Predicting that this year's Atlanta Braves team will be in the playoffs or a contender probably isn't a very bold statement. But what if I told you I felt that they would be the best team in the National League this year?
Before Kris Medlen went down for the season with Tommy John surgery, this Braves team wasn't all that different from the team that won 97 games (Pythagorean). With improvements from young players like Andrelton Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward to go along with the always impressive bullpen and starting pitching, I still feel like this Braves team is stil a 90 win true talent team for 2014.
Here is how I see the rest of the NL playing out:
- Atlanta 93-69
- Washington 90-72
- New York 77-85
- Miami 72-90
- Philadelphia 71-91
The Nationals should bounce back with the addition of Doug Fister and an MVP type of season from Bryce Harper to claim the top Wild Card spot. Even though the Mets look pretty bad on paper, and will be hurting without Matt Harvey, they should be respectable and with Sandy Alderson in charge they are probably about 5 years away from the end of a major rebuild and perennial contention. The Marlins might shock everyone by not finishing in last place and get continual improvement from their young players. And the Phillies will be playing for a draft pick and have plenty of trade chips to build up their farm system in Ruben Amaro's last year as the GM.
- St. Louis 95-67
- Cincinnati 88-74
- Milwaukee 82-80
- Pittsburgh 80-82
- Chicago 75-87
This Cardinal team is going to be very good for a very long time with a seemingly endless supply of elite arms from the farm system, top notch hitting prospects who the team doesn't even have room for right now, and perhaps the best core in the tame of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta, and oh yeah, Adam Wainwright and Tevor Rosenthat. The Aroldis Chapman injury might hurt them early on, but the 1-2 punch of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to go along with possible CY Young Award winner Mat Latos and a solid pitching staff keeps the Reds contention window open a few more years. The addition of Matt Garza and the return of Mr. PED won't be enough for the Brewers this year, although they will be improved over last year finish over .500 for the last time in the foreseeable future. The Pirates will meet regression this year, but some luck, and awesome Rookie of the Year type of performance from Gregory Polanco to go along with a pitching staff that will only get better as the years pass could keep the team from falling below .500 this year. And the Cubs and their fans are content to bide their time until 2016 and 2017 when the organization and all of its elite prospects start to mold themselves into the best organization in baseball.
- Los Angeles 92-70
- Arizona 84-78
- San Francisco 78-84
- San Diego 78-84
- Colorado 75-87
The Dodgers should run away with the division with the team they have purchased and with the best pitcher in baseball on the staff, but with a couple of departures after the year, and an aging roster, could be the last time the run away with it for a while. The Diamondbacks will be the best team to not make the playoffs, but an Archie Bradley early arrival could propel them into the 2nd Wild Card spot. Tim Hudson and a half way decent Tim Lincecum could turn this Giants team into a contender, but the always big problem in SF of not enough offense will probably do them in. The Padres are a team with a wide range of outcomes who could surprise and be a contender, at the very least they are on the upswing and are a couple of years away from being a very good team. Its a shame that a team with two of the best all around players in the game in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can't get a contender for the city of Denver, and time is running out for those two to get back to wth World Series.
- MVP - Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
- Cy Young Award - Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds
- Rookie of the Year - Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Washington over Cincinnati in the Wild Card Game
- Washington over St. Louis in the NLDS
- Los Angeles over Atlanta in the NLDS
- Washington over Los Angeles for the NL Pennant
- Red Sox over the Nationals for their 2nd straight World Series Title
The Medlen injury probably isn't that huge of a difference, but the drop off between him as the number one starter and David Hale as the #5 could make the difference between being in the Wild Card game and winning the division
What is your range of expectations for this team and how far do you think they can go?