2015 MLB Preview & Predictions: National League

April 6, 2015 0

NLAmerica’s pastime is back for another season. The 2015 MLB season started last night with the St Louis Cardinals beating the Chicago Cubs. Today is when the season really gets started and we are here to get you ready for the 2015 season. We’ll previewing and predicting both leagues starting with the National League today & following up with the American League tomorrow. Enjoy the season!

 

(Teams in order of predicted finish)

NL East:
1. Washington Nationals: The Nationals head into the season as not only the clear favorites in the NL East, but also one of the favorites to win the World Series. The Nationals have a deep roster that includes RF Bryce Harper & 1B Ryan Zimmerman, who are both able of putting up an MVP type of season. 3B Anthony Rendon was the Nats best player last season, but he’s starting the season on the DL. The Nats were banged up last year and their health, especially Rendon, OF Jason Werth, & C Wilson Ramos, is the team’s main concern. The strength of this team is clearly their starting rotation. The Nationals led MLB last year in ERA & this season they added former AL CY Young winner Max Scherzer. Fellow starters Stephen Strasburg & Jordan Zimmerman would be aces on most other teams and are capable of winning the CY Young as well. The end of the rotation including Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, & last year’s impressive rookie Tanner Roark, is as good of a back rotation as it gets. Closer Drew Storen is very good as well. It would take a lot of bad things happening (injuries) for the Nats not to win the East. They should coast in the division and are the team that is going to win the NL as well.

2. Miami Marlins: The Marlins are a team quickly on the rise thanks in big part to their outfield, which is the best in baseball. OF Mike Stanton may crush 50 homers this season & is one of, if not the best, hitters in baseball. OF Christian Yelich is a speedy emerging offensive talent who is equally good, if not better, in the field. & OF Marcell Ozuna, who hit 23 HRs last season, has star potential as well. Adding speedy lead off-man 2B Dee Gordon & veterans 1B Michael Morse & 3B Martin Prado, makes the Marlins more complete this season. Miami has decent starting pitching that should improve as soon as ace pitcher Jose Fernandez returns from injury sometime in June. Fernandez is coming off Tommy John surgery and hopes to return to all-star form. The Marlins added veteran SPs Mat Latos & Dan Haren this off-season to help bolster their rotation. The rotation, also including SPs Jarred Cozart & Henderson Alvarez (an all-star last season), should be serviceable until Fernandez comes back, but Miami needs him to return to form. Miami won’t win the east, but they will be good & contending for a wild card spot this season.

3. New York Mets: The Mets head into this season with pretty much the same team as last year, with two major differences. The Mets signed veteran OF Michael Cuddyer to help improve a below average offense. Cuddyer has been one of the best looking players this spring training, but he is 36 years old & not very good defensively. OF Juan Lagares is however one of the best defensive players in baseball and should continue to improve at the plate. C Travis d’Arnaud could be in for a breakout season. 1B Luca Duda and 2B Daniel Murphy are solid but OF Curtis Granderson and 3B David Wright aren’t what they used to be. The Mets strength is their pitching (even with Zack Wheeler going down for the year due to injury). Ace SP Matt Harvey, returning from injury, looks like a CY Young pitcher again this spring. SP Jacob deGrom is defending NL rookie of the year. SP Noah Syndergaard will spend time in the minors, but is a rookie of the year candidate. Another minor leaguer Steven Matz, is a talented lefty. 41 year old veteran Bartolo Colon is still a solid pitcher as well & will get the opening day start. If everything falls in place for the Mets, they could contend for a wild card spot this year. I think they’re still a season or two away, but clearly trending in a positive direction.

