National League Predictions for 2015

For the fourth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Giants finishing third in their division in 2014 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I posted my predictions for the American League several days ago, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:

EAST

1. Nationals

2. Marlins

3. Braves

4. Mets

5. Phillies

If the Nationals don’t win 100 or more games this coming season, it would absolutely shock me. They have such a good team from top to bottom that there is a really good chance of them repeating as National League East division champions. After winning 96 games in 2014, the Nationals spent this offseason getting even better. Adding Max Scherzer to a rotation that now includeds Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, each and every game allows the Nats a good shot at a victory. Their bullpen is just as good, and their lineup is one the best in baseball. With Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, among many others, Washington has forces both offensively and with their pitching staff. Combining together their amazingly good starting rotation with their talented lineup, the Nationals should be able to win a ton of games.

Coming up second to the Nationals, I think the Marlins will be really improved in 2015. Playing in a weaker division, with the Braves taking a step back and the Mets and Phillies still finding themselves, the Marlins should easily pull out a Wild Card spot this year. Although they’ll be without phenom Jose Fernandez until midseason, their pitching rotation is still very solid. Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos and Dan Haren should perform well for Miami, with their bullpen consisting of one of the most underrated closers in the game today, Steve Cicshek. If their pitching staff can do well, then they should be a good team. Their lineup is going to be good either way, however. With speedy Dee Gordon, superstar Giancarlo Stanton, and veteran Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins have a nice combination of players. They will surely be a really good team in the coming regular season.

For the Atlanta Braves, it’s a true mystery how they will fare in the coming season. On one hand, they still have a decent team with a lot of good players. But on the other hand, they lost a few key pieces of their team this offseason. And therefore, your guess is as good as mine. Nonetheless, I have the Braves coming in third, just ahead of the Mets. They lost Jason Heyward, but picked up a decent replacement in Nick Markakis. And despite having a below average outfield now that Justin Upton is a Padre, the rest of their lineup isn’t that bad. With Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman still apart of their offensive squad, they should be able to score runs. Their pitching should do a good job of preventing runs as well. Though not overly dominant, the Braves have Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Alex Wood, along with Craig Kimbrel to slam the door in the ninth. Things could be interesting in Atlanta.

I was somewhat of a believer in the Mets having a special season up until the news came out that Zack Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. Now, however, I feel that they will likely come up just short of a potential second Wild Card spot. But even so, they have a decent team that will win a good chunk of games. Juan Lagares had a breakout season in 2014, and if Curtis Granderson can bounce back, along with David Wright, the Mets could surprise me. Their rotation isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible either. Jacob deGrom should have another solid season, with Bartolo Colon doing well. Beyond that, they have Dillon Gee, and the return of phenom Matt Harvey. In the end, it’s how their pitching fares that will determine what kind of year they have. The Mets may not end up pulling out a spectacular season, but they could definitely have a few impressive streaks throughout the year.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies were the most dominant team in the National League East, and one of the best in all of baseball. But things have gone downhill very fast. With virtually no pitching, beyond Cole Hamels, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies are going to have a difficult time keeping opposing teams off the board in the coming year. On the flip side, they will likely also have struggles of their own of scoring runs. No longer with Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies have to rely on Chase Utley and Ryan Howard — two players who have been up and down over the past several years — to produce for the majority of the team’s run. But while the fate of those two players are up in the air, the Phillies still have the speedy Ben Revere and talented third baseman Cody Asche. They should help out what is otherwise a worn out team. I truly don’t think things will be too pretty in Philadelphia in 2015.

CENTRAL

1. Cardinals

2. Cubs

3. Pirates

4. Reds

5. Brewers

The Cardinals are sure to have a battle on their hands to win the division with the resurgence of the Cubs and the always good Pirates, but I think they have the talent to pull it off. Their pitching is good, having a good mix of both veterans — Adam Wainwright and John Lackey — as well as young stars — Marco Gonzalez and Michael Wacha. Their pitching alone will go a long way in winning them a lot of ballgames. To make those pitchers even better, the Cards have Yadier Molina behind the plate, who is an extremely valuable asset to their team, as he has been for years. Beyond that, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter are sure to have good years, as are Matt Holliday and newly acquired Jason Heyward, who came over from the Braves this offseason. No matter what, they will likely have a great season, with a long run into the playoffs looking like it could be a good possibility.

It is going to be an exciting season in Chicago, no doubt about it. The White Sox are looking like they’ll have a great year, and the Cubs certainly have the talent to do the same. The Cubs’ offense is loaded with a lot of young talent, given it is unproven for the most part on the big league level. Still, with names like Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, along with Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantra, and Miguel Montero, the Cubs have a strong player at every spot in the lineup. And that’s before Kris Bryant is even a part of the mix. Set to come up in mid April after hitting 43 homers in the minors last year, Bryant could be an All-Star for years to come. On the pitching side of things, the Cubs don’t have a rotation that will dominate every team in their way, but it is good enough to get the job done. After the pickup of Jon Lester this offseason, they should have a good enough team to make a push for a Wild Card.

