Now that spring training is officially underway in both Arizona and Florida, let’s take a quick look around the National League to check in on the state of affairs and make some early projections. Part two will be posted next week previewing the American League. This is in no way exhaustive, but it is an overview. A more in-depth and up-to-date preview for both leagues will be written closer to the beginning of the regular season.
The bottom feeders: I would expect the national league to be more competitive this year top to bottom than in recent seasons. I would not, however, expect to see much improvement from teams like the Pirates or Marlins, and I expect the Diamondbacks to regress drastically. These teams are too early into their rebuilding to be competitive at this point.
The Mediocre: There are a lot of teams in this category that could either severely underperform or exceed expectations, but for sake of time, I think the Giants, Padres, Phillies, Reds, and Rockies probably fall into this category. One team to keep your eye on in this group is the Reds. It’s very difficult to go from a losing season to contending for a playoff spot, but they probably have the talent with newly acquired players along with their rising prospects; however, they have the disadvantage of playing in arguably the deepest division in baseball. I expect the Reds to make major strides but still fall short of a playoff spot.
The Contenders: As I said before, the NL has improved greatly this offseason and I think will be the deeper league. There are too many teams to list here that could contend for a playoff spot, but I do think there will be a three-team race for the central division. The NL East will also be very competitive with the Mets pushing Atlanta and Washington for the division. New York has too much talent not to be competitive, and I believe the Nationals take a step back from the magic that they brought in 2019 but are still right there at the end of the season.
The Elite: The Dodgers. You combine the talent they already had, the talent they acquired, the resources, the coaching staff, the weak division they play in, put it all together and you have a team that will breeze through the regular season and finish with the league’s best record. I’m not sure there’s ever been a safer bet than LA winning their division. That being said, I think the Cubs return to form this year and take their division with a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. Atlanta also looks to be scary again with their mixture of youth and experience along with pure talent, but pitching will again be their Achilles heel, and they will struggle to make a deep playoff run.
My Picks for playoff spots and NL champion
NL East: Atlanta Braves
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: LA Dodgers (obviously)
NL Wildcard spot #1: Milwaukee Brewers
NL Wildcard Spot #2: Washington Nationals
NLCS: The Cubs will edge out LA in the NLCS to represent the National League in the Fall Classic.
Part two will be posted next week covering the American League.