4. Atlanta Braves: The Braves have some fun players to watch, but are a team that is trending down. Offensively there’s not a lot to love besides 1B Freddie Freeman, who is one of the better all-around players in baseball. But the Braves finished 29th in runs scored last year & then got rid of 3 of their best offensive players (Heyward, J.Upton, & Gattis). The Braves overpaid OF Nick Markakis who is on the decline of his career and is already banged up. SS Andrelton Simmons is incredible defensively, but this is a roster that again will be at the bottom of the league on offense. Right before the season started the Braves traded away elite closer Craig Kimbrel and OF Melvin Upton for OFs Carlos Quentin (who they plan to designate for assignment) and Cameron Maybin along with prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st pick overall in the upcoming draft.. The Braves strength is their young starting pitching. SPs Julio Teheran and Alex Wood are both 24 years old and are locked up with the Braves for the next 5 seasons, so you can rebuild around them. SP Shelby Miller is also 24 years old, and while he took a step back last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, he is still talented and can return to form (he was once 3rd in the rookie of the year voting). The Braves will play in a lot of low scoring games and won’t be contenders this season. With their trade right before the season, the Braves are clearly in total rebuild mode.

5. Philadelphia Phillies: The truth is the Phillies are the worst organization in baseball right now and there is no quick fix to their problems. Why are they so bad? Here are a few reasons: They have one of the highest payrolls in baseball which includes some very bad contracts, their minor league system isn’t that great, and they rank dead last in analytics. Is there anything good on the major league roster? Well SP Cole Hamels still has some gas left, though he’ll likely be traded along with closer Jonathan Papelbon by the deadline. RP Ken Giles is one of the best young bullpen pitchers and really the lone bright spot on the current MLB roster. But outside of those players there isn’t much to get excited about and this should be the worst team in baseball this year. Talented minor league prospect, 3B Maikel Franco, will be in the majors again at some point this season, but there’s also talk of him taking over at 1B for Ryan Howard at some point. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is one of the top prospects in baseball, but he likely won’t even play a game for the Phillies this season. It’ll be a year or two until their better prospects are in the majors, and it could be a long time until the Phillies are relevant in baseball again. The Phillies are baseball’s current laughingstock.
NL Central:
1. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates proved last season that it’s 2013 breakout was no fluke and now they will try to take the next step forward in the NL Central, which is the best/toughest division in the NL. The Pirates have a young and talented line-up led by OF Andrew McCutchen, an MVP candidate. Fellow OF Starling Marte is also an all-star talent and a fun player to watch. OF Gregory Polanco, a former top prospect, made a huge splash when he entered the league but then came crashing back down to earth. Polanco could take a step forward this season, and if he starts to live up to his potential, the Pirates could have the best outfield in baseball. Pedro Alvarez will take over at 1B (where he will be an upgrade from the platoon they had there last season. 3B Josh Harrison was an all-star last season as a utility player & while he’s likely to regress, he’ll still be very solid. Francisco Cervelli will be asked to take over at catcher this season and will need to continue to show the power he has this spring. The Pirates signed 28 year old Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang this off-season and he is an intriguing project. The Pirates weakness is their pitching. SP Gerrit Cole is a young ace, but the rest of the rotation has questions. Veteran SP Francisco Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh, but still carries injury risks. As does Veteran addition A.J. Burnett who gave up over $4 million dollars to not pitch for the Phillies this year and return to the Pirates. Pittsburgh has intriguing pitching prospects in Nick Kingham and James Taillon, both of whom could be called up to pitch in the majors this year. The NL Central is crowded, but I like the Pirates potential the most.

2. St Louis Cardinals: The sudden October death of top prospect OF Oscar Taveras forced the Cardinals to make some moves this off-season, and they did. Bringing in OF Jason Heyward was a big move given his potential and what they gave up for him. Heyward however still hasn’t reached his full potential and if he does the trade could be a steal for St. Louis. The Cardinals have a talented roster across the board. 2B Kolton Wong is a future star at the position. 1B Matt Adams and OF Matt Holiday are nice sources of power. C Yadier Molina is still solid though older & no longer as good as his name. St. Louis also has a solid starting rotation, though they could wind up missing Shelby Miller, who they lost in the Heyward trade. SP Adam Wainwright is still an all-star though he is getting older and is an injury risk. SP Michael Wacha looks to be at full strength again after missing most of the 2nd part of last season due to a shoulder injury. SP Lance Lynn (opening day starer) and veteran John Lackey help round out a very strong rotation. The Cardinals will need SP Michael Martinez to transition into the rotation well as he’s getting his first shot at a full-time spot. The Cardinals are as consistent of an organization as they come. They’ll be in the playoffs again this year, even if it’s as a wild card.

3. Chicago Cubs: Everyone has loved what the major moves the Cubs have made. Bringing in former Rays manger Joe Maddon was a great hire as well. But the Cubs are very young and would take a lot of things to go right for them to contend this year. The line-up includes a lot of rising young stars like SS Starlin Castro and 1B Anthony Rizzo, both of whom have all-star talent. But the Cubs will sink or swim based on the production from three key prospects. OF Jorge Soler got off to a nice start in his first appearance in the big leagues last season. He could be a big hitting star if he continues to improve. 3B Kris Bryant and 2B Javier Baez will both start the seasons in the minors but should be up in the big leagues soon (Bryant especially). Bryant, a slugger who had a huge spring training, is MLB ready, but the Cubs want to keep him under contract longer, hence him starting the seasons in the minors. Baez had a few HRs in the majors last year but struck out way too much & will be in the minors until he gets that under control. Bryant and Soler look like they will be big-time stars (Baez is a question mark) and the Cubs success will mirror theirs. The rotation got much improved when they signed SP Jon Lester to a big contract. He will be the ace of this rotation. Fellow SP Jake Arrieta is underrated and should be a very good #2 pitcher. The rest of the rotation, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, & Kyle Kendricks fit in nicely at the 3,4, & 5 positions. The Cubs, a team quickly on the rise, could contend for a Wild Car spot, but I think they’re still a season away.

4. Cincinnati Reds: For the Reds it all depends on health & key players having bounce back seasons. 1B Joy Votto needs to bounce back from his injury and return to MVP form. OF Jay Bruce had a disappointing season last year and also needs to improve. Top prospect OF Billy Hamilton has shown he has elite speed and is very good defensively, but his offense has yet to deliver. C Devin Mesoraco had a break out season last year, and along with 3B Todd Frazier, the most dependable bat in the lineup, both should be in for very good seasons again. OF Marlon Byrd was a solid signing and should help the offense rebound. 2B Brandon Phillips is getting old, but if this offense has to much talent to not bounce back if healthy. Defensively the Reds are also one of the best team’s in baseball. The Rotation however is a big question mark. After letting Alfredo Simon go, the Rotation looks a lot. Ace SP Johnny Cueto is one of the more underrated aces in the game. Cueto is the type of pitcher you want to go out of your way to watch pitch, but outside of him the rotation has issues. SP Homer Bailey (who has pitched 2 no-hitters) is starting the season on the DL still recovering from surgery from last season. Mike Leake is solid yet unimpressive and end of the rotation pitchers Anthony DeScalfani, Jason Marquis, and Raisel Iglesias all have question marks. Former prospect Tony Cingrani has been moved to the bullpen. Reliever Aroldis Chapman is something special. He’s one of the hardest throwers in baseball history, incredible to watch, and still has room to improve. If the Reds can stay healthy and produce, they will compete for a playoff spot. If not the team could begin to unload some of their veterans and start to rebuild.

5. Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers who collapsed at the end of last season made only minor changes to the team this year, and that may not be a good thing. On offense the Brewers are stellar. OF Ryan Braun hope his thumb surgery will finally get him back to full health and MVP like numbers. OFs Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis make up a very talented offensive outfield with Braun. C Jonathan Lucroy, an all-star who can hit, was limited most of this spring training due to injury. SS Jean Segura had a very disappointing second season in the majors last year and hopes to bounce back. 1B Adam Lind was the only real addition and they hope he’ll be able to plug the hole at 1B. 2B Scooter Gennett has shown flashes offensively but needs to do better against lefties. The Brewers will score runs, but their pitching is the worst in the division. After trading away two pitchers (Gallardo and Estrada), Milwaukee is left with no true potential #1 pitcher. Their best starting pitcher will either be Mike Fiers or Wily Peralta and that is worrisome. SP Jimmy Nelson is still only 25 years old but had a very disappointing season last year. SPs Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza are veteran pitchers and not much else. The Brewers offense should keep them respectful but their lack of pitching will be their downfall in a crowded and talented division.

 

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have continued to narrowly miss out on championships and living up to expectations, but could this finally be the year they get it done? The lineup begins with OF Yasiel Puig who is one of the most exciting and must-see players in the game. Puig is really good but he must continue to mature and become more consistent. The Dodgers added a pair of veteran infielders in SS Jimmy Rollins and 2B Howie Kendrick who will quickly sure up their infield (once a weak spot). Veterans 1B Adrian Gonzalez and OF Carl Crawford are still solid. C Yasmani Grandal has shown pop at the bat but the Dodgers will need him to stay healthy and produce. OF Joc Pederson is a top prospect and he could be very good quick. Pitching wise Clayton Kershaw is one of, if not the best pitchers in the game. Kershaw along with Zack Greinke are both CY Young candidates and make up one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. The rest of the rotation has questions however especially when it comes to health. #3 SP Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the season on the DL. 4 & 5 SPs Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson each have a history of injuries. McCarthy has only made more than 25 starts once in his career (last year) & Anderson hasn’t had more than 20 starts in a season since 2009. Closer Kenley Jensen will also start the season on the DL due to a foot injury. The Dodgers are the favorites in the West and will be one of the top contenders in the NL. But to make and win the World Series they’ll need to get more pitching production, most importantly from their 3-5 starters.

2. San Diego Padres: The Padres were last in the majors in run scored last season, but this is a totally different team that added offense and strengthened an already talented rotation. On offense the Padres outfield looks totally different adding Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, & Wil Myers. How healthy they are (Kemp has arthritis in his hip. Myers was hurt much of last season) and how well they mesh will be key to their offensive success. A day before the season started the Padres traded for Melvin (formally BJ Upton) and RP Craig Kimbrel from the Braves. Upton provides some extra OF depth & Kimbrel was a huge get for this rotation. New C Derek Norris also will provide additional offense. 2B Jedd Gyorko is a breakout candidate this season playing in a better line-up. 1B Yonde Alonso can hit if he stays healthy. The rotation added ace SP James Shield to an already talented rotation. SP Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner are talented right-handers that help make up a talented rotation benefited from playing in a pitcher’s park in S.D. Like their line-up, their pitching must stay healthy as well. Shields should continue to pitch like an all-star and Kennedy should be a solid #2, but Ross, Cashner, and 5th starter Brandon Morrow, have durability questions. Adding Reliever Craig Kimbrel right before the season was huge for an already solid bullpen. Kimbrel is one of the most dominant closers in the game. The Padres are one of the hottest up and coming teams and for good reason. Manger Bud Black is one of the gamest most underrated and the Padres and their new roster should start to contend immediately for a playoff spot (their first since 2006), as long as they’re healthy.