The Pirates finally broke their long playoff drought in 2012, but although they’ll be good again this coming season, I don’t think they’ll make it to the postseason in 2015. Their pitching staff is merely okay, with guys like Gerritt Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and their bullpen is a bit iffy. It comes down a lot of times to how well a team’s pitching performs from one night to the next, so that could turn out to be a big issue with the Pirates. As far as their lineup is concerned, it is actually a pretty good one. With an outfield of Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, the have a great combination of hitters that also play great defense. That extends into the infield, where they have Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and Pedro Alvarez. So, will they go on a run and make it to the postseason? That remains to be seen. But as far as I can see, they’ll likely come up just short.

It is somewhat difficult to place the Reds in fourth place in the National League Central division with the great level of talent that they posses, but it’s simply where I find them falling when the season has concluded six months from now. Despite a rotation that is lead by Johnny Cueto, that’s basically where their dominant pitching ends. Sure, the Reds have Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, with Tony Cingrani looking to bounce back in 2015, but they don’t have the arms to compete with the three teams I have finishing ahead of them — even with the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman as their closer. But what they lack in pitching, they make up for in offense, which is what will keep them from falling into last place. From the speedy Billy Hamilton to Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Devin Mesoraco, the Reds should have a decent lineup in 2015, but will have little to show for it in the end.

For the Brewers, it looks to be a rough season for them. In my opinion, the Reds are the only team they could potentially swap spots with, assuming something goes wrong with the Reds and things go really right with the Brewers. I’m not trying to knock the Brewers — they’re a good team. But they simply don’t have the talent in their lineup or pitching that can have me place them any higher. While their pitching staff isn’t horrible, it isn’t great either. With Mike Fiers, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza, and a bullpen that has Francisco Rodriguez as their closer, the Brewers are a true mystery for how they will perform this season. Their bright spot, however, is their lineup. Jonathan Lucroy, Scooter Gennett, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez will all combine to lead to a good amount of runs, but I don’t feel it will be on a consistent enough basis for the Brewers to do all that well this season.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

I see the Dodgers easily repeating as division champions in 2015. Offensively, they got a little weaker, losing Matt Kemp to the Padres as well as Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but it is still a very deep lineup regardless. Joc Pederson — Kemp’s replacement — is looking to have a good year in center field, as are his outfield partners, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. For the infield, the Dodgers picked up veteran Jimmy Rollins to replace Ramirez at short stop, as well as Howie Kendrick, who should make for a good double play partner for Rollins. Everything together leads to a solid offensive bunch. But the Dodgers also have a lot of pitching talent, beginning with Clayton Kershaw. Coined by the majority of people as the best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw mans a staff that includes Zack Grienke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and now Brandon McCarthy. It could be an exciting year in Los Angeles.

It may also be another fun season in San Francisco, but I don’t think it will all lead to another World Championship. Even so, the Giants should be a very good team — good enough to give the Dodgers a run for their money. A pitching staff lead by Madison Bumgarner, and containing Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy, not to mention a really good bullpen, the Giants should be able to prevent runs on a very consistent basis. And they should be able to score a lot of runs as well. With Buster Posey leading the charge, complimented by Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence (once he returns) and Brandon Crawford, the Giants should have a good offense capable of competing with any team in the league. But what really gives them a little added help is their manager, Bruce Bochy, who has become known as one of the best managers in the game in recent history. Bochy may be managing yet another postseason bound team.

If you had asked me on the final day of last season where I thought the Padres would place in 2015, there’s a good chance I would’ve placed them fourth, if not in dead last place. They simply weren’t a very good team last year. However, things should be much different than they were in 2014. The Padres’ general manager, A.J. Preller, did an unbelievable job this offseason of revamping their roster, snatching up numerous high level additions via free agent signings or trades. With a completely different outfield, now made up of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, as well as an infield that now includes Will Middlebrooks to go along with Jedd Gyorko and Yonder Alsono, and offseason pickup Derek Norris behind the plate, this Padres team looks to be on a whole other level offensively. Combine that with a pitching staff of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and James Shields, this Padres team will be interesting to watch.

I really believed in the Diamondbacks last season, but they really disappointed a lot of people, who had predicted them to do well. Now, with them losing a couple of players this offseason, and not doing much to get all that much better, I see the D-backs finishing next to last in the division. With the exception of Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and newcomer Yasmany Tomas, Arizona doesn’t have too much power in their lineup. They have a few other good players — namely A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb, Aaron Hill, etc. — who could help them win some games, but it’s going to come down to how their pitching performs. Patrick Corbin — a breakout pitcher from 2013 — is set to come back from Tommy John surgery, and he will help the D-backs immediately. But beyond him, their staff — Jeremy Hellickson, Daniel Hudson, etc. — is a bit of a mystery as to how they will pitch every fifth day. We’ll just have to wait and see.

In a few years from now, I could see the Rockies finally making a climb in the divisional standings with all of the prospects they have on the way, however, this year is not the year. I have them finishing dead last in the National League West division, as they simply can’t compete with the other teams in their division over the long 162-game season. They have a decent catcher in Wilin Rosario, as well as Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau in the infield, and Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield. So the offensive side of the team is there. But what they have in lineup strength, they lack in pitching depth. The Rockies have no true ace of the staff, with all of their starters being major league average at best. And their bullpen isn’t all that spectacular either. Meaning, no matter how well their lineup produces, their pitching will likely be a big letdown.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

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