Can the Dodgers finally meet expectations and win the World Series?

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Record: 96-66

The Dodgers have won the NL West over the past two seasons, but have pressure to take the next step and win the World Series. Andrew Freidman, general manager, made many moves this offseason and they will potentially start four new players on opening day. Last season, the Dodgers ranked as the 6th best offensive team in the league and should repeat their performance because Puig is an MVP candidate, Joc Pederson is a top prospect, and Gonzalez has been one of the most consistent players over the past decade. The Dodgers have the best 1-2 punch in the league with Greinke and Kershaw. Outside of their aces, the Dodgers may miss the playoffs if Ryu, McCarthy, and Anderson cannot pitch at least 150 innings.

San Diego Padres:

Record: 87-75

The Padres were the most active team in free agency this offseason, but it is unknown if that will translate into victories. AJ Peller was able to improve his chances by acquiring powerful bats Derek Norris, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers. Although they may boast one of the best outfields in the league, the infield has many flaws and have yet to show an ability to hit at the major league level. As usual, the Padres will have one of the best pitching staffs in the National League due to the depth in their rotation. One through four the Pads have a formidable staff with James Shields, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy. In addition, every starter will be assisted by capacious Petco Park.

San Francisco Giants:

Record: 83-79

The defending champions are doomed to fail this season. Over the past 5 years, every odd year has been an unfulfilling year while the even years have been championships. On offense, the Giants may have loss their best bat when Pablo Sandoval signed with the Red Sox over the summer. On offense, the lineup will be in trouble without Sandoval and should rank in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. The pitching staff will have to answer many questions after Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson because Matt Cain needs to prove that he is healthy, Tiny Tim may be finished, and Jake Peavey has injury concerns.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Record: 73-89

The Diamondbacks are currently in rebuilding mode and hope that their young players will show progress even if they cannot win many games. Along with MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks heavily invested in Tomas and are hoping big things from Mark Trumbo. Like the offense, the pitching staff does not have much talent without a legitimate ace or a number two starter. The Diamondbacks may promote top prospect Archie Bradley, which should inspire fans.

Colorado Rockies:

Record: 70-92

The Rockies’ offense will be as successful as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The duo is one of the best in the league and can carry an entire offense for months. In addition, the emergence of Nick Arenado, Justin Morneau, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon has provided protection for Tulo and Cargo. Like many of the past Rockies’ teams, this team has no pitching. Although the Rockies may call up top prospect Jon Gray, who has the potential to be a top ten pitcher, the Rockies only have middle to the bottom of the order pitchers. Although the offense may be exciting, this team will not win more than 75 games without quality pitching.

Can the upstart Cubs claim the NL Central?

1. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 94-68

Over the past decade, the Cardinals have been the most consistent franchise because of their ability to develop players and allocate money to keep important free agents. The Cardinals significant upgraded their defense in the outfield and starting lineup with the addition of Jason Heyward. The return of Yadier Molina will improve their team because he is the heart of the team and their MVP candidate. In terms of pitching, the Cardinals have a strong 1 through 4 with Lynn, Wainwright, Wacha, and Lackey. The Cardinals do not have one of the best bullpens, but they frequently make deals at the deadline to make marginal improvements.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates:

Record: 87-75

After 20 years without recording a winning season, the Pirates have consistently won 80 games over the past few seasons. The Pirates’ lineup is filled with talented and athletic players that were former top prospects. The Pirates’ will become an above average lineup if Andrew McCutchen maintains an MVP candidate, Josh Harrison and Starling Marte continue their excellence, and Gregory Polanco turns his talent into production. In terms of pitching, they possess one of the best young arms in Gerrit Cole, who should produce like an ace, and veteran arms, AJ Burnett, Jeff Locke, and Francisco Liriano.

