April 1st, 2015

How I See The National League

Pitching rules. Strikeouts are up. Team home run totals and batting averages are down. Defensive shifts matter. Bullpens are much, much better. The game has changed. And having said that, it seems many of the divisional races will be among the most exciting ever.

I begin my predictions with the National League. I did very well last year predicting the finishes in both leagues. I am not as confident this time around. Injuries are rampant and I think there are more to come. But here we go. Last year’s records are in ( ). My predicted record for this year follow last year’s.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68) 90-72. I have some major concerns about the Dodgers pitching staff. Where has all the depth gone? Ryu is hurt and I think he’ll be out a while. I’m not sure the No. 4 and No. 5 starters (McCarthy, Anderson) are going to last the season. But I love Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins up the middle. They both look fantastic this spring. Rollins has a new lease on life playing for a winner. I think Dodgers fans will like Joc Pederson in center. But I see some regression because of a mediocre bullpen and lack of starting depth. But they still win the west.

San Diego Padres- (77-85) 85-77 I agree that the outfield offense could be very exciting and that it will make a huge difference in the team’s ability to score runs. But what I like most about the Padres is the pitching. Shields, Ross, Cashner, Kennedy and Morrow is a pretty solid rotation. I think the bullpen could use another lefty. I really like Kevin Quackenbush. I look for Will Middlebrooks to have a much improved year at the plate. They could exceed my expectations. Solid club with an open window.

San Francisco Giants-(88-74) 81-81 I realize the Giants are among the best at regrouping after encountering hiccups. But they have too many holes for my tastes. Things will improve a bit when Hunter Pence gets back, but I wouldn’t count on him being the same for a while after his return. The pitching staff is…chronologically advanced. No Pablo. Little outfield and pitching depth. Not this year for them.

Colorado Rockies-(66-96) 72-90 Do you realize the Rockies were 21-60 on the road last year? Yikes. So much for not being able to pitch in Coors. They weren’t able to pitch in Coors or anywhere else. I still like the offense. Rosario is no longer a catcher. And his playing time is diminished. He belongs in the AL as a DH. If Tulo and Cargo can stay healthy, they can win at least 6 more games. Maybe more. Tulo/Cargo are the keys.

Arizona Diamondbacks- (64-98) 65-97 I like the improvement of Josh Collmenter. He’s a quality pitcher. The rotation after him, ???. They have issues behind the plate, too. And they have issues with what to do with Yasmany Tomas. I think Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt will be a dynamic duo. I just can’t get past the rotation and the bullpen as concerns that will haunt the club the entire season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) 89-73 Still the team to beat in the Central IMO. I see them plodding along all season and then making a late move to win the division. They have solid, if not deep starting pitching. They beat teams with sound fundamentals. They play good, timely baseball. Kolten Wong continues to impress. Enough to win.

Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74) 88-74 I like the energy of this club. They have one of, if not the best outfields in baseball. The pitching is solid, if not deep-similar to St. Louis. I think they’ll lose the division by one slim game, but make the Wild Card. I look for a huge season from Starling Marte. The bullpen will save the bacon for this club.

Milwaukee Brewers (82=80) 82-80 Before they crashed and burned in the last month of the season, this was an outstanding club. Ryan Braun is healthy once again. Khris Davis is a true offensive sleeper, Jonathan Lucroy is a double’s machine (if his hamstrings hold up) Carlos Gomez is among the best in the game, Jean Segura rebounds after an unfortunate tragedy in his family, Adam Lind adds pop at first base, Aramis Ramirez says goodbye with some thunder…but they can’t pitch. And that’s the only reason I have them in 3rd place. The rotation and the pen scare me.

Chicago Cubs (73-89) 81-81 Not quite yet. But think of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler in the same lineup. It’s exciting and impressive. I’m a huge, huge Soler fan. But they won’t be able to do it by themselves yet. The pitching is improved. The team is improved. But I think they need this year to blend together as a team. They have new pitchers, new position players and a new manager. It takes time. Next year I’ll be writing something totally different. But they’re on their way. I like this club. A lot.

Cincinnati Reds (76-86) 75-87 Depth, or lack of it is the issue for me. If any of their position players or pitchers get hurt or scuffle, I just don’t see guys waiting in the wings to take their place. The rotation is a concern. They should score runs, but they’ll be playing from behind a great deal. Votto, Phillips and Bruce have to rebound.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Washington Nationals (96-66) 93-69 I’m not as bullish on the Nationals as I was at the beginning of Spring Training. The loss of Anthony Rendon for any amount of time hurts. Ditto for Denard Span. But man, can this team pitch. Every day the opposition will have to face a top quality starter from among Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gonzalez and Fister. And unlike most other teams, they have another stud waiting in the wings in Tanner Roark. This will be a tough team to score against. But the offense has to produce as well-stay healthy and produce. They can and they will.

New York Mets (79-83) 83-79 Slowly but surely, this club is coming together with pitching and hitting. Lucas Duda remains underrated as a power hitter. Juan Legares is a magician in center field. Michael Cuddyer lengthens the lineup and gives the pitcher another power bat to deal with. And the pitching is exciting with the return of Matt Harvey. He and Jacob deGrom are a formidable duo. It drops off from there. They’ll miss Zack Wheeler big time.

Miami Marlins (77-85) 81-81 They’re on their way. I love the balance on this club and the young players like Stanton and Yelich will form a tremendous nucleus for the future. If they had Jose Fernandez all year I’d pick them to threaten the Nationals and for sure, the Mets. But Fernandez will come back mid-season and add life to the rotation. Like the Cubs, this is a team that will get better and better. Just not quite enough this year.

Atlanta Braves (79-83) 70-92 I have no idea how they’ll score runs. They are building for the future and the pitching they’ve acquired will help them improve in years to come. By the time they are in their new park the pitching will be mature and ready to go. But the offense needs help. Freddie Freeman may not see many pitches to hit. My fear is that he’ll swing at lousy pitches in frustration. Not a good club this year.

Philadelphia Phillies (73-89) 68-94 I hope for their sake they haven’t waiting too long to trade Cole Hammels. Or Chase Utley. Or Ryan Howard. I don’t think Grady Sizemore, Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Danks or Aaron Harang are the answers to their problems. Actually, they could lose 100 games.

Next: The American League.

Thanks for reading my player profiles on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.