2015 Prediction Time – National League

NL EAST

1. Nationals
The running favorite to finally get to October. But the Nats need a good bullpen, because their starters don’t complete games. They’ll lean heavily on Cy Young contender Drew Storen again, but they’ll need other relievers to close out games if they want to go all the way.
2. Mets
While their offense and mid-field defense is not their strength, nor their bullpen, The Mets have one of the strongest starting pitchers in baseball. There’s more expected of this team this year versus prior years, so we shall see how the younger up-and-comers respond to the pressure. 
 
3. Marlins
Strong starting pitching made this tough to predict at number three. When Jose Fernandez returns from TJ surgery, it’ll be even stronger. Don’t count this Florida squad out – some of the new players like Mike Morse, Marting Prado, and Dee Gordon could bring the Marlins up from also-ran status.

4. Phillies
I know there have been calls to trade away the entire team, but it hasn’t been long since the Phils have seen post-season. Sure Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon could attract some younger talent in a trade, but they along with Chase Utley are still the foundation. Then again, maybe the do need a shakeup.
5. Braves
Just plain bad. Like all teams, there’s talk of hope and a new day, but that’ll go away in a hurry once the bleeding starts. The Braves’ pitching is pretty decent, but other than Freddie Freeman, their bats are pretty weak. Could be a long summer for the Atlanta squad.

NL CENTRAL

1. Pirates
Time will tell if losing Russell Martin was a big deal, but the Pirates think that defensively, Francisco Cervelli is an apt replacement. Overall the Pittsburgh team has improved, and I expect a strong playoff run in September.
2. Cardinals
The Cardinals’ offense needs some juice, and all eyes are on Jason Heyward to rally around. Some of their youth – Kolten Wong, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams – are on the rise, and once again the Cards have playoff potential.
3. Cubs
The Cubs have been making slow improvements after cellar-dwelling for years. They can’t wait to have a player of the caliber of Kris Bryant back. The Cubs are young, and therefore unpredictable, and the jury it out but I expect a rise of this Chicago team.
4. Reds
Some predictions have the Cincie team in the top 5 in the NL. Not so fast. The rumors of a sale of the team mid-season will play more into their collective consciousness than most expect. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto need to get healthy, and if they do, they could carry through the end of the season okay.
5. Brewers
What happened to this team? World Series, followed by epic collapse? The dive continues – at least until their patch up their pitching.

NL WEST

1. Dodgers
With Hyun-Jin Ryu already down, the Blue need to hope for no further injuries to the rotation. Thankfully they’re in a weak division, but their bullpen is suspect as well.
2. Padres
If you’ve read this far, you already know that I’m a huge fan of strong pitching staffs. The Padres are one of the best in the business this year, and when you add the additions to their powerful offense, this could be the team to watch in the National League.
3. Giants
When mild-mannered manager Bruce Bochy gets upset at the horrible Spring training performance, one can only wonder where this team is headed. Maybe he wanted a spark, but with a milquetoast offense and a pitching staff led by blase’ Madison Baumgarner, these Giants will be dwarves by July.
 
4. Diamondbacks. 
Okay, okay, I’m a homer for my Arizona team. Full disclosure. However, I’m aware that their rotation is in suspect, but I do like the swap of Trevor Cahill for Archie Bradley. Once Bronson Arroyo and Patrick Corbin come back, the D’s could be firing on all cylinders once again. And the infield could be stronger than ever with Chris Ownings now at second base and Nick Ahmed over to shortstop. Not to get my hopes up, but changes like this make me believe (pray?) that my Diamondbacks are finally on their way back.
5. Rockies
I usually don’t pin a season on any one player, let alone two, but just like previous seasons, if CarGo and Tulo are healthy, then we could see a lot of runs from the Rockies this year. If not, they’re still great trade bait.
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Apologies for the late post – lots of things going on lately. If you haven’t gotten out to a ball park yet, what are you waiting for?