Early National League Predictions

Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke looks in at his catcher Russell Martin during a game on September 19 last season. The Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2.
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke looks in at his catcher Russell Martin during a game on September 19 last season. The Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2.

Over the next six weeks or so, the U92 Sports staff and I will be doing podcasts giving our predictions of the 2015 MLB season. You can find these podcasts on our Soundcloud page at https://soundcloud.com/u92/sets/mlb-going-yard.

We will go in depth, looking at all 30 teams and all six divisions, giving you our takes on the offseason acquisitions, departures, and our thoughts as to what’s going to happen this season that is fastly approaching.

Just think, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for training camp between February 18 and 21. That means the start of Spring Training is less than a month away.

There’s even a countdown clock to the first Spring Training game on http://www.springtrainingonline.com/reporting-dates/.

With baseball on the horizon, here are my early predictions for the National League.

With the addition of Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals are not only favorites to come out of the NL East, but they are favorites to represent the National League in, and win, the World Series.

Looking at the Nationals, they have the best starting rotation in the MLB – Scherzer, Stephen StrasburgJordan ZimmermannGio González, and Doug Fister.

To provide some context, Gonzalez and Fister would either be the No. 1 or No. 2 starters on most teams in the majors. On this team, they are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.

Combine their starting pitching with a solid bullpen and an above-average closer in Drew Storen, and it’s pretty safe to say that the Nats won’t be giving up too many runs this year.

Also in the NL East, you have the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are my dark horse team for this season.

Miami locked up Giancarlo Stanton for the next 13 years, and surrounded him with good talent. The Marlins also brought over Michael Morse (1B), Dee Gordon (2B), Martin Prado (3B), Mat Latos (SP), and Dan Haren (SP) in the offseason among a few other players not mentioned.

A lot of people thought that Stanton’s large contract would tie the front office’s hands and not allow them to sign important players, but it appears that that is not the case.

It doesn’t look like the Atlanta Braves did enough in the offseason; the Philadelphia Phillies are already looking ahead to 2016 as they’re still accepting offers for Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, and the New York Mets will be good but not good enough to make the playoffs.

Moving to the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals suffered the worst loss any team or organization can suffer in October, with the death of young outfielder Oscar Taveras.

And besides exercising their 2015 option on pitcher John Lackey and trading for Jason Heyward, were relatively quiet this offseason.

However, aside from the Chicago Cubs, none of the other teams in the National League Central were big spenders, either.

Despite not making a large number of transactions, is there any reason to doubt the Cardinals? How can they not be good?

Yadier Molina is back behind the plate after missing an extended period of time last season; the infield is plugged with young talent all the way around the diamond, and the outfield is a Fantasy Baseball player’s dream.

Add in the fact that Adam Wainwright highlights an above-average starting rotation with Trevor Rosenthal as the Closer, and it’s easy to see that the Cardinals will most likely once again be fighting for a World Series Crown.

The Cubs were big spenders this offseason, going all in with hopes of a successful 2015 season.

Chicago signed Joe Madden to be manager, Jon Lester as the ace of the pitching staff, got Jason Hammel back after a few years away from Wrigley Field, and even signed Dexter Fowler and David Ross.

But they’re the Cubs. History is against them. Is the fact that the “Friendly Confines” will be 5,000 seats short for the first 1 ½ months of the season an omen that this season won’t be as successful as Cubs fans hope?

To round out the division, the Pittsburgh Pirates look like they will have their third season in-a-row of a winning record, something the franchise hasn’t done since the early 90’s.

With the recent departure of Yovani Gallardo, the Milwaukee Brewers may be fighting with the Cincinnati Reds, for the bottom spot in the division.

The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in the last five years last year. But since then, two important players to last year’s run through the playoffs – Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse – departed from San Francisco, going to the Boston Red Sox and Marlins, respectively.

But the Giants are going to be right back in the playoffs again this year.

Buster Posey headlines a group of young talent that the Giants have. Joe Panik, just 24 years-old, is another rising superstar in this game, and is the second baseman for the Giants.

The entire pitching staff, led by Madison Bumgarner, is deep yet again for San Francisco.

A few hours south are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had an interesting offseason, to say the least.

The Dodgers saw the likes of Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon leave Chavez Ravine, and not get much in return.

Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke lead the Dodgers from the mound, but offensive production will be in question throughout the entire season. Streaky hitters like Carl CrawfordHowie KendrickJuan Uribe and Yasiel Puig surround the field the Los Angeles.

Pitching will make or break this team.

The San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks added important pieces to their teams that will make them players in the division, however I don’t see either team making the post season.

San Diego picked up Kemp and Justin Upton but still lack in the pitching department. Arizona signed power hitter Yasmany Tomas to a six-year deal out of Cuba, and acquired pitcher Jeremy Hellickson from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Colorado saw its best player in franchise history – Todd Helton – retire from the game he loves after 17 outstanding years. With his departure, I think the Rockies will be at or near the bottom of the division for most of the year.

With all that said, here is a look at my prediction of the NL Standings at the end of the 2015 regular season.

NL East NL Central NL West
1. Washington Nationals 1. St. Louis Cardinals 1. San Francisco Giants
2. Miami Marlins 2. Pittsburgh Pirates 2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Atlanta Braves 3. Chicago Cubs 3. San Diego Padres
4. New York Mets 4. Milwaukee Brewers 4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Philadelphia Phillies 5. Cincinnati Reds 5. Colorado Rockies

*Note: This post was written prior to James Shields signing with the Padres.

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