3. San Francisco Giants: The Giants are coming off their 3rd World Series title in 5 seasons, but they’ve missed the playoffs after winning the other two. The offense has serious power questions this season after losing 3B Pablo Sandoval and 1B Michael Morse to free agency. OF Hunter Pence, the team’s best hitter, will start the season injured. C Buster Posey is an all-star and his backup Andrew Susac could start for many other teams. 1B Brandon Belt has shown flashes on offense, but has yet to stay healthy. Veteran 3B Casey McGehee will look to continue his career’s resurgence from last year when he was with the Marlins. This offense lacks offensive power and is a step back from last season’s team, who weren’t home run juggernauts themselves. As in past years, the Giants strength is their starting pitching. Ace Madison Bumgarner had a historic performance in the playoffs last season. He almost single-handedly won them the title and as long as they keep him fresh, should be in for another big season. Veterans SP Matt Cain and SP Tim Hudson are still around but Cain is coming off elbow surgery and Hudson turns 40 this season. The Giants were smart to resign veterans SP Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong as well. SP Tim Linecum has seen his ERA skyrocket in recent seasons but is still capable of throwing no-hitters as he’s shown. Add in Yusmeiro Peetit and The Giants legitimately have 7 solid options for their starting rotation. The Giants will contend until the end, but with their offensive power questions, and the Dodgers and improved Padres above them, San Fran will again miss out on the playoffs after winning the World Series.

4. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are looking for bounce back seasons from two of their biggest offensive stars. SS Troy Tulowitzki and OF Carlos Gonzalez both dealt with injuries last season but Colorado is banking on them to both get back to all-star form. Either or both could be traded by the deadline if things aren’t working. The most impressive thing about the Rockies lineup is their impressive infield. 3B Nolan Arenado and 2B DJ LeMahieu were Gold Glove winners last season. Arenado may have a bunch of Gold Gloves by the time he retires and his offense is almost as good. Arenado isn’t a household name, but he may be soon. 1B Justin Mornea was the NL Batting Champion last season and is still solid defensively. The Rockies may have the best defensive infield in baseball. OF’s Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are both capable of putting up big numbers in Colorado. As always though, the Rockies big concern is pitching. Colorado lacks any real talent at the position. “#1” pitcher Jorge De La Rosa is dealing with an injury which leaves Kyle Kendricks as their #2 starter, yikes! SP prospect Jon Gray is a highly touted homegrown kid who could be the pitcher the Rockies have been looking for. Another SP prospect, Eddie Butler may make and stick in the rotation this season, but he’s not as highly touted as Gray. The big question also remains if young pitching prospects can truly thrive high in the Rocky Mountains. Major pitching concerns and health questions combined with the fact I believe Colorado may move both Tulo and CarGo will keep the Rockies near the bottom of the division.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks: The DBacks finished with the worst record in baseball last year and at the very least they’ll win a few more games this season. The offense should be improved with 1B Paul Goldschmidt back to health. Goldschmidt should return close to his MVP-form. OF Mark Trumbo missed a lot of time last season as well, but when he’s healthy he can absolutely rake the ball. OF Yasmany Tomas is an intriguing addition. The power hitting free agent from Cuba will start the season in the minors, but along with Trumbo & Goldschmidt could be one of the best right handed power hitting trios in baseball. OF A.J. Pollock is a promising young player as well. 2B Aaron Hill is a solid veteran presence, though he isn’t as good as he used to be. The Diamondbacks pitching however leaves a lot to be desired. Patick Corbin, their best pitcher, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Veteran SP Bronson Arroyo is also still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Other SPs Jeremy Hellickson, Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson, and Rubby De La Rosa are all average at their very best. This will be one of the worst pitching rotations in baseball this season. There is hope however as Arizona has two top pitching prospects in the minors, Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley. There’s some promise in Arizona, and while they’ll likely finish at the bottom of the division, they’ll still be much improved. With Tony La Russa now in the front office, the franchise now looks to be in good hands going forward as well.

Division winners: Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers. Wildcard teams: Cardinals & Padres

National League Championship: Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers

Awards:
NL MVP:  Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins). Runner-up: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
NL CY Young:  Max Scherzer (Nationals). Runner-up: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant (Cubs). Runner-up: Noah Syndergaard (Mets)
NL Manager of the Year: Bud Black (Padres).  Runner-up: Matt Williams (Nationals)

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