2017 MLB National League Preview
NL East: Winner: Washington Nationals
The biggest difference in teams in the National League East is the bats. While both the Mets and Nationals have dominant arms in the starting rotation, the Nationals role out a lineup with veteran presence and young power. Bryce Harper obviously leads the way trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 season. The pitching staff is headed by Max Scherzer, and is extremely deep with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark all All-star caliber starters. The big question mark surrounding this club is the bullpen.
It’s a different year, but the same story for the New York Mets. While on paper the names did seem to improve, the offense may not be able to get the job done. Yoenis Cespedes is going to need protection from Jay Bruce. If healthy, the pitching staff could be the best in the bigs, however, last season their most consistent starter was 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, who is now gone to the Atlanta Braves. This team will be dangerous if they make the playoffs because of this pitching staff.
The Miami Marlins have a lot of talent on their roster, but will struggle with the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez both on and off the field. Dee Gordon is an electric leadoff hitter and Giancarlo Stanton is the most powerful man in baseball, but it is hard to see this team overcoming the shortages on the pitching staff left by Fernandez.
The battle for the cellar in the East could be an interesting one to watch. The Braves were historically bad last year, but they could see some improvements in 2017. Dansby Swanson at shortstop could blossom into an elite player. Too make matters even better, the Braves now have the 43-year-old sensation Bartolo Colon, who appears to get better with each pound he gains.
Last in this division will be the lowly Phillies. They are smart to go into full rebuilding mode now. It is too bad that they hung onto some players for as long as they did, but now it’s time to build around Maikel Franco for future. The season could be disappointing to fans because of the lack of wins, but if they are patient, the wins will come.
NL Central: Winner: Cubs
The reigning World Series Champions only lost one impact player from their roster in leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, but have plenty of talent coming in to replace him with Kyle Schwarber returning from injury, with a starting pitching staff that is four pitchers deep and returning an experienced bullpen. They have the most complete lineup in the Major Leagues and there is not one weakness on the roster.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will be runners up in the Central. Starlin Marte should have a breakout year and his name might be thrown into the MVP conversation. McCutchen should rebound and Gregory Polonco will round out the best outfield in baseball. Unfortunately, Gerrit Cole is not a true ace and the Pirates need other pitchers to step up if they wish to compete for a playoff spot.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the most successful franchises in recent memory, but it could be a down year. They have potential with outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, but they need to take the next step in their development. Everything will hinge on the pitching consistency in the starting rotation. Mike Matheny may be on the hot seat at the end of this season.
The Cincinnati Reds will finish fourth in the division only because of how bad the Brewers are. Joey Votto is no longer the MVP of old, but he is still a solid player. The rest of the team is underwhelming. Expect Great American Ball Park to have plenty of open seats come August.
Last is the Milwaukee Brewers, who really have no players left besides Ryan Braun. Ever since he admitted to taking steroids, their team has really fell. Braun may still hot 30 homeruns, but the Brewers won’t win many games.
NL West: Winner: Giants
I know it’s an odd year, but the Giants are much improved from last year. Madison Bumbgardner is an absolute horse at the front of the rotation and Johnny Cueto has all sorts of funky releases, and adding Mark Melancon may be the most underrated move of the offseason. The position players are also strong, led by Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. This team will be battled by the Dodgers in the West, but still come out on top.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best pitcher in baseball and an absolute stud at shortstop. Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager are the backbone of this team. It will be very interesting to see if inconsistent outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson can improve offensively. If they do, the Dodgers could compete for the National League pennant.
After the top two teams there is quite the drop off in the NL west. The Colorado Rockies should finish third behind another strong year from the bats, but lackluster pitching. Nolan Arendao and Carlos Gonzalez will lead the way and DJ LeMahieu could be an interesting player to watch as he has grown into a solid player, but there simply isn’t enough pitching on the roster.
After a huge spending spree last offseason, the Diamondbacks were disappointing in 2016. Zach Greinke underperformed and Paul Goldschmidt was not quite himself. It is doubtful they compete this year at all and are likely to trade Greinke.
Last in the division will be the San Diego Padres. Wil Myers is great, but he cannot do it all by himself. As a young superstar, the Padres can at least be optimistic that they have a player to build around.
MVP: Anthony Rizzo
Cy Young: Jacob DeGrom
NL Champ: Cubs
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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