And now, a couple days late (thanks to a power failure, a baseball draft, and some Comcast shenanigans), here are my National League predictions.
1. NY Mets - if the Indians deserve consideration for their rotation - what about the Mets? it's obscene, really, how much starting pitching talent they have. Young and powerful? Personally, I hope they al stay healthy and come through, because I want to see what they can do, all fo them. The Mets, meanwhile, do have a decent team on the field behind them - Cespedes and Granderson and Duda - all solid to very good, a couple guys who could get better - a nice team.
2. Washington Nationals - they have been scorching hot this spring. They have Bryce Harper. They have Scherzer and Strasburg and depth. They certainly can win it. This might be their best chance - Dusty Baker has a good track record or wining, but has that other track record with pitchers - he might be tempted never to take Scherzer out of a game...
3. Miami Marlins - there is real talent here - Stanton, obviously, as well as Fernandez and Gordon and some others - enough to challenge the top two? I don't really think so.
4. Philadelphia Phillies - rebuilding; but they have some interesting players on the team - Franco and the like. They won't be any good, but might be fun.
5. Atlanta Braves - being dismantled, maybe so none of their current fans try to move with them to their new ball park in the suburbs. Freddie Freeman and his cats will surely be hoping for a trade...
1. Chicago Cubs - obviously. They were the third best team in baseball last year, and have added players while the teams ahead of them did not - indeed, the Cubbies took 2 of the Cards' best, in Hayward and Lackey. There's not a lot of downside, un;ess people get hurt - which is a possibility, especially among the starters. They are not as dazzling as the Mets, but Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, Hammel, Hendricks is pretty frigging impressive. The bullpen is solid. There are no holes int he lineup, there are defensive standouts at several positions, there are a couple superstars or budding superstars in the lineup. They have the best manager in the game. They are raring to go. It's hard to pick against them.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates - they didn't lose a lot from last year's second best team in the majors. Cole and Liriano, Melancon, McCutcheon, Marte - it's a good team, still. The NL is still very different from the AL - the AL is the parity league these days; the NL is extremely top heavy. That might be exaggerating the records of teams like the Pirates - they get to feast on teams like the Reds... But they are quite solid, and should b in the thick of the playoff mix again. Though like last year - they are going to have to get past 2 extremely good teams to win their division.
3. St. Louis Cardinals - they have lost a lot from last year - but they have Wainwright back - Lackey for Wainwright is a trade most of us would make (even those of us who love John Lackey.) If Wacha and Martinez can step forward - they could have a rotation that approaches some of the other great ones... The offense has its issues - though getting Holliday healthy would help. Thye are going to be hard pressed to match last year's success - they still have to take on two of the best teams in the league in their division - but they are still a strong contender for all of it.
4. Milwaukee Brewers - I forget they exist sometimes.
5. Cincinnati Reds - I bet they wish they could forget they exist. Though they have some punch still - Votto is aces, Bruce and Merrerro and even Phillips can still play a bit. They have some interesting young pitchers, though they are very young - Iglesias has talent. They are likely to lose a lot, but be interesting doing it. I think.
1. SF Giants - it's an even numbered year. They had troubles in the spring, but whatever. Bumgarner is an ace, Cueto and Samardjia should do fine in San Francisco. The offense has issues, but they have players - Posey and Belt and Panik and Pence - not all bad. Other teams have issues too - so - why not?
2. LA Dodgers - Kershaw is somewhat lonely out on the hill, but they have enough talent around him to hang around, I think. They are fragile though.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks - last year I picked all the winterball champions to win - this year I am avoiding them all like a plague. So putting them 3rd is another way of picking them to win the division. Why not? Greinke and Miller, Goldschmidt and Peralta and Segura... I see AJ Pollock is out for a big chuink of the season with a broken elbow - that does not help. But they are an interesting team - they're probably more intriguing as dark horses than as favorites, though.
4. Colorado Rockies - why ahead of the Padres? Arenado, Gonzalez, Blackmon, LeMahieu, Paulson - right? reasonable, I suppose. In the end, they will mostly serve as fodder for the top 2-3 teams in the division.
5. San Diego Padres - another team that was trendy to pick last year, but stunk out the joint and unloaded a lot of their money guys - which means, they are likely to bounce back big, right? I don't know. I wouldn't rule them out, with Shields and Ross - even guys like Kemp could pull up the ghost of seasons past.... It's not really convincing though, is it?
Post-season then? Mets - Cubs - Giants, I say; Wildcards = Nats and - oy: Cards and Pirates tie, so they play each other for the right to play the Nats? why not. I think this is going to come down to the Cubs and Mets - one or the other is going to come through in the post-season, and get tot he series. Where - either of them - will be a pretty strong favorite. (Though the difference between the leagues - the Nats, Cards and Pirates, maybe even the Giants might be the favorites if they got to the series. On the other hand - only the A's have even an outside chance of being as bad as the Phillies, Braves, Reds, Brwers and possibly PAds and Rockies.) All or nothing baby!
MVP = Harper's to lose again, with the usual suspects - Goldschmidt, Votto, Bryant, McCutcheon hanging around.
Cy Young = Kershaw's to lose again. Scherzer and the Mets the likeliest contenders, I would say - maybe Bumgarner.
Rookie = let's go with Steven Matz, shall we? might as well!