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NL East Preview
Phillies: Even though the team is getting older, and they lost a big right-handed bat in Jayson Werth, with this pitching staff the sky is the limit. Pitching wins championships, and as the core of the team is still together they should win this division and go on to bigger and better things. The only concern here is staying healthy, and with Chase Utley already hurt, the Phillies might have to rely on young players early to fill the void.
Braves: This is a good young team with some dangerous offensive weapons. Jason Heyward is a star in the making and will continue to make strides to becoming one of the most feared hitters in the game. The Braves have a nice team and will stay in the division race, but they just don’t have the arms to stay with the Phillies.
Marlins: One thing you can say about this team every year is they’re young. As soon as the team develops top talent they don’t retain it. They can be competitive and will stay in the division for half of the season, but after the all-star break they will start to drop off as the top teams pull away.
Mets: This team has been underachieving for years now, and as the years since acquiring Johan Santana have passed they have continued to drop off. They have some core talent like David Wright who will push the team, but they are no longer a playoff-caliber team, and need several upgrades at some of the key positions.
Nationals: With the injury to Stephen Strasburg the Nationals won’t be the exciting team they were last year. They do have some nice pieces to compete, but realistically they will be the cellar dweller in this top-heavy division. The future is definitely looking bright for this young team though who has ownership that wants to win.
NL Central Preview
Reds: This team is loaded with young talent, and after winning the division last year they have developed a little swagger. They will compete for the division once again, and there will be no drop-off for this squad. Their hate for the Cardinals will continue to drive them, and create great drama for those divisional games.
Cardinals: Last year’s team just couldn’t seem to put a run together like everyone expected. With an early injury to Adam Wainwright, and all the distractions with Albert Pujols, it will be a long and stressful year for the Cardinals. Pressure to re-sign Pujols will drive management to be on the offensive and try to win this year. This mentality will keep the Cardinals in the race with the Reds, but they will fall short of the overly talented Reds. They will however have a legitimate shot at the wild card, competing against the Braves and Rockies for the last playoff spot.
Brewers: This middle-market team has struggled to climb out of mediocrity and develop into a playoff contender. They mad a couple moves in the off-season but unless their team has a career year, they will fall well short of the Reds and Cardinals who are really the playoff teams in this division.
Astros: The Astros are a team trying to build back up and become the team that made playoff runs several years ago. They really lack the bigger named players other than Carlos Lee. They have put together a decent rotation though with the addition of J.A. Happ, but the team as a whole just isn’t talented enough.
Cubs: The Cubs are an interesting team because they do have a couple of All-Star caliber players like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Marmol. Carlos Zambrano is a wild-card, and if he pitches to his potential, the rotation could be pretty good with Ryan Dempster and the addition of Matt Garza. I just don’t trust this team who hasn’t been able to capitalize on their talent, and frustrated a great manager in Lou Piniella who quit before the season was over. If the Cubs have a rough start, they may try to move the big contracts they have locked up in Ramirez and Zambrano.
Pirates: The Pirates are just a frustrating team for anyone that is a fan of this franchise. Every time they get a legitimate All-Star caliber player they ship him off to another squad claiming they don’t have the money to keep a team together. The only thing that is really going to change this team’s outlook is a new owner that is willing to spend some money. They will be cellar dwellers again this year.
NL West Preview
Giants: After winning the World Series last year, the Giants will compete again this year for the division title and more. They have great pitching and a well-rounded offensive team. It is extremely tough to win the World Series in back-to-back years but this team is built to be there once again. Besides the Phillies, the Giants are clearly the class of the National League.
Padres: Adrian Gonzalez is gone, and that really hurts the Padres chances of making a playoff run. They lack a solid pitching rotation, and their overall roster lacks the necessary star power to compete for the playoffs. This team will have to build for the future, and hope they can keep the next big star that grows up within the franchise.
Rockies: The Rockies have a very nice team this year, with good position players and a good starting rotation with Ubaldo Jimenez topping it off. This team is notorious for putting together late runs, but with all of their talent, they should be fighting for the division title all year long. This is a playoff caliber roster, but with the defending champs in their division, they might have to battle it out for a wild card berth.
Dodgers: After competing in the NLCS two years in a row, the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs last year. They have a new manager this year, Don Mattingly, and maybe he will be able to light a spark under this team and get them back to the playoffs, with virtually the same roster. They should be able to compete for the division or wild card with their talent, but the ups and downs of this team, along with the inability for the team to gel together could have them on the outside looking in. This team has the talent, the question is simply how badly they want it.
Diamondbacks: This team has some nice young pieces in their quest to rebuild and get back to their playoff form. They could jump up and surprise some people this year, much like the Reds did last year. If their rotation has a good solid year, they can score some runs, and perhaps sneak up on the top teams. I think this team is still a year or two away from sniffing the playoffs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they made a run this year.