Below are my fearless predictions for the National League to complete my earlier predictions for the A.L. Enjoy, and feel free to post your predictions as well in the comments section below.
1st – Nationals – This is a stacked team that addressed any weaknesses over the off-season with the Haren signing and Span trade. Plus they added Soriano at the back of the pen for good measure. A very good team that only ill-health can derail.
2nd – Braves – This team has debate-ably the best outfield in baseball but could still be worse off than last year with the absences of Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. I feel like the starting pitching is not nearly as good nor deep as it once was, but with that wicked bullpen, maybe they could still par-lay a few late inning wins to fight for a wild card spot.
3rd – Phillies – Their season really all depends on the health and performance of two players: Utley and Howard. With them, this offence produces. The pitching staff remains solid with the three aces and they’ve improved the bullpen with Mike Adams setting up Papelbon. The Ruiz suspension could put this team in the hole early.
4th – Mets – David Wright somehow agreed to re-sign with this team which is currently going through some rebuilding pains. Part of me has to give Wright a thumbs up for sticking with a team and a city through this process because the common narrative amongst soon to be free-agents is that they want to play for a winner, and that’s what I expected from Wright. The Mets do have an improving farm system and no doubt the team will play hard for Terry Collins, but obviously the loss of a Cy Young winner will hurt in the wins column. Promising prospects coming up will help down the road, but not in 2013.
5th – Marlins – Essentially a Triple A team, Miami has the makings of a good young staff with Alvarez, Eovaldi, Turner, etc., but it’s hard to develop at the major league level. Afraid to say it, but Giancarlo Stanton is the only thing to come and watch this team for and that may be too little for fans in South Florida. Who can blame them though with a prevaricating owner like Jeffrey Loria.
1st – Cardinals – To me, one word describes the Cardinals and that is professional. Beltran, Carpenter, Wainwright…the whole roster is there to play hard and they’ve got an incredibly surprising and talented group of young pitching that will maintain their spot atop the division. St. Louis was set going into the off-season except for maybe another lefty in the pen, and they addressed that need in signing Randy Choate.
2nd – Reds – Cincinnati addressed its one major need this off-season by acquiring Shin-Soo Choo to bat at the top of their lineup, which will only help to score lots of runs at Great American Ballpark. They’ve also done some tinkering to their ‘pen which will make this team one to reckon with especially if Chapman can make a successful transition to the starting rotation. But will all five starting pitchers go injury free again in 2013? My guess is not likely and the Reds will just miss out on securing a playoff spot this season.
3rd – Pirates – I’ve gotta believe this will finally be the year where they finish above .500 since they have veteran pitching now at their disposal for an entire season, and even a pretty reliable bullpen. Their young hitters must develop though to support Andrew McCutchen, a perennial MVP candidate. Go Pirates!
4th – Cubs – They’ve added some veterans this off-season in Hairston and Schierholtz along with Jackson, Baker, Feldman, and Villanueva on the pitching side, which is a bit surprising given their initiative to re-build albeit poorly with Alfonso Soriano still on the roster (not that he’s worth much in trade value). They’ll have a better team than I initially thought they’d have since last October and as a result, they may surprise some this year and even sneak up to third place. But I ask, is third place really what the Cubs should be striving for? This team is not good enough to challenge the Cards or Reds which makes the free-agent outlay peculiar.
5th – Brewers – With the Astros now in the A.L., there will be a new bottom dweller in the Central division. Unfortunately, it looks like it’ll be the Brew Crew due to their lack of depth and star power outside of Braun and Gallardo. Of course this team played better AFTER trading away Zack Greinke last year, so go figure. In 2013, the Brewers are clearly choosing to go with some youth on their pitching staff whether it’s their decision or not based on their failure to attract any big-name free agents.
1st – Giants – A few years ago, the Giants were all about pitching with no offence from which to speak of. No more. The reining champs brought back all their stars in Scutaro, Pence, Affeldt, and Pagan to pair with Posey and Sandoval and remain a formidable team. They have to be picked as the front runners until a certain other SoCal team can show that they can get their act together.
2nd – Dodgers – A strong staff, star power with all the money in the world and yet the Dodgers have holes at 3B and 2B….kinda perplexing but I guess Luis Cruz and Mark Ellis will at least be replacement level. If not, I’m sure they could go out and upgrade if they deem it necessary since they have billions of dollars at their disposal. A big factor in their success this year will be Carl Crawford and if he can show even a glimpse of what he once was.
3rd – Diamondbacks – A solid team with good pitching and a decent enough offence if you can call it that without any form of star power with the ilk of the recently traded Justin Upton. We’ll see how this strategy of theirs plays out, but it has many people in baseball questioning it. No doubt they’ll have to rely on their pitching if they are to contend this season.
4th – Padres – Their second half of 2012 was much better than the first where they went 42-33 after the All-Star break, so that could signal a maturing team. They’ll need to rely on advancements from their young core (Alonso, Maybin, Grandal) to finish above .500 and secure third place in this division. One thing is for sure however, Chase Headley is an emerging star.
5th – Rockies – It looked like this organization was turning a corner a few years ago by developing their own core of young pitching, however that has clearly fallen apart. Just look at what happened to Ubaldo Jimenez. He had a break out year and then flopped and the rest of their pitching has been hurt or performed miserably. Its pretty sad really with two offensive studs locked up long term in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Their youth better develop and show some gains this year because Colorado isn’t attracting any free-agent pitchers any time soon.
Wildcard –Dodgers vs. Braves (Braves will lose 2nd wildcard game in two years)
NLDS – St. Louis vs. Giants & Nationals vs. Dodgers
NLCS – St. Louis vs. Nationals (repeat of NLDS in 2012)
World Series – St. Louis vs. Blue Jays
World Series winner – St. Louis
Image via AP Photo/Nick Wass