2015 National League MLB Preview: Washington Nationals Will Dominate
It’s opening night and one of the best rivalries in baseball history takes center stage as a revamped Chicago Cubs team hosts perennial favorites in the St. Louis Cardinals. I couldn’t be more excited. While we don’t have a bet on the first game of the year, it’s a good time to finish up our MLB preseason predictions with our 2015 National League preview.
It’s not so much that the Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball – which I think they might be – it’s more that they play in such a weak division. The Atlanta Braves are trying to rebuild, the New York Mets aren’t ready yet, the Philadelphia Phillies have been rebuilding for years, and the Miami Marlins are consistently mediocre. Washington should dominate the National League in 2015 by default.
That said, the rest of the NL is defined by its parity and clutter. The NL Central is always competitive from top to bottom (except for the Chicago Cubs). The NL West is always anybody’s division and it often seems like nobody out west even wants to make the playoffs. That said, with the San Diego Padres loading up, the LA Dodgers should finally be pushed a little by this division. Ultimately, once you get past the NL East, the National League is incredibly interesting this year.
- Washington Nationals (92-70): The Nats are loaded and play in an entirely mediocre division. They have probably the best pitching rotation in baseball, a relatively strong bullpen, and a good lineup that will be fueled by young players ready for breakout seasons. I expect big things again from the Washington Nationals in 2015.
- New York Mets (78-84): The New York Mets have some pieces in place to finally turn things around after their owner bankrupted them. David Wright looks healthy, Juan Lagares is one of the best defensive players in baseball, and the pitching rotation is young and exciting. That said, they’ve already lost Zack Wheeler for the season. They’ve got enough young talent to replace him, but this season might be a learning experience before they’re able to finally make the leap to playoff contention.
- Atlanta Braves (77-85): This rotation is looking really strong and filled with talented young arms while the bullpen is arguably the best in baseball. These guys will win games with their arms alone. That said, they really cannot hit. Not only did they trade away much of their lineup, but they already were one of the worst in baseball. We’ll see what they can do filling in the pieces offensively, but I trust pitching to keep them closer to .500 than most people give them credit for.
- Miami Marlins (76-86): The Marlins got better, but I still don’t trust them because they lack depth and don’t really know how to win. Giancarlo Stanton signed a long-term deal and a few additions were made this offseason, but ultimately this is a young team that needs to learn what it takes to make a playoff run… much like the rest of this awful division.
- Philadelphia Phillies (70-92): The Phillies are old, bad, and clung to a “dynasty” for far too long. They overpaid for aging players that never put it all back together. They destroyed this franchise. Ultimately, there’s nothing to see here… the Phillies are headed for a disaster year.
- St. Louis Cardinals (88-74): The Cardinals, quite simply, know how to win. A division defined by it’s parity over recent years, the Cardinals consistently make the playoffs. Yes, they’ve gotten a little bit older, but the core is still strong and the addition of Jason Heyward makes this team a legitimate contender again in 2015.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (85-77): The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of my favorite teams to watch. Andrew McCutchen is one of the most exciting players in baseball and this young core of talented hitters look poised for another strong year. Pitching seems a little all over the place at the moment, but there’s talent. I think the Pirates have a good chance to make the playoffs again in 2015.
- Chicago Cubs (82-80): I think the Chicago Cubs are finally ready to make the leap to contending for a playoff spot. Bringing in Theo Epstein appears to have been a brilliant move as the rebuild is finally taking shape. Bringing in Jon Lester gives this young team an ace and as the rest of the division falls off, the Cubs can jump up and give the Pirates and Cardinals a run for their money.
- Cincinnati Reds (77-85): I really like this rotation. Johnny Cueto is a dominant starter, Mike Leake is consistent, and Homer Bailey is a solid number two. That said, I really hate this lineup. Beyond Joey Votto, there’s nothing here. I don’t see the Reds really competing this season.
- Milwaukee Brewers (74-88): Here is where the division really drops off. The Milwaukee Brewers ran into some trouble when Ryan Braun lost a season to steroids and Prince Fielder walked during free agency. The rotation is one of the weakest in baseball and this lineup really has only two legitimate threats in it – Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez. I think it’s going to be a tough season for a very average Milwaukee team.
- LA Dodgers (87-75): Clayton Kershaw is a hall of fame pitcher in the making, while Zach Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu give this rotation some serious top-end depth. Additionally, the bullpen is legitimate and the lineup has some young talent in it. I think this is still the best all-around team in the west, but watch out for the Padres.
- San Diego Padres (85-77): In a pitcher’s park, James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and Ian Kennedy will dominate. The league’s worst offense in 2014 is a misleading statistic since that ballpark is so big. Adding enough pieces to generate some runs for this world-class pitching staff will have the Padres in contention this year.
- San Francisco Giants (82-80): Madison Bumgarner is pretty much the last good thing about this team. The aces of old have gotten old and no longer can carry this piddling offense. They lost Pablo Sandoval and didn’t land any strong players in free agency. The decline is real, and with the Padres getting better it’s hard to imagine a playoff berth for the Giants.
- Colorado Rockies (77-85): The Colorado Rockies seriously lack pitching, but they can hit. If this team stays healthy, the lineup will give them a chance every night. That said, this team probably won’t stay healthy.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (75-87): The Diamondbacks have some decent young bats, but ultimately this will be a rebuild effort here. They had a horrible season last year and I don’t think they’ve done enough to really turn that around. They still don’t have enough pitching to compete.
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