The National League. The league with more strategy involved, the league where pitchers get to embarrass themselves at the plate, and the league that has produced the past three World Series Champs. As the season is in its preliminary stages, it is quite too early to see who is going to be the best of the best, but I am going to give you a little idea as to who to look out for in this upcoming season.
NL East: The NL East this year will definitely be the most exhilarating race to watch. I am sorry to say that the hardships endured by Mets fans will have to continue for at least another year to come. The Marlins may have the strongest man in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton and a decent lineup, but a severe lack of pitching is what will prevent them from being able to do any sort of damage. A veteran Phillies team has potential to possibly make an impact in the East, but my main concern is the age. I just do not see them being able to endure a whole season without being affected by the injury bug. Where it really gets interesting is starting with the Braves. They arguably made the biggest offseason noise in the Bigs by acquiring the ever-so athletic Upton brothers, helping them create a pretty solid lineup, and an impressive pitching staff followed by the best closer in the game in Craig Cimbrel, they look like a sure division winner. But to quote the great Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.” The Washington Nationals are the best team in the NL East because If you try to find a flaw in the Nationals it is quite the tough task. A young team but extremely talented led by young superstar Bryce Harper, and Cy Young candidate Stephen Strasburg. You put a deep bullpen with live arms behind that team, well its safe to say they are a lock.
NL Central: The teams in the NL Central lost a multitude of wins with the departure of the Astros. However, they can still rely on my good ole Cubbies. The Cubs are in fact on the right track but are definitely still in a rebuilding mode. The Pirates lack a quality pitching staff, and even though they have a decent lineup led by Andrew McCutchen, they have some serious work to do. The Reds and Brewers are in similar spots with a few bright spots on their teams, but really nobody that blows you away. Besides Uroldis Chapman, but you just cannot win games because of one reliever if you are the Reds. The Brewers had a nice pickup in Kyle Lohse, but again this is not enough. This leaves the St. Louis Cardinals. Although their pitching staff isn’t incredibly impressive, their high powered lineup is enough to take the Central.
NL West: There is going to be some fun out west. However, this fun will not be taking place in Colorado as the Rockies, despite a high octane outfield consisting of Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, and Carlos Gonzalez, lack the pitching to do anything special.
The Diamondbacks also lack just about everything.( Although Paul Goldschmidt is one of the more underrated players in all of baseball). The Padres are really nothing short of a disaster this year, as they have nothing that makes you have any optimism for their season(but those camo uniforms are sick). This leaves us the Giants and the Dodgers. The only thing that separates the two is the fact that LA has a stronger lineup have one of the top pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, who also demonstrated his hitting ability with a solo shot in his first game. Thus, the Dodgers will win the West.
Cy Young- Despite Clayton Kershaw having a very impressive year, the NL Cy Young will be awarded to Stephen Stasburg this year. His stuff is nasty and supported by one of the best defenses in the MLB, he should have no trouble getting the job done this year. He has served his time with the injury precautions ending his season prematurely last year, but this year is his time.
MVP: Also from the Nationals, Bryce Harper will be the NL MVP of this year. Even though it is only his second year in the majors, he has already shown this year what he is capable of. With the Rookie season out of his way, he will be lighting up the National League this year in route to an MVP.
Overachiever: The team that will overachieve this year are the Pirates. This may seem like a bold choice, but the past two years, they have made great progress. I have no reason to think that even with another young, unproven team, they can not do what they have recently, and catch the interest of everyone.
Underachiever: The biggest underachiever will be the Philadelphia Phillies. Although they do have a plethora of talent, this talent will struggle to remain consistent throughout the season. As a result, a playoff capable team will be nothing but a pretender this year.
NL Champions: The NL champions this year will be the Washington Nationals. If they can stay even relatively healthy, they should have no trouble winning the NL this year. With the potential MVP and Cy Young candidates, a top to bottom high quality lineup, and a reliable bullpen, you can count on the Nats to win it all this year.-Ben Greer