Continuing the MLB preview with the National League. Just in case you missed it, I started to preview the MLB yesterday with the AL.
On paper, this is the most talented team in the league. Their only big loss this offseason was Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman should be able to fill his shoes. Between Scherzer, Zimmerman, Strasburg and Fister I just can't see anyone winning four out of seven games against them. Barring an A's like offensive collapse, they're the team to beat.
I've made fun of the Marlins multiple times in the last year, but I was really impressed by their offseason. Just because Dee Gordon wasn't as good in the second half of last year as he was in the first, people seemed to assume he was terrible and just got lucky in the first half. Umm, he hit .284. While his .300 on base percentage isn't good, his base running adds an aspect to his game few other players have and he's only 26. I just don't think they'll have the pitching to make the playoffs; until Fernandez comes back in June, Henderson Alvarez will be the only pitcher in the rotation who had an ERA under 3.80 last year.
New York Mets
If a few position players have surprise years, they have enough pitching to potentially make it interesting. Zack Wheeler missing the season will be tough, but between Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom and a possible Dillon Gee step forward this is an underrated pitching staff.
John Hart had a good offseason in his first year as GM. He downgraded their offense quite a bit, and there's no doubt between losing Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis they'll struggle to score runs, but they now have a sneaky good starting rotation after acquiring Shelby Miller in the Heyward deal. For now though, they're just playing the waiting game until enough prospects are ready to help them contend.
Welcome to the most dysfunctional team in the league. Ruben Amaro's such a moron I'm not even surprised he isn't trading Cole Hamels. The rest of the roster's going to be a train wreck. Unless you're a fan, the only reason to follow this team would be to scout potential trade targets or chuckle every time the TV shows Amaro watching the game.
St. Louis Cardinals
I'm out of things to say about the Cards. They develop their players, their fans think they're gods, they think they're sacred guardians of the game, between Mike Matheny and Tony La Russa they haven't had a manager smile since 1995 and they're only this annoying because they're so good.
Obviously you don't need to worry about McCutchen, he'll have his usual great year. Josh Harrison's high BABIP (.353) slightly concerns me, but he also posted a career high in line drive percentage so that explains a lot of it. His 4% walk percentage was also a career high, aiding in on base percentage. The X factor for the Bucs will be Gerrit Cole. If he takes a step forward he'll replace Edinson Volquez as the number one starter.
The sure things on the north side are Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, and Starlin Castro. As for anyone else your guess is as good as mine. That's what makes this team so interesting. They could get no development and have a miserable season, or Soler, Baez and Bryant could come up, mash and bring them into the playoffs as a three headed Yasiel Puig-like monster. While we're on the subject of Bryant, here are my thoughts on sending him down: It reminds me a lot of tanking in basketball, it's stupid, and it makes organizations look bad, but ultimately it's a broken system which incentivizes it. Unlike tanking, there's no clear way of stopping it. .
After last year's choke job that would have gotten more attention if the A's hadn't overshadowed it, the Brewers didn't do enough to stay afloat in an increasingly tough central. They don't have any glaring weaknesses, but they don't have enough to be contenders either.
Here we have the "looks better on paper all stars". The Votto-Phillips-Bruce core is on the downfall, or already at the bottom in Bruce's case, and I don't think Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier will be able to pick up the slack.
Los Angeles Dodgers
For a team that usually spends money like it's going out of style in the offseason the Dodgers made some really shrewd moves, most notably letting Hanley Ramirez go and replacing him with Jimmy Rollins. Even if he doesn't match Hanley's offensive production, he's light years ahead of him fielding-wise and is more durable. I also liked the Howie Kendrick trade, he's been flying under the radar for the last five years and he never gets any attention.
San Francisco Giants
The champs didn't make any major moves this offseason, Buster Posey is still the best catcher in the league*, Madison Baumgarner still isn't human, that's about all you need to know.
*Fight me Yadier Molina fans.
San Diego Padres
Yesterday in the Blue Jays section, I mentioned that the team that makes the biggest splash tends to disappoint. That's more evident with the Friars than anywhere else. Along with revamping their offense, they have an underrated pitching staff, although trading Jesse Hahn for Derek Norris was a sneaky bad (or sneaky good from the A's perspective) move. Their outfield defense is going to be painful, especially in the graveyard of a field they call Petco Park. Much like the Red Sox, they'll be fun to watch, but ultimately disappoint.
Last August, I laid out the groundwork for the Rockies to contend. In a nutshell, it was blow everything up, trade Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Morneau for pitching prospects, keep Nolan Arenado and possibly Charlie Blackmon because they're young and figure into the future plans. Concentrate on pitching and fielding, when you play in Denver the offense will eventually come.
Having Patrick Corbin back will be a big boost to the D-Backs. I have nothing else to say.
MVP: Andrew McCutchen
You won't find a bigger Cutch fan than me. As disappointing as it was for him to cut his dreads, he's still only 28 and has plenty of good years left.
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
It's his to lose until someone else takes it away in my mind.
That's it. I suck at coming up with conclusions to these so I'll just ramble on as long as possible until it feels right to stop. Ok, that's good.