For this contribution from the great NostraDavis, we venture far into uncharted waters as we look exclusively at the National League. There are some seriously talented teams in the NL, and there is very little doubt they will have a tough battle to determine who will represent the league in the World Series. But for now, let’s see just who NostraDavis sees as getting the chance to reach the fall classic.
Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
Many thought the Washington Nationals were going to be competitive in 2012, I had them as a NL Wild Card team. Needless to say they exceeded even my lofty expectations. This year they figure to be even better. Strasburg will be unleashed without any innings limits, Bryce Harper is entering his first full season, and the team added one of the top closers in the game in Rafael Soriano to avoided any disasters like the one Drew Storen endured in the NLDS last year. They will win the East, but the Atlanta Braves will make it a fight. The Braves have easily the most athletic outfield in the game, whether they all produce up to potential is an entirely different story. They will give the Nationals a run for their money. The Phillies are pegged for third place only because the Mets and the Marlins are also in this division. I expect a comeback year from Ryan Howard, but the rest of the team is aging and won’t be able to hang with the new NL East powerhouses. The Mets are likely just aiming to be around .500 this year as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler begin to emerge as future aces, then again, they do have Collin Cowgill so anything can happen. The Marlins are likely to give the Astros a strong push for the first pick in the 2014 amateur draft, poor Giancarlo Stanton.
Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
Picking the winner of the NL Central wasn’t particularly tough, but picking the runners up was. The Reds are clearly the best team in the division, and Shin-Soo Choo should have a big year playing the the Great American “Smallpark”. The Cardinals have gotten themselves to the point that even if they lose someone like Chris Carpenter, perhaps for the year if not longer, they still find a way to be in contention one way or another. If there’s a such thing as a team that “knows how to win” it’s the Cards. The Pirates simply have to have a winning season one of these years, they simply have to avoid the late season collapses that have kept them from breaking their streak of losing seasons. Andrew McCutchen alone should be enough to make this team better, but he hasn’t been yet, be on the lookout for stud prospect Gerrit Cole sometime in 2013 as the Pirates try to make some noise. The Brewers did just add Kyle Lohse, but that was a move that will help fill out their rotation, he isn’t enough of an impact pitcher to truly change this team’s fortunes for 2013. If Ryan Braun gets dinged for his Biogenesis links, this could be a very rough season for the Brew Crew. The Cubs are now 104 years removed from their last World Series title, and there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that it won’t move to 105.
Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies
Much like the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers threw money at their problems, only theirs was in the middle of August last season. The team never quite gelled, and they fell short of the eventual world champion Giants. This year, with more time to get used to one another, and with the addition of Zack Greinke they’ll have enough firepower to take down the Giants for the NL West crown. The Hanley Ramirez injury hurts, but he’ll be back with enough time for the Dodgers to take the west. The Giants are like the Cardinals in that they just seem to win despite having a weaker team on paper, they may suffer from a little bit of a World Series hangover this year, but probably not like they did in 2011. Pablo Sandoval‘s elbow problems have to be troubling, and Tim Lincecum‘s struggles don’t seem to have gone away with his long hair, they’ll be in the hunt without a doubt though. The Diamondbacks have such a high number of former Athletics, that they can’t help but improve right? They may not make the playoffs, but they’ll certainly be interesting to watch. Bet they wish they still had Chris Young and Justin Upton right about now. The Padres are an extremely young team still, and they’ll need more time before they can consider themselves contenders. They won’t score much, but Chase Headley has emerged as a top run producer in the NL so he’ll keep them out of the cellar. The Rockies have the best shortstop anywhere, when he stays healthy; and one of the best outfielders in the game, when they play at Coors Field. That’s about it, and it’s not a recipe for success. They’ll almost surely be cellar dwellers in 2013.
NL Wild Cards
It’ll be a tougher road having to play the 1 game wild card playoff, but the Giants will get the chance to defend their World Series title in 2013.
The final installment of NostraDavis Reveals will predict how the playoffs will play out, crown a champion, and forecast the major award winners in both leagues as well. Stay tuned.