Spring training has begun, and with it comes preseason rankings from sports writers around the nation. Here are our predictions for the NL.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Top to bottom, the best team in baseball. A slightly restructured bullpen doesn’t detract from a ruthless starting rotation, closer and lineup of young stars that’s sure to form a dynasty for seasons to come. A World Series won’t keep eluding L.A. for long.
2. Washington Nationals
Nearly just as talented as the Dodgers, the Nationals finally addressed their bullpen woes to compliment an excellent starting staff and one of the deepest offenses in the game, now with a healthy Adam Eaton. With Bryce Harper and several other stars entering contract years, this might be their last chance.
3. Chicago Cubs
When a third consecutive NLCS appearance is considered a disappointment, you know a team has potential. However, the rest of the league has caught up. Acquiring Yu Darvish makes the rotation scary, but lingering bullpen questions and inconsistency in the lower half of the lineup might hurt the Cubs in the playoffs.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The most direct threat to L.A., a strong front end of the rotation matches a powerful offense that remains intimidating even after losing J.D. Martinez. Likely a Wild Card team due to an absolutely brutal division, but Arizona contains enough upside to match any team on this list.
5. St. Louis Cardinals
It’s hard to keep the Cardinals down for long, especially now that they finally feature a true middle of the order power threat in Marcell Ozuna. The rotation isn’t quite deep enough to match the Cubs, but St. Louis always finds a way to win, and this team appears to be no exception.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
Newcomers Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain improve Milwaukee’s offense to build upon a surprising 2017 season that nearly resulted in a playoff appearance. The pitching remains slightly unproven despite solid performances across the board, but acquiring a great starter from the remaining free agent pool could push them into the playoffs. Jake Arrieta, anyone?
7. Colorado Rockies
It’s practically guaranteed at this point that the Rockies will score a ton, and fortifying the bullpen with Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw means they’ll be securing a healthy percentage of leads. Starting pitching is, as always, Colorado’s question mark. The other NL contenders are good enough to make that flaw kryptonite.
8. New York Mets
Health is everything in determining whether or not the Mets return to relevancy or fade into obscurity as they did in 2017. A once fearsome rotation still holds great potential with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard leading the way, but the offense looks flat, especially if Yoenis Cespedes’ injury proves to be a lingering problem.
9. San Franciso Giants
The joke has been made before, but after acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, the Giants seem perfectly poised to win the 2013 World Series. An aging team past its dynasty days that can still come together for a respectable effort, but after last season’s trainwreck, it’s not likely.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
Don’t sleep on the Phillies. Enhancements to the middle of the order and bullpen supplement a rapidly improving young core. They’re a couple starters away from producing a solid season, and there’s plenty of free agent pitching remaining. Playing in an abysmal division only helps their breakout potential.
11. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta is making positive strides, but it’s still buying time until the extraordinary prospect pool is ready to advance. When they arrive, the Braves could become the next Astros. But it won’t happen this year.
12. Cincinnati Reds
See: Braves, Atlanta. Solid young players are starting to establish themselves, and the Reds have more valuable trade pieces to further expedite the rebuild. But again, contending this season is a pipe dream.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates
The end of an era. Trading away your best pitcher and team captain is a clear indication of a rebuild if I’ve ever seen one. Considering what division the Pirates play in, I don’t blame them.
14. San Diego Padres
Like the Reds and Braves, but far earlier in the stages of rebuilding. Signing Eric Hosmer to join Wil Myers gives them great team players to build around, at least.
15. Miami Marlins
I suppose they’re techinically still a team.