Since this is the second part of a two-part mini-series, I’ll dispense with a redundant introduction. If you want to read Part 1, my American League Predictions, that initial introduction should suffice.
So, let’s get on with it.
1) Washington – Fields two of the most exciting players in the game (Strasburg and Harper). Made the playoffs last year without breaking a sweat. Could win a hundred games this year. Harper will win the N.L. MVP award. Strasburg averaged 11 K’s / 9 innings last year, and could win the Cy Young award this year.
2) Atlanta – Two-thirds of their new outfield, the Brothers Upton, have been more disappointing than the latest unemployment numbers, and the third, Jason Heyward, has had his share of growing pains as well. Still, no team in their division outside of Washington is obviously better. 87 wins.
3) Philadelphia – Appears to be melting before us like a snowman in the March sun. Older, residual talent, mostly of the pitching variety, will be sufficient to grind through an 84-win season.
4) New York – A couple of young players, perhaps Ike Davis and Matt Harvey, will shine, but a sub-par outfield and overall lack of depth will ensure another sub-.500 season out in Queens.
5) Florida – Is there anything left to root for down in Miami? Fans should stay home in droves this year in protest of this sham of a franchise.
Yadier Molina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1) Cincinnati – Votto, Bruce and Choo (acquired from Cleveland) will produce oodles of offense, while Cueto and Latos will hold down a respectable staff. 92 wins should be sufficient to take this division.
2) St. Louis – Yadier Molina might be in the first-half of a HOF career. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are still fine players, but both are well past 30 years old. Pitching staff appears adequate, if unspectacular = 86 wins.
3) Milwaukee – “There once was a player named Ryan / For PED’s he kept sayin’ he’d not tried ’em / But his name it did appear / on a client’s list so clear / Makes you wonder how much more he’ll be denyin’.” 83 wins.
4) Pittsburgh – Because the Cubs don’t have Andrew McCutchen. Once again, a sub-.500 team. 77 wins.
5) Chicago – Staff “ace” Matt Garza is a perennial tease. New addition Edwin Jackson, now on his 8th team in eleven years, changes teams more often than a hooker changes her underwear. But really, it’s always been about an afternoon in the sun at Wrigley, hasn’t it?
1) Los Angeles – Manager Don Mattingly needs to drive this expensive new vehicle into first place, or upper management might be looking for a new driver next season. With Kershaw and Greinke at the top of the rotation, and Kemp, A-Gone, Hanley, Crawford and Ethier in the lineup, this team either wins the division, or heads will roll. 95 wins.
2) San Francisco – Pencil them in as one of the two N.L. Wild Card teams this year, because nobody does it better. Tim Lincecum will look to rebound and join the highly capable Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in what should once again be a top-five N.L. pitching staff. Catcher Buster Posey may be the best in the game. 87 wins.
3) San Diego – Has apparently moved in the fences this year, which should help Alonso, Quentin, and Headley (one of baseball’s best kept secrets.) But what the fences giveth, the fences will take away, namely an overly spacious park where fly-balls used to go to die. But the pitching staff, led by the enigmatic Edinson Volquez, could suffer a bit as a result. 81 wins.
4) Arizona – So what does Arizona know about Justin Upton that the Braves don’t know? Martin Prado is a versatile player, and there should still be enough thump in the lineup to keep the score interesting. The staff, with Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy, could be this team’s strength, if healthy. 79 wins.
5) Colorado – Once upon a time, they were the toast of the American West, drawing over four million souls in their initial campaign. Now, although a healthy Tulowitzki, along with Car-Go and Fowler should generate some runs, the pitching staff may be the worst in baseball. Also, it’s time to tow the S.S. Helton out to sea so the Navy could use it for strafing runs. 71 wins.
So there you go, folks. Your five N.L. playoff teams are probably Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, L.A., and San Fran. I predict that the Nats will go on to defeat the Angels in a seven game World Series classic.