Taylor Hoysradt, Copy Editor
In 2014, the National League stood tall as the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championships in five years. This season the NL will be home to a couple of World Series favorites and some surprising young teams that are on the upswing.
1) National League East:
The National League East is arguably the weakest division of the three, but the Washington Nationals look like the preseason World Series favorite. “The Natty’s” as a team have no glaring weakness, with their phenomenal pitching staff leading the way. The team signed Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million deal to become the ace of a staff that already includes Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. Bryce Harper, who is looking to have a career year to live up to his “superstar” label, will lead the offense. The Nationals are not the most seasoned team when compared to the St. Louis Cardinals or the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they are an electric group of young talent that will make waves this season.
The Miami Marlins and New York Mets are hoping to defy predictions and shock the Nationals, but it will be an uphill battle, as both rosters don’t have the firepower like Washington. The Marlins signed super slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year mega deal and Gotham’s Dark Knight Matt Harvey is returning to the Mets after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery. These two players will need to put their teams on their backs in order to take to the throne.
Winner: Washington Nationals
2) National League Central:
The National League Central has been dominated by the St. Louis Cardinals since it was created in 1994, and there is no sign of that changing. “The Cards” are a playoff lock almost every season and always field a complete, experienced roster, albeit with a few weaknesses. Adam Wainwright will once again anchor the pitching staff with young gun Michael Wacha slotted as the number two starter. Yadier Molina will lead the offense with support from Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter and new addition Jason Heyward.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will look to give St. Louis trouble with their annual MVP candidate, Andrew McCutchen, leading the charge and the Cincinnati Reds are in the mix every year. Perhaps the most interesting team in this division is the Chicago Cubs. Chicago will field its most impressive roster since 2007 after signing starting pitcher Jon Lester this offseason and with Anthony Rizzo becoming the face of the offense, the Cubbies have a shot to get out of the cellar.
Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
3) National League West:
No one expected the San Francisco Giants to make their World Series run last season, especially in the crowded NL West. This season, San Francisco will have a tough time hanging around as they laid an egg this offseason by losing Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse. The pitching staff also has major question marks with the exception of Madison Bumgarner. You can never count out a defending champ, but the Giants will miss out on the dance this year.
One team that will leapfrog San Francisco in 2015 is the San Diego Padres. The Padres made move after move this offseason in an effort to catch up to the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. San Diego signed starting pitcher James Shields, who looks to be the ace of the pitching staff, and they recently traded for the always-consistent closer Craig Kimbrel. The Padres also sport an impressive young lineup featuring former MVP candidate Matt Kemp, 2014 AL Rookie of the Year Will Myers and slugger Justin Upton. However, this division is the Dodgers’ to lose. Los Angeles is one of the more complete teams in baseball, led by almost annual CY Young award winner Clayton Kershaw and budding superstar Yasiel Puig. The Padres may be the sexier pick right now, but the Dodgers have walked this walk before.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card: San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates
This season will be an exciting ride in the National League full of surprises and superstars, so sit back and enjoy the fun because baseball is back.