Opening day is exactly one week away. I for one, am getting very excited for some meaningful baseball games. Today I am going to make my predictions for the National League in the 2013 season. The National League seems to be a little bit more wide open than the American League (which I previewed and predicted here) which makes for some tougher and more interesting calls.
National League East
1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
The NL East is the best division the National League has to offer, in my opinion, and that is a true testament of the top of this division. I think the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are the best two teams in the National League, and will battle all season long for the NL East title.
The Nationals have been on the rise for the past few years, and posting a league high 98 wins in 2012, they have shown that they are ready to take the next step. With ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg ready to pitch a full season coupled with the natural progression of OF Bryce Harper and RHP Jordan Zimmerman, I think the Nationals will be serious contenders for a world series run.
The Atlanta Braves had a great off-season, adding to an already impressive pool of talent. The Braves acquired the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin. The Upton’s added with OF Jason Heyward makes up a young and the most exciting outfield combination in baseball. All three are young, plus defenders, and good to great hitters. I also like the pitching of the Braves, led by RHP’s Kris Medlen and Tim Hudson in the rotation, and arguably the best closer in baseball Craig Kimbrel.
I think that the Phillies have a chance to be good, but it will be hard for that team to compete in such a tough division. They just have too many players who are past their prime. The Mets seem to be ready to start a rebuild so I do not see them competing in 2013, and the Marlins traded everyone almost everyone on their team to the Toronto Blue Jays.
National League Central
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs
I had a tough time deciding between St. Louis and Cincinnati for the NL Central. Both teams are always in the conversation. There are some years where it seems like the Cardinals do not have enough talent, like last year, St. Louis lost 1B Albert Pujols and all-time great manager Tony La Russa, and still make a run to the NLCS.
Led by 1B Joey Votto, OF Jay Bruce, and LHP Aroldis Chapman the Reds simply have more talent than the Cardinals. Offensively they added OF Shin Soo Choo to an already impressive bunch. The pitching is a little unknown, but they do have plenty of talent, and an especially impressive bullpen with Chapman, RHP Jonathan Broxton, and LHP Sean Marshall. I also think at some point this season we see the MLB debut of Reds SS/OF Billy Hamilton. Hamilton set a minor league record of 155 stolen bases in 2012, and would be a serious threat in the Cincinnati line-up.
With C Yadier Molina and outfielders Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran, I am sure that manager Mike Matheny’s Cardinals will score plenty of runs. They also have a deep pitching staff, with RHP Adam Wainwright leading the way. When it comes down to it, it is just hard for me to see the Cardinals over taking the Reds in the NL Central this season, but they have proved me wrong before so it is hard to say.
I think that the Milwaukee Brewers will be a competitive team in this division, I just do not see them having enough around OF Ryan Braun offensively to seriously compete with the top two in the division. The Pirates are interesting with do-everything OF Andrew McCutchen leading the way, but besides McCutchen they have no proven MLB talent. Bringing up the rear, are the Cubs. I do like what Theo Epstein is doing in Chicago, but they are not there yet. He is building this thing from the bottom up, and it might be a couple more seasons before the Cubs are ready to compete, but I do like the direction this team is headed.
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
The NL West will probably come down to the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, and the team that is breaking the bank to sign and trade for everyone, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I could easily see it going either way, but for now I am going to pick the Giants.
The Giants have almost their entire team back from the last season’s World Series run. Their offense is always solid, led by C Buster Posey, and the pitching staff is ranks up with the best in baseball. RHP Matt Cain and LHP Madison Bumgarner, lead the way, but the wild card is RHP Tim Lincecum. If Lincecum can return to his Cy Young winning ways like 2008 and 2009, the Giants just might repeat as World Series champions.
With Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Zach Greinke, and Adrian Gonzalez the Dodgers just might have the most talent in baseball, on paper. That being said, this game is obviously not played on paper. Most of their core guys have some injury history, so it would be somewhat surprising to see them go through the season without a serious injury. I like the talent of the Dodgers, but just because you pay the most for players, does not always mean you have the best team. It will be interesting to see how things work out in LA this year.
There is a big step down after the top two teams in the NL West, in my opinion. The Diamondbacks, have some solid young talent, but I just do not see them stepping up with the big boys this season. The Rockies are interesting, because they do have two great players in OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS Troy Tulowitzki, but their pitching just might be the worst in all of baseball. I see the Padres as a team on the rise in the next few years, but I do not think that they are ready yet.
There you have it, I have the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants as my division winners. As for the wildcard spots, I am going to go with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. Agree? Disagree? Let me know on Twitter (@DSchmelzerTSB) or in the comments section.
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