2018 Early NL Predictions

By popular demand it was suggested I write about my 2018 predictions.  It is only less than a month before pitchers and catchers report and there are still many moves left to be made in the off-season.  Eventually the snow will melt, temperatures will heat up, and it will be time for teams to take the field on March 29 of 2018.  Without further ado here are my 2018 NL predictions.

NL East:

Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins

The NL East is probably the weakest division in all of baseball.  That being said the Nationals have not gotten any worse and will cruise through the season in first place.  If Harper, Murphy, Turner, and Rendon all stay healthy they will be able to be a major offensive force in the NL.  They continue to have one of the best starting pitching staffs in all of baseball headlined by Scherzer and Strasburg.  They upgrade in centerfield by Adam Eaton returning from injury in 2017.  The Phillies are my surprise team in 2018.  The addition of Carlos Santana will provide consistency in the middle of the lineup.  I see an uptick in production from JP Crawford and Maikel Franco.  That being said, Hoskins will continue to be good, but nowhere near the torrid pace he was setting in 2017.  After signing Tommy Hunter the Phillies have strengthened their bullpen.  The only issue remains the starting rotation.  Aaron Nola needs to perform like a true ace and Vince Velasquez needs a big bounce-back year.  I also see Eikhoff exceeding projections in 2018.  He looked to be breaking out a couple seasons ago but struggled mightily last season.  Look for the Phillies to compete in 2018.  The Mets made a move by bringing back Jay Bruce, but they still will not be a force in the NL East.  Matt Harvey doesn’t have it anymore.  Syndergaard, Degrom, and Matz need to stay healthy and perform to expectation to have a chance to compete.  The Braves and Mets are both going to be in the basement of all of baseball.  The sanctions handed down to the Braves will not help and the Marlins are working on a rebuild.

 

NL Central:

Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Reds

The Cubs will win the division yet again.  They may have take a step backwards in 2017, but them performing “poorly” still resulted in them winning the division.  They are losing Arrieta and Lester is not the same pitcher as he was a couple seasons ago.  With signing Brandon Morrow, the Cubs now have a very good bullpen.  They arguably have the deepest bullpen in all of baseball.  I do not see how the Cubs have gotten any worse and so they will win the division yet again.  The Cardinals have gotten significantly better.  They now have a potent bat in the middle of the lineup in Marcel Ozuna.  They also arguably have the best starting pitching in the NL Central with Martinez, Wacha, and Weaver.  I see Weaver breaking out this year in a big way.  They will be in the running for the division title but ultimately receive a Wild Card spot.  The Brewers will finish 3rd in what is a very competitive division.  After a surprising season in 2017 I see them not moving up in 2018.  They will not have Jimmy Nelson for half of the season.  Hader will be a big contributor in 2018 after an impressive first look in 2017.  The outfield will be interesting as Phillips and Broxton will be looking for playing time in an outfield that already contains Braun, Santana, and Brinson.  I think Shaw and Thames will both be serviceable but not to the same production as 2017.  A lot of players over performed in 2017 leading to the surprising 2017 season.  Look for them to be a force in 2019.  The Pirates just sold Garrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and are looking to ship Josh Harrison as the off-season progresses.  The Reds are bad and will continue to be bad.  Hey on the bright side Cincinnati fan, you still have Joey Votto.

NL West:

Dodgers, D-backs, Rockies, Giants, Padres

This is pretty easy.  The Dodgers have not gotten any worse and will dominate the NL.  Kershaw will win the Cy Young award again, and Seager will compete for the NL MVP.  They will easily slide through the division.  The D-backs will be a force yet again.  Yes, they will be losing JD Martinez, but they still have Paul Golschmidt and AJ Pollock.  They will continue to have a top offense.  There is also no sign of Greinke and Robbie Ray slowing down.  That being said, Taijuan Walker will have a good season, and Patrick Corbin will bounce back.  Overall they have a lineup that will help them clinch the 2nd Wild Card spot.  The Rockies now have a super bullpen.  They have not lost much on the offensive end either.  They will still be a good team, but I do not see them making the playoffs.  They tried building around pitching once before and it didn’t work out.  They will need to have their young pitchers to exceed expectations in order for them to push into the playoffs.  The offense is dangerous, but the pitching will hold them back.  The bullpen only works if the starting pitchers can hand the game off to the relievers with the lead.  The Giants upgraded by acquiring the faces of two franchises, McCutchen and Longoria.  Longo and McCutchen are not the same players they were 5 seasons ago.  They do not have the firepower on offense needed to accumulate enough wins.  The pitching is good headlined by Bumgarner and Cueto.  Samardzija will need to keep up his 2017 season along with better bullpen production for the Giants to compete.  The Padres are in the Eric Hosmer sweepstakes but that will not get them to compete for a playoff spot.  They do not have any pitching. The best starting pitcher in 2017 was Clayton Richard with an ERA of 3.95. They will have a possible breakout player in Jose Pirella and still have a star in Will Myers.  I also see Manuel Margot have an above average season given he stays healthy.

 

Playoff Teams:

Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals (WC1), D-backs (WC2)

World Series Representative:

LA Dodgers

 

These are obviously very early predictions, but it is never too early to start thinking about baseball.  As moves continue to be made throughout the off-season, these predictions may be subject to change.

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