This is part two of my MLB preview, if you missed the AL predictions you can see that here.
Asterisk indicates wildcard prediction.
This was the toughest pick to make. I spent a long time trying to decide between the Mets and Nationals and eventually went with the Nats. Dusty Baker is a perfect fit here after micromanager Matt Williams left. This team was so disappointing last year but many of the reasons for that are bounce-back candidates. Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos will both likely have better seasons, and Daniel Murphy and most of all Ben Revere will help out the team a lot.
New York Mets*
Regardless of my second place projection, this is a dangerous team. Obviously the biggest reason for that is the rotation. It's hard to see them getting swept too often considering Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard will pitch in every series if they're all healthy. Outside of the playoffs Daniel Murphy was pretty mediocre last year, so replacing him with Neil Walker will help the offense. It's really tough for me to pick these guys to finish in second; it's going to be a dogfight down the stretch against the Nationals.
This is a pretty interesting team. Giancarlo Stanton, Macell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich comprise one of the top young outfields in the game, and Dee Gordon became one of the best second basemen last year. The X factor for Miami is Jose Fernandez. If he can put out a full season's worth of production the Marlins will contend. If not, it will be another long season for the Fish.
This is a rebuilding year for the Braves, rebuilding for a future that will come much quicker after the pillaging they pulled off on the Diamondbacks to get Dansby Swanson among others for Shelby Miller. Right now obviously the roster isn't anywhere near the playoffs, but it is underrated. The lineup in particular is better than they appear with a top four of Inciarte-Aybar-Markakis-Freeman.
The Phillies only have one big contract left in Ryan Howard. After that they'll be all set to rebuild without any distractions. This year, Maikel Franco will be the only bright spot on a very untalented team.
I wrote a column about why the Pirates will win the Central in January. That explains it better than I could in one paragraph.
On paper, this is the best team in baseball, no doubt. But, I'm a little skeptical for a few reasons. The first is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta will be good in 2016, but it's just unrealistic to expect him to perform at the superhuman level he was operating on last year. In the second half, he posted a 0.75 ERA, and opposing hitters hit just .148/.204/.205 off of him. Arrieta's a great pitcher but to consistently pitch that well is impossible. The other reason is that they're the Cubs. There's 108 years of baggage on the franchise, they disappoint every year. Why have we forgotten this?
St. Louis Cardinals
I have a feeling I'm going to regret this prediction just because the Cardinals have a history of making the playoffs even when appearing to be declining. However, it's a little risky to take a team to win the division just of reputation. I just don't trust this team. Yadier Molina's been slowing down for the past few years, Father Time will eventually catch up to Matt Holliday, and I'm just not sure anyone will step up.
There is nothing remotely interesting about the Brewers. Ryan Braun will have a decent year. Jonathan Lucroy is their best player, but could be traded. That's all.
Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto will be enough of a reason to keep an eye on the Reds, but there isn't much else there. Brandon Phillips isn't the same player as he was a few years ago, batting a respectable but not fantastic .294/.328/.395. He and Jay Bruce are both likely getting traded midseason this year.
San Francisco Giants
Between a terrific offseason and the Dodgers becoming just weak enough, I like the Giants in the West. They play in a graveyard of a ballpark, ideal for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to have bounce-back years in, and Denard Span will slide seamlessly into the outfield to replace Nori Aoki. Even without considering the moves they made, this is just a very professional, well-run club. Led by Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, the Giants will go roaring back into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The fact that I don't have the Dodgers making the playoffs is a testament to how tough the NL is this year. The Giants' improvement and the Dodgers losing Greinke was just enough to tilt the West in favor of San Francisco. Corey Seager's a stud, and Kershaw's still the best pitcher in the game, but they have too many players on the decline with Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and possibly even Yasiel Puig.
Well that was... eventful. Arizona had one of the best moves of the offseason, locking up Zack Greinke for only six years, as opposed to the eight David Price got from Boston, and the worst move, trading Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller. Miller is a very young, talented pitcher who will be a solid number two for Greinke, but Swanson is a former number one overall pick, a 22-year-old shortstop with superstar potential, and Inciarte is an underrated outfielder, batting .303/.338/.408 with 21 stolen bases last year. Paul Goldschmidt is an MVP candidate but the D-Backs just don't have enough to compete in a tough NL, especially after A.J. Pollock's injury.
San Diego Padres
A wild offseason going into the 2015 reminded baseball fans everywhere that the Padres existed. After the disappointment of going 74-88, along with James Shields and Matt Kemp having underwhelming seasons the Friars are right back to where they were before: largely unknown and slightly below average.
There are three reasons to watch the Rockies this year: Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and seeing what they get for Carlos Gonzalez. Other than that I don't know what you're doing.
MVP: Bryce Harper
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Yeah, those are the two easiest answers, but there's a pretty good reason for that. You could talk me into Paul Goldschmidt for MVP, but voters tend to be swayed by winning. Outside of that, these are the two best players in the NL, no need to overthink this.
Rookie of the Year: Steven Matz
This race will come down between Matz and Corey Seager. I think Matz is a slightly safer choice than Seager, as he's a little older and we got a better look at Matz late last year