division as a whole. At the top, though, the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs have had some good battles at the top, with all three teams winning over ninety-five games in 2015, until last season, when the Cubs established themselves as the clear-cut best team in baseball. Expect more of the same this season, although the Cardinals and Pirates will be having some battles of their own for second place and one of the wild card spots. The Cards feel they’ve addressed a lot of what ailed them by fixing their defense and adding Dexter Fowler, and the Pirates will be relying on two young stud pitchers in Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon and a hopeful bounce-back season from Andrew McCutchen to challenge for the postseason again. 1.) Cubs 2.) Pirates 3.) Cardinals 4.) Brewers 5.) Reds

N.L. West – Along with the A.L. West, this should be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers should once again be one of the best teams in baseball, but the San Francisco Giants hopefully fixed their bullpen woes with the addition of Mark Melancon, who has had the fourth-best ERA of all bullpen relievers over the last four years, and they still employ a top-five player in Buster Posey. The Colorado Rockies are sleeper picks for a postseason spots with some good young pitchers, an improved bullpen, and an awesome offense built around Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story, and D.J. LeMahieu. The pitching problems are well discussed, but another huge factor in the Rockies’ struggles are their challenges in keeping players healthy, and its issue again this season with new addition Ian Desmond already shelved and ace-hopeful Jon Gray injured as well. If the Rockies keep their players healthy, though, they should at least be much improved. The Arizona Diamondbacks have some great young players, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them make a playoff push with bounce back seasons from Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, health from A.J. Pollock, and a typically great season from Paul Goldschmidt. If Grienke and Miller can’t return to their old selves, though, they’re really going to struggle to get competitive innings out of this pitching staff. The San Diego Padres are going to be the worst team in all of baseball. That’s about all that can be said about them. 1.) Dodgers 2.) Giants 3.) Rockies 4.) Diamondbacks 5.) Padres

 

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