The Astros are gone, so as a whole the National League will be better this year. However, here are some predictions of how the individual divisions will play out:
I am not as sold on the Nationals as most people, who have them as the World Series favorite. Lack of experience, young players, and faltering down the stretch last year gives me a little room for doubt. Still the best team on paper though and should win the NL East.
The new-look offense has been explosive this spring and the bullpen still has the potential to be the best in the business. If the starting pitching can stay healthy and Julio Teheran keeps living up to expectations, this team could be right there with the Nationals down the stretch.
Roy Halladay, Roy Halladay, Roy Halladay. If Halladay can’t get it figured out sooner rather than later, this team will be a non-factor down the stretch. If Roy can return to form though, this team has enough weapons to make a wild card push.
4—New York Mets
Johan Santana is out for the year and the Mets highest paid outfielders this season are Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla (not a typo). A couple of the young guys in the rotation could be bright spots though.
With the Astros gone, the Marlins should easily be the worst team in the NL. Which isn’t a big deal to Miami fans, because there are obviously very few.
I am SO glad Chapman is back in the bullpen. That is the best move for him and the Reds. This team had 4 starters throw 200+ innings last year (Leake threw 179) and they improved their offense with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo. The Reds should be right there with the Nationals for best record in the NL.
2—St. Louis Cardinals
This team has been a model of consistency over the past decade and this year should be no different. There will be more competition for the Wild Card though, so the Cards better be careful not to dig themselves too big of a hole.
The Lohse signing doesn’t really make sense to me, given the fact that I don’t expect the Brewers in the hunt and it gives a divisional rival another draft pick. I believe this team will be decent, but won’t even sniff a wild card spot.
I had the Pirates ahead of the Brewers, until the Lohse signing. Now I think the Pirates will barely fall to the Brewers and hover right around .500 for the season.
Less than 95 losses would be a solid goal….maybe next year.
1—Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s really hard to pick a Dodgers team that has continually fell short, but I like their rotation and lineup potential. The starting staff is incredibly deep and the lineup has the potential to be very solid if healthy. Should be a dogfight down the stretch.
2—San Francisco Giants
Lincecum will struggle once again and I don’t trust Zito. Offense looks better on paper than recent years, but I don’t think that will be enough to overcome the talent and depth of the Dodgers’ staff. Like always though, the Giants just need a wild card spot to make another world series run.
Love Kirk Gibson as a manager and I think this team is a lot better than people realize. If healthy, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Diamondbacks compete for a wild card spot.
4—San Diego Padres
Not near enough offense. With Chase Headley out, this team will struggle mightily to score runs and their pitching isn’t good enough to overcome that.
I just hope they are done with the pitch count rule. By the time they allow their young kids to really get stretched out and show what they can do, the window for using those kids to win games/pennants will be gone.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson