With the start of a new season comes new expectations. Every team starts the year tied for first, and every team thinks this could be their year. As we all know, only one team is left standing in the end, but which team will it be? Predicting the American League and National League playoff teams can be a chore at times, especially in the NL where there are so many loaded teams. But I’m going to give it my best shot. Here are my National League predictions.
- Washington Nationals- In 2015, the Nationals were World Series favorites. But Matt Williams let the inmates run the asylum and Washington missed the playoffs. This year, they’ve lost Jordan Zimmerman and Doug Fister, but Dusty Baker is the missing piece that will lead the Nationals back where they should’ve always been: looking down at the rest of the competition.
- New York Mets- The rotation is every bit as good as D.C.’s, and the lineup brought back Yoenis Cespedes, added Neil Walker, and still has Lucas Duda and David Wright. This race might be the tightest in all of baseball and will come down to the final days of the season.
- Miami Marlins- Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen. Reasons enough for the Marlins to take a step forward. But the biggest reasons? Manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Barry Bonds. The Marlins won’t make the playoffs, but they’re certainly headed in the right direction.
- Philadelphia Phillies-Maikel Franco has stupid power, and Odubel Herrera had a strong rookie season last year. Ryan Howard still produces runs despite the poor average and high strikeouts, and Aaron Nola could prove to be a great talent. Still, the Phillies will be lucky to win 70 games.
- Atlanta Braves-The Braves might be the worst team in baseball this season. That said, they have a ton of talent coming on the horizon and will return to respectability before the Phillies. Unfortunately for Braves fans, that might not be until 2018.
- Chicago Cubs- The talent on this team is ridiculous. There’s not really a hole in the lineup or the rotation. Jake Arrieta had one of the best seasons for a starting pitcher in two decades last year en route to a Cy Young award. Jon Lester is a number two for maybe the first time in his career. The Cubs have been picked as the team to beat, and for the NL Central, that much is true.
- Pittsburgh Pirates- The only spectacular players on this team are Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. And that’s okay. This team is filled with players who just show up day-in and day-out and do their jobs. The Pirates are as well run as any team in baseball.
- St. Louis Cardinals- Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are healthy. Jhonny Peralta is not. This is a proud franchise, and players always perform when they arrive in St. Louis. The pitching staff is deep, led by Wainwright, Mike Leake, and Michael Wacha. But the lineup has a lot of unprovens and will prevent the team from reaching the playoffs this year.
- Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto is still one of the best players on the planet, Brandon Phillips can still get the job done, and Billy Hamilton will still steal 50+ bases. That said, the Reds will be lucky to win 75 games this year.
- Milwaukee Brewers- Ryan Braun is the most recognizable name on this team, and their best starter, Matt Garza, is day-to-day with shoulder soreness. There’s no getting around it. This is a bad team.
- San Francisco Giants- It’s an even-numbered year, right? Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija will put the Giants back in the playoffs. Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford will pace the offense. Unfortunately for San Fran, they will not lead them back to the World Series.
- Arizona Diamondbacks-The additions of Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, and Jean Segura really help this team. The injury to A.J. Pollock is potentially devastating. Paul Goldschmidt is a perennial MVP candidate, and the Diamondbacks are much improved this year. However, there are only so many playoff spots.
- Los Angeles Dodgers- The outfield is potentially loaded. Corey Seager is a RoY favorite. Adrian Gonzalez is a machine at the plate. And there’s always Clayton Kershaw. 10 players on the DL to start the year, however, puts the Dodgers at a serious disadvantage.
- San Diego Padres- Wil Myers starting at 1B and Melvin Upton, Jr. starting in left is not a good thing for this team. Tyson Ross, James Shields, and Andrew Cashner are very good things for this team. Just not good enough. The class of this division does not reside in San Diego.
- Colorado Rockies- They can hit. But they can’t pitch. It’s the same thing every season in the Mile High City. Until the Rockies get pitching, they will stay at the bottom of this division. It’s a shame. Maybe they can merge with the Tampa Bay Rays?
Dark horse Candidate: Buster Posey-SFG
NL Cy Young
Dark horse: Jose Fernandez-MIA
NL Rookie of the Year
Dark horse: Jesse Winker-CIN
NL Comeback Player of the Year
Dark horse: Denard Span– SFG
Wild Card- New York Mets d. Pittsburgh Pirates
NLDS- Chicago Cubs d. New York Mets
NLDS- Washington Nationals d. San Francisco Giants
NLCS- Washington Nationals d. Chicago Cubs
WS- Washington Nationals d. Houston Astros
I’m not sure that anybody has picked the Nationals against the Astros in the World Series, but that’s how I see it. Here’s to a big 2016 season!