The 2016 MLB baseball season is set to start in about 24 hours and it feels like we’re buckling up for an exciting 6 month long roller coaster ride. Today we look at the Nationals League and there are about 9 teams in contention on the eve of Opening Day. That promises some exciting twists and turns as the 2016 season unfolds before our eyes.
In the NL East many baseball writers have already crowned the NY Mets as division champions on the back of their star studded rotation and 2015 World Series appearance. The Mets no doubt have one of the strongest (if not the strongest) rotations in baseball with the three headed monster of Matt Harvey, Jacob De Grom and Noah Syndergaard heading up the rotation. However, everyone seems to overlook their lack off offense, especially if David Wright struggles to stay healthy throughout. For this reason I prefer the Washington Nationals to take the honors in the NL East. Not only do they have a stellar rotation, but they have more offensive weapons than the Mets with guys like Harper, Rendon, Zimmerman and Werth. Lets not forget the Nationals were everyone’s favorite for World Series honors in 2015.
The Miami Marlins will be exciting to watch with their ace, Jose Fernandez back to health to add some spice to one of the best outfields in baseball, anchored by superstar Giancarlo Stanton. Unfortunately they don’t have enough to run the Nationals and the Mets close over the course of a long season.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves will dwell in the basement of the NL East as they’re in the middle of a rebuilding process. Both teams have plenty of exciting prospects to keep an eye during 2016. Both will want to avoid the embarrassment of losing a 100 games.
The rise of the Chicago Cubs has made the NL Central a three horse race between them and the St Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. It should be neck and neck throughout the season and the club with the most depth might prove to be the narrow winner in this division. Most people are favoring the Cubs to go all the way and win it all this season. Could 2016 be the year the Cubs break their curse? They certainly look well set to finally go all the way with the additions of Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist. The Cardinals are the most successful club in terms of regular season wins over the the last three years, but they enter this season with more uncertainty than ever before. Jason Heyward and John Lackey left for the rival Cubs and the Cardinals have decided to rely on some of their youth this season as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk have been coming through the ranks. The Cardinals have their ace, Adam Wainwright, back for the 2016 season too and they’ve added Mike Leake to replace Lackey in the rotation. The Cardinals always find a way to win and its difficult to bet against them. The Pirates will no doubt be in the mix given their impressive record over the last three seasons. A third place finish looks most likely considering how strong the Cubs look.
The Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds are both rebuilding and will struggle this season. The Reds have what looks to be an exciting young rotation. If the youngsters find their feet early the Reds may have a decent run early on, but expect them to fizzle out as the season progresses.
The NL West may also turn into a three horse race this season with the Arizona Diamondbacks making a massive splash this offseason with the signing of their new ace, Zack Greinke. They’ve also added pitcher, Shelby Miller to their rotation which now looks pretty handy. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks appear to have lost their star outfielder, AJ Pollock for a long period with an elbow fracture. That will no doubt be a massive blow to their chances of competing with the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers have some injury problems coming into the season, especially with their rotation. Suddenly the Dodgers rotation, a strength before, looks very susceptible. The Giants will be smelling blood and will be feeling pretty good about their chances to take the division title. They’ve added Cueto and Samrdjiza to their rotation, and whilst they have struggled in Spring training, they will bring valuable experience to the Giants rotation. I’m backing the Giants for the NLWest title (its and even year after all) as they have a balanced team with a solid rotation and offense.
The Colorado Rockies are a strange club. They seem to be in limbo at the moment as they’re not quite in rebuild mode or the win now mode. This can only mean yet another mediocre season for the Rockies. The San Diego Padres will also struggle as they reset after recent trades didn’t work out for them.
To summarize then, the NL has about eight, maybe nine if you include the Marlins, ball clubs that look like competing for five playoff spots. I predict that the Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers will make the playoffs. This may be slightly controversial as I don’t have the Mets and/or the Pirates to make the playoffs.
I have the Nationals defeating the Cubs in the NLCS.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard