Monday, 6 April 2015

Entertainment Monday: Jon Bear's 2015 Major League Baseball Preview Part I - National League (Monday 4/6/2015)

The beginning of each April brings the start of Major League Baseball season here in the United States.  I am a baseball fanatic the way most of the world are Soccer as we American Folk call it (or Football) fans.  So I thought I might share my predictions for the upcoming baseball season with our readers.  Hopefully there are a few of you out there who enjoy baseball and might either feel passionately enough to agree or disagree with my selections.  If so, speak up!  Let your voice be heard and tell me what a wonderful job I did or how I am entirely underestimating your team this year.

This is the first part of a 3 part preview for the 2015 season.  This Monday we cover the National League.  Two Monday's from now I will discuss the American League Divisions and a month from now I will give my Playoff Predictions.  I know that I'll have been given a bit of time to feel the teams out by then, but it's a loooonggg season, as baseball fans know, so I already have my predictions in mind and do not intend to change them because of a slow or hot start. 

Before I proceed with the National League Division prognostication, I must confess my New York Mets bias for anyone who is not familiar with where Jon Bear's allegiances lie.  I can not wholly eliminate my bias when I make my selections, even though I try to be as fair and objective as possible.  So here goes

National League Eastern Division:

1st Place: Washington Nationals
2nd Place: New York Mets 
3rd Place: Miami Marlins
4th Place: Philadelphia Phillies
5th Place: Atlanta Braves

N.L. East Review: The Nationals are almost everyone's favorite to win the World Series this year and it's hard to argue against the depth of talent they have, especially on the mound where from one to five the Nats may have the best starting pitching staff in baseball since the early 1990 Atlanta Brave's staffs that had 3 Hall of Fame pitchers at the top of the rotation.  The Mets pitchers may ultimately be just a notch below the Nationals starters in talent.  Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom can match up favorably with any top two starters around baseball.  With Rafael Montero, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard waiting in triple A the Mets may have the most starting pitching depth in baseball, even with the loss of Zach Wheeler for the 2015 season.  The Marlins also have a load of young talent and if they realize their potential a year early, they could make the N.L. East a tighter race for both the Mets and the Nationals.  I don't think it's a "given" that the Nats run away with the division this year.  The Marlins may have the best young outfield in baseball (competing with the Pirates for that title IMO).  There starting pitching is also a strength.  If they can hang in the division race until they get staff ace Jose Fernandez back from Tommy John surgery then they have as good a shot as anyone to be a surprise entry into the playoffs.  Let's face it.  The Phillies and Braves outside of an unforeseen miracle will be the N.L. East bottom feeders this year and in likelihood two of the worst teams in baseball.  The Braves have sold off half their team to the San Diego Padres.  They still have a young and talented pitching staff and a solid defense but virtually no offense after Freddie Fitzsimmons.  The Phillies have talked about selling off all their aging talent, but unlike the Braves, they've sat on their thumbs and don't seem willing to move their veterans without getting a King's ransom in return.  I think the Phillies have just enough hitting to edge the Braves in what may end up being a battle for the N.L.'s worst teams

National League Central Division:

1st Place: Pittsburgh Pirates
2nd Place: St. Louis Cardinals
3rd Place: Chicago Cubs
4th Place: Cincinnati Reds
5th Place: Milwaukee Brewers

N.L. Central Review:  The Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial October no shows until the past two years are finally primed and ready to take the next step.  There are still some questions about the effectiveness of the starting staff and how they'll hold up, but Offensively the Pirates, led by Andrew McCutchen have the talent to take the top seed in the division that may be most up for grabs in the National League.  The St. Louis Cardinals always find a way to win enough to be competitive and once they get to the playoffs they are one of the toughest outs given their post season experience.  They'll push the Pirates if they get more from the dismal offense of last year.  The addition of Jason Heyward from the Braves should help.  The Cards still probably have the best starting staff in the Central Division.  The Cubs are a popular pick to make the post season and possibly even compete for a World Series title this year.  I think while the team has a World of talent in Kris Bryant and Addison Russell waiting to take the Majors by storm, the pitching staff is not deep enough and the roster not yet experienced enough to make a playoff push.  Lots of times people get ahead of themselves when they see a young team on the rise.  Next year is a lot more plausible for those who wish to predict that the Cubs will end their century plus long World Series Title drought.  The Reds are an aging and injured team that many predict will fall apart and have a dreadful season.  I think they will be respectable in 2015.  Joey Votto and Jay Bruce despite their injuries and decreased performance are too talented to bet against if healthy.  Johnny Cueto (so long as he remains with the Reds) remains one of the top pitchers in baseball.  I think the Brewers struggle this year and take up the rear in the N.L. Central.  They do not have the superstar caliber player who can carry the team since Ryan Braun got off the steroids.  The pitching staff has a lot of midlevel talent too.  There is probably no team in the league that I see with more "meh" type players on the roster. Sorry Brew Crew. 

National League Western Division:

1st Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
2nd Place: San Diego Padres
3rd Place: San Francisco Giants
4th Place: Colorado Rockies
5th Place: Arizona Diamondbacks

N.L. West Review: The L.A. Dodgers came on strong last year after a disappointing start to the season, only to fizzle in the playoffs and fall short of their lofty expectations.  I think that outside of the Nationals, the Dodgers have the best starting staff in all of Baseball.  There is enough offensive talent and veteran leadership mixed with young offensive talent to get the Dodgers another division crown in 2015.  Yasiel Puig will be an interesting study throughout the season.  Has he finally matured enough to give 100 percent effort everyday?  I think he has.  I expect big things from him and the Dodgers this year.  The San Diego Padres are another popular pick to win the N.L. West.  There is no doubt that no team has done more to improve their position over the offseason then the Atlanta Braves.... ummm... I mean San Diego Padres (who traded for a good portion of the Braves team this past offseason it seems).  Craig Kimbrel may end up being the biggest coupe.  There are too many moving parts in San Diego for me to pick them for a Division title.  I do believe the Pads will be right in the mix for an N.L. wild card bid come September.  The Defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants can be summarily dismissed seeing as it is an odd numbered year and we now know that the Giants win the World Series in every even numbered year (with World Titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014).  *Sorry Cubs fans, we're pushing your next chance at a title back to 2017 now it seems. >.<  Outside of Madison Bumgarner the Giants will not have enough pitching to win the division and outside of Buster Posey they will not have enough hitting.  It's hard to count them entirely out of the mix though and they should remain competitive in 2015.  The Colorado Rockies have to decide if they want to keep or trade oft injured superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  If the team is struggling near the trade deadline, as I anticipate they will be, and if Tulo and Car Gone are able to stay on the field, then the Rockies may be smart to create a bidding war and acquire young talent that will serve the organization better in the years to come by moving their superstars.  The Diamondbacks have some talent on the Offensive side of the ball and Paul Goldschmidt may be the most underrated young star ballplayer in Baseball in my opinion.  The pitching staff has a long way to go though and while there are some young and capable players in the infield, the big question mark of  the Yosmani Tomas acquisition will  loom over the organization as a black cloud.  One of these Cuban defectors has to fail, right?  I think Tomas might be the one. 

That concludes the N.L. preview.  American League Preview to come in 2 weeks! =)


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