3. Chicago Cubs:

Record: 84-78

The Cubs are the most interesting and intriguing teams in the entire league due to their talented prospects. The Cubs have the best farm system in the league and this season they should start converting their talent into results. With the core of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, and potential MVP Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs’ offense should be impressive and entertaining to watch. In terms of pitching, the Cubs have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Outside of their top two starters, the Cubs will need quality performances from Jason Hammel, Alex Wood, and Kyle Kendricks to make the playoffs.

4. Milwaukee Brewers:

Record: 82-80

The Brewers were on the precipice of making the playoffs last season before a second half plunge due to a dearth of starting pitching. The Brewers’ chances of making the playoffs will be diminished  by their lack of pitching once again. During the offseason, the Brewers dealt Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, which limited their options and Jimmy Nelson to mature quickly. Offensively, the Brewers will be effective with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez, and Jonathan Lucroy. If Braun can remerge as one of the 10 best hitters in the league and Lucroy and Gomez can replicate last seasons performances, they should compete for the division crown.

5. Cincinnati Reds:

Record: 78-84

The Reds will only go as far as Joey Votto can take them. Over the past two years, Votto has been decimated by injuries, which has caused the team to finish outside of the playoffs. If Votto can come close to his MVP season, by maintaining a high OBP, the Reds offense should become one of the best in the league. Along with Votto, they have quality complementary players like Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. Due to the impending free agency of their starting pitchers, the Reds were forced to deal former All-Stars Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos. However, the Reds still have Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and possibly Tony Congrani.

 

Can any team compete with the Nationals in the NL East?

1. Washington Nationals

Record: 103-59

On paper, the Nationals have the best team in baseball and do not have a flaw in their lineup. Their combination of power, speed, and ability to hit for average will make them one of the best offensive teams in the league. When Jason Werth returns from injury, the Nationals will sport 5 All-Stars on the field. On defense, they are young, fast, and athletic. However, the best aspect of their team is their starting pitching, which is the best in the league. The Nationals have 3 aces, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Zimmerman, and 2 more top of the rotation arms, Fister and Gonzalez.

Miami Marlins:

Record: 85-77

The Marlins shocked many fans around baseball when they gave Giancarlo Stanton the largest contract in baseball history, traded for All Star Dee Gordon, Mat Latos, and Martin Prado, and signed Michael Morse. The Marlins will put forth an average to above average lineup that is based around speed and power. The middle of their order, Yelich and Ozuna, each have the potential to hit 20+ homers, while Stanton may hit 45+. Miami’s chances of making the playoffs will hinge on the return of Jose Fernandez, one of the premier young pitchers in the game.

New York Mets:

Record: 84-78

If the Mets’ offense ranks toward the middle of the league in runs scored this season, they will have a legitimate chance to  make the playoffs. The Mets’ offense should improve as David Wright, Travis D’Arnaud, and Curtis Granderson are destined for a better season than last year. In terms of pitching, the Mets’ staff ranks as one of the best in the league. It all starts with their ace Matt Harvey who is returning from Tommy John. Harvey, alongside ROY Jacob De Gram, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, and possibly top prospect Noah Syndegaard should make the Mets a top 7 rotation. Along with their offense, the bullpen has numerous holes and deficiencies.

Atlanta Braves:

Record: 70-92

A few seasons ago, the Braves were a contender to win the NL East and possibly the National League. However, they have lost many of their stars and now face the possibility of finishing in the NL East cellar. On offense, they do not have a lot of talent outside of Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakais. Unfortunately for manager, Freddy Gonzalez, Andrelton Simmons cannot hit, Melvin (BJ) Upton strikes out too much, and Jonny Gomes, Alberto Callaspo, and Christian Bethancourt are not starting major league hitters. The pitching staff looks bleak as well after the Julio Tehran and Shelby Miller.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Record: 62-100

After years of dominating the NL East and the entire National League, the Phillies will now rival others for the number one overall pick in this year’s draft. On offense, the Phillies do not have any quality bats besides for Chase Utley, who they may move at the deadline for prospects. In terms of pitching, the biggest story will be the trade discussions regarding Cole Hamels. Besides Hamels, the Phillies have a dearth of starting pitching, especially if Cliff Lee is forced to retire.