MLB: 2015 National League Preview
LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2015 — This past winter was a busy one for many teams who finished near the bottom of the pack, such as the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres. Other teams near the top last year, such as the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers, parted ways with some big names in an effort to be better from a SABR viewpoint. Will these moves result in more victories and a longer postseason for any of these teams?
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers Improved defense up the middle, while losing some offense. They are giving up defense behind the plate with A.J. Ellis for offense with Yasmani Grandal most games. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should post huge years, if healthy, with the improved defense. The back of the rotation, however, has obvious durability issues with Hyun-jin Ryu starting the year on the DL and with the oft-injured Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson in the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
San Francisco Giants No more Panda at third. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner will be themselves, but will Matt Cain return to form after his injury? What will they get from Tim Lincecum? It’s an odd numbered year, so does it even matter? If they do get another Wild Card spot, it’s always hard to bet against Bochy.
San Diego Padres They made some huge moves, adding Matt Kemp, James Shields, Justin Upton, Wil Meyers, and Will Middlebrooks, yet they held on to their best prospects. Their outfield should be one of the worst defensively, while their infield will be one of the worst offensively. Injuries may very well be a factor with Matt Kemp. Should he stay healthy, they could give the Giants a run for second and a possible Wild Card berth. Should the injury monster come around, San Diego may very well find themselves finished in fourth place.
Arizona Diamondbacks Same ownership, but a new GM and manager. Exciting pitching prospect Archie Bradley has made the starting rotation. If Mark Trumbo can carry his hot spring over into the regular season, the Diamondbacks will have good sock in the middle of their order with Paul Goldshmidt. Yasmany Tomas will start the year in the minors after a subpar spring.
Colorado Rockies If Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Blackmon can repeat last year’s performances and even improve on them, and if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez stay healthy, and if they can get something, anything out of Justin Morneau, the Rockies might be able to put some runs on the board this year. Unfortunately, they do not have the pitching necessary to protect any leads they may get.
National League Central
Pittsburgh Pirates Should be a fun outfield to watch. Pedro Alvarez has moved to first, which should equate to better defense at third base from Josh Harrison. Alvarez was never comfortable there and should see his offensive numbers improve as a result. Pitching will be a question mark that may prevent them from moving further into the postseason, however.
St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wanwright will be a Cy Young contender, but they do not have another dominant pitcher to pair with him. At least with Jaime Garcia going to DL, Cardinal fans will get to see prospect Carlos Martinez. Is Jason Heyward the new offensive equivalent of James Loney? Just wondering.
Chicago Cubs Is this the year of the Cubs? No. While Theo Epstein started spending money and the Cubs should be more fun for fans to watch this year, they will play only 162 games.
Cincinnati Reds Where have you gone, Joey Votto? He is 31 and is a shell of the guy who hit 37 homers in 2010. Billy Hamilton will lead the league again in stolen bases. Jay Bruce should provide phenomenal power, but with a terrible batting average. It will be interesting to see what Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco do this year. Lack of pitching, other than Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman, will hurt the team more than anything Votto can’t do anymore.
Milwaukee Brewers Got off to a crazy fast start last year and had people believing in them. They will not be so lucky this year. Ryan Braun’s first full season that we know he probably was not on PEDs brought a .266 average and just 19 homeruns. Outside of Wily Peralta, their starting pitching will be lackluster and hovering in 4.50 ERA level.
National League East
Washington Nationals The Nats have the best rotation in baseball with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister. In addition to a rotation for the ages, 2015 will be the year of Bryce Harper. Look for him to break out and lead this offense. Ian Desmond will be another highlight on offense this year.
Miami Marlins They locked up the best hitter in the game in Giancarlo Stanton, but they did not stop there. The Marlins also added Mat Latos, Martin Prado, and Dee Gordon, and brought back Michael Morse. Jose Fernandez should rejoin the rotation at some point this season and could provide the spark needed to get them into the Wild Card game.
New York Mets Zack Wheeler’s injury was a huge blow to a team that was looking to make a splash in the NL East with the Braves being in rebuilding mode, but their rotation should be solid. Matt Harvey is back and is looking in spring just as dominant as he did prior to Tommy John surgery, if not more. The Mets finally have enough offense to not have to depend solely on David Wright, but if he were to show some signs of the old David Wright, the Mets could be in the Wild Card mix with the Marlins and Giants.
Atlanta Braves The Braves went into full rebuilding mode over the winter. Look for them to be contenders again once their new stadium is built. Julio Teheran will be fun to watch this year regardless of the team behind him.
Philadelphia Philllies The Phillies continue to show the effects of emptying the farm system to win now, well, then. They won the World Series in 2008, but have never recovered from it. After being burned with a series of big trades that have now handcuffed the organization, Ruben Amaro Jr. seems unwilling to swing any big deals that might bring in some high level prospects to kick start their rebuilding. Ryne Sandberg deserved a better managerial gig than this one.
Wild Cards: St. Louis and Miami
NLCS: Los Angeles vs. Washington
NL Champion: Washington
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin also writes for New Noise Magazine and plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer and Violent Self. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball