Opening day is less than a week away. All 30 Major League teams are preparing to pack up and leave their spring training facilities. Many teams are optimistic about what 2018 holds for them. Other teams have received terrible news this month. I am going to try to predict how the National League standings will look 162 games after March 29.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
After winning 104 games and coming one win shy of a World Series title, the Dodgers off-season was quiet. The biggest move the Dodgers made was the trade for Matt Kemp. This trade was supposed to be a way to get the payroll under the salary cap. But Kemp showed up to Spring Training ready to win a spot in the Dodgers’ starting lineup. Clayton Kershaw has been lights out this Spring, finishing his preseason with a 0.00 ERA. The Dodgers received a hard blow, however, when Justin Turner was hit by a pitch and fractured his hand.
2. Colorado Rockies
Pitching will continue to be a problem for the Rockies. They lost one of their starters, Tyler Chatwood due to free agency, but they signed free-agent and former Cub, Wade Davis, as their new closer. There is no question about their offense with Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and Coors Field benefiting them. If Carlos Gonzalez and Raimel Tapia can bounce back after tough seasons, the Rockies will be really hard to beat.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
At the beginning of spring training, I thought the Diamondbacks would finish the season ahead of the Rockies. But this spring has not been kind to them. Their ace, Zack Greinke, has been experiencing a loss of velocity this spring. He’s also struggled with injury. Steven Souza Jr., who the D-backs acquired in a trade this offseason, suffered a pectoral strain and will be on the disabled list until mid-May.
4. San Francisco Giants
After an absolutely horrible 2017 season, the Giants were optimistic about 2018. They were hoping they would be able to compete with the Rockies and Diamondbacks for a wildcard spot. However, the Giants have fallen upon hard times. They lost Jeff Samardzija for 3-4 weeks due to an oblique strain. Then, their ace, Madison Bumgarner, was hit a line drive yesterday afternoon. The liner fractured his left (pitcher) hand. He will miss most of the first half of the season.
5. San Diego Padres
The Padres are not ready to compete yet. Their rebuild has not reached the point where they can seriously expect to win. They signed free-agent first baseman, Eric Hosmer, to an eight-year deal this offseason. Wil Myers will return to the outfield, where he originally played. The Padres, however, still need to get the rest of their players rooted in the big leagues.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers had a very active offseason and I believe they have now passed the Cubs in the NL Central. The Brewers reshaped their outfield when they signed free-agent, Lorenzo Cain, to a five-year deal. They also traded for Marlins’ center fielder, Christian Yelich. The new and improved outfield, along with some improved pitching, should give the Brewers the edge over the Cubs.
2. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs lost their ace, Jake Arrieta due to free-agency this off-season. They also lost their closer, Wade Davis. They signed Yu Darvish in an attempt to make up for losing Arrieta, something Dodger fans cannot believe. They also signed Brandon Morrow to be their closer. Their infield will look the same as last year; Anthony Rizzo at first, Javier Báez at second, Addison Russell at shortstop, and Kris Bryant at third base. Their catcher, Willson Contreras, needs to learn to control his arm in order for the Cubs to win the division again.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals’ struggles in 2017 are likely going to extend to 2018. The Cardinals lost Lance Lynn to free agency, traded Stephen Piscotty to the A’s, and they traded Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays. Their outfield does not have much depth; with only Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler. Fowler will need to bounce back after a disappointing 2017 season. As far as catcher goes, Yadier Molina is the Cardinal’s only backstop.
4. Cincinnati Reds
With Joey Votto at first base, Scooter Gennett at second base, and Eugenio Suarez at third base, the only question the Reds have left for their infield is who will play shortstop. José Peraza, a second baseman by trade, is the most likely candidate. The outfield is basically set in stone, with Adam Duvall in left field, Billy Hamilton in center field, and Scott Schebler in right field. Once again, the Reds pitching will be a problem, as they will have a boatload of young pitchers.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen to the Giants, then traded Gerrit Cole to the Astros this offseason. They are hoping for a bounce-back year from Gregory Polanco after he hit .251 in 2017. Starling Marte had a solid 2017 and the Bucks are hoping that he can continue to play well at age 29. Josh Bell is hoping to avoid a sophomore slump after his strong rookie year.
1. Washington Nationals
The Nationals are the obvious choice for NL East division winners. With three-time Cy Young award winner, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg at the top of their pitching rotation, the Nationals will be hard to beat. Bryce Harper is looking strong heading into his last season before free agency. The Nationals are just a strong team all around.
2. New York Mets
If the Mets’ rotation can stay healthy this year, they will be a very tough team to beat. The flame-throwing 25-year-old, Noah Syndergaard, has taken over as New York’s ace. Jacob deGrom is looking good, especially with his new haircut. The Mets also have Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Jason Vargas. One of the biggest questions the Mets are asking involves third base. Will Todd Frazier be able to beat Father Time?
3. Atlanta Braves
Braves fans are not happy that their top prospect, Ronald Acuña Jr. will start the season in Triple-A. In fact, Acuña deserves to play in the Major Leagues. But the Braves front office decided that it will be better to keep Acuña in the minor leagues long enough to get one more year in his contract than to have him with the club on opening day. Once April 13 rolls around, everyone is expecting to see Acuña in the big leagues. The Braves has a fairly solid infield with a pitching staff that has both young players and veterans.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
Although the Phillies have things to be excited about, they are not ready to contend yet. Their biggest excitement is Jake Arrieta, who signed with them this off-season. They can also be excited about Rhys Hoskins, who hit 18 home runs after his call-up in August of 2017.
5. Miami Marlins
When Derek Jeter bought the Marlins this year, everyone knew that Miami was going to rebuild. Marlins fans were not happy to see Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna traded. The Marlins are excited to see Lewis Brinson, their top prospect, debut on opening day. Other than Brinson, there is not much the Marlins are expecting to see this year.
Who are you predicting will win the NL divisions? Comment below to tell me.