Sunday, March 18, 2018

National League 2018 preview

Reversing the order this year, as we'll take a look at the "senior circuit" first.

NL East:

Washington is, again, the team to beat, largely due to starting pitching, particularly Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. However, the Nationals have taken some hits on offense. Jayson Werth is a free agent still on the market as of this writing, and they realistically can't entirely build the offense around Bryce Harper, who will be a free agent after the season. You know what that means, of course. Harper's pet leech, Scott Boras, will look to again fleece teams to get big bucks. Harper has to produce to justify the need. Philadelphia found their successor to Ryan Howard by getting Carlos Santana from Cleveland as a free agent. They still need a few extra parts. So does Miami, which jettisoned their entire starting outfield from last year, but queasy fans blamed it on Derek Jeter, the face of the new ownership group. I'm not convinced Jeter was the one who pulled the trigger on deals that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, or Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis. Converting infielder Derek Dietrich into an outfielder will not help. Atlanta could be a sleeper, since they kept most of their team intact from last year, losing only pitcher R. A. Dickey and infielder Jace Peterson, the latter going to the Yankees. They just need to reload the pitching to back up Julio Teheran. We already talked about the Mets.

Projected order of finish:

1. Washington.
2. Philadelphia.
3. Mets.
4. Atlanta.
5. Miami.

NL Central:

It is, without question, one of the more competitive divisions in the majors, as you basically will have four teams battling for two or three playoff spots.

However, Pittsburgh management decided to be stupid and let Andrew McCutcheon chase the money (San Francisco). St. Louis got Ozuna (see above), and let Stephen Piscotty go (Oakland). They could've gotten Matt Adams back after Atlanta let him go, but Washington bagged him instead. As noted Milwaukee picked up Christian Yelich from Miami, but also welcomed back former draft pick Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City) to retool their outfield, preparing for the inevitable retirement of Ryan Braun. Chicago will look to repeat as division champion and get back to the World Series. The division is theirs to lose. Cincinnati still needs a couple of extra parts.

Projected order of finish:

1. Chicago.
2. Milwaukee.
3. St. Louis.
4. Pittsburgh.
5. Cincinnati.

NL West:

Speaking of competitive divisions, the West shapes up the same way as the Central. Four teams, really, are contenders, and then, you have San Diego, which wishes Dial-a-Prayer was still around. Los Angeles will look to make it three division titles in a row under Dave Roberts. Arizona and Colorado can't risk another late season fade-out and must avoid injuries to key players, though in the case of the Rockies, the pitching needs to be consistent home and away due to the differing, divergent conditions. Getting Andrew McCutcheon isn't going to guarantee that San Francisco will return to the playoffs. However, it is an even year, and if they can get past the Cubs & Dodgers.......

Projected order of finish:

1. Los Angeles.
2. San Francisco.
3. Arizona.
3. (tie) Colorado.
5. San Diego.

Of course, I could be wrong.

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