With the 2018 regular season finally upon us, the Redbird Daily staff gathers around to provide their predictions on how the divisions and individual awards will shake out in the National League. We hope you are all as excited for the coming season as we are!
Rusty Groppel – Washington Nationals
Even with a rookie manager, it’s hard to bet against the pool of talent on the Nationals’ roster. So, I won’t. This team features the reigning Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer, plus Stephen Strasburg, plus a solid Gio Gonzalez at the top of their rotation. The lineup is lead by Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. The return of Eaton will add to an already deep lineup. And then there is Trea Turner, who was limited to 98 games last year, yet still hit 11 bombs with 46 steals. Unlike 2017, they go into the year with multiple pitchers capable of finishing off victories. Philly will be surprising and the Mets always have enough talent to contend, given health, but with pitching weak Braves and AAA-esque Marlins in the division, the Nats should be pushing 100 wins.
Sean Mintert – Washington Nationals
I was this close to firing up the hot take machine and picking the Phillies, but the talent and experience on Washington’s roster was too much to overlook. Most of my reasoning is listed above, so I won’t make you read the same thing twice. I think Philly will make this division race a little closer than some may think, but the Nationals’ stacked rotation and the return of Adam Eaton to an already-loaded lineup will push them over the top. Philadelphia has a real shot to compete in the wild card race, and we’ll see a few young stars join the likes of Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins in the bigs.
Allen Medlock – Washington Nationals
This one seems the easiest route to go which means something will go terribly wrong for Washington. The rotation alone makes them the best in the division and arguably the best in baseball. Max Scherzer has overtaken Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in the game while Stephen Strasburg would show up later on the list of the games best. The lineup is super-solid with the likes of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman , Daniel Murphy and the leagues most underrated player in Anthony Rendon. Washington will win the division going away, but the Atlanta Braves may be a team that is sneaky good and has some staying power until late in the summer.
Graham Jacobi – Washington Nationals
Have to give it to the Mets for taking advantage of an awfully slow free agent market. They’ll certainly be at least a .500 team. No matter what though, the Nationals were going to be division champs again. They just have too much talent, with people in awe of Harper and Scherzer and somehow glossing over MVP candidate Anthony Rendon and a 6 war season from Gio Gonzalez. An offense and pitching juggernaut, they’ll likely be the NL’s best regular season club. Not to mention how the Nats will get to feast on below average teams (Braves, Marlins, Phillies).
Adam Butler – Washington Nationals
This team is just too good. I couldn’t bring myself to pick anyone else. Their lineup is stacked top to bottom. Not to mention they have what is probably the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They’re loaded.
Austin Lamb – Washington Nationals
I believe this division is the Nats and that the standings will not be particularly close. Harper will be playing out of his mind to maximize his payday this off-season, and they have one of the best rotations in baseball. Their one continual glaring weakness was always the bullpen and they appear to have shored it up this past season with the addition of Doolittle for the ninth inning.
Colin Garner – Washington Nationals
That Nats are good, don’t get me wrong, but who esle in the division can compete with them? It’s the weakest division in baseball and the Nationals will run away with it.
Rusty Groppel – St. Louis Cardinals
Let me play the homer. Here’s the deal, I’m all-in on the notion that the Cardinals lineup is deeper and better overall than the Cubs. The Bryant/Rizzo combo is elite, but we have seen the potential that Tommy Pham and Marcell Ozuna possess. If they repeat, or come close, then the Cardinals have an elite hitting duo of their own. Now, the Cubs starting 5 is currently better. However, I think the Cardinals starters can hold their own and, should injuries occur (and they do, Flaherty will already displace Waino to start the year), the Cardinals pool of Flaherty, Hudson, Gomber, and eventually Alex Reyes are all far better options than the Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery 6th starter options that the Cubs have. Heck, John Gant is probably a better 6th starter than them. And the bullpens are pretty much equal, with Cardinals holding more upside and the Cubs holding more known quantities. I believe a powerful offense and a greater ability to absorb injuries on the pitching side will give the Cardinals the edge in what will be a close race. Sorry Brewers, you made your offense more consistent with Yelich and Cain, but you failed to add a legit front-line pitcher to a suspect rotation. Firmly in 3rd.
Sean Mintert – Chicago Cubs
Is it a bad idea to pick the Cubs over the Cardinals in my first-ever appearance on this site? Maybe, but I think the Cubs have too much firepower, both in their lineup and rotation, for the Cardinals to take over the top spot. Yu Darvish was a great signing especially after the loss of Jake Arrieta, and bringing in Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow to solidify the bullpen were both strong moves from Theo Epstein and Co. The Cub lineup is still elite and while Bryant and Rizzo are the headliners, Willson Contreras provides a dangerous bat while Ian Happ is poised to build off a solid rookie campaign. The Cardinals did enough in the offseason to turn themselves into contenders for the division, but I think the lack of a true closer, as well as a reliance on young pitching could be what keeps them from retaking the NL Central crown. They’ll finish in front of the Brewers and should grab a wild card spot, but I think they’re still a year away from winning the division.
Allen Medlock – St. Louis Cardinals
Yes, the lineup is going to be very good. They added a pivotal piece in Marcell Ozuna that has been missed the last two and a half seasons. I’m also a huge fan of the current lineup configuration and believe Matt Carpenter will have a big season with the added protection in the lineup. The offense will more than enough to keep the Cardinals wild-card contention all season, but the starting pitching improvement will be what allows them to overtake Chicago as the best team in the division. Luke Weaver seems to be ready to take the next step into stardom. At the end of last season, he had taken sole possession on the number two spot in the rotation. Expect big seasons from Luke Weaver, Carlos Martinez, and Micheal Wacha.
Graham Jacobi – Milwaukee Brewers
I am a huge fan of what David Stearns is doing over in Milwaukee. This will definitely seem like a crazy prediction in the first half, even with the additions of Cain and Yelich to ease the mind. I’m a strong believer in that the Brewers pitching will be able to pitch insanely lucky for the first half, not to mention I think Woodruff and Davies take the next step. Don’t sleep on Corey Knebel. With Nelson back in the fold later and a very likely trade deadline addition, I love their chances. The Cubs rotation improved with Darvish but they lost some talent swapping Morrow for Davis. Contreras is going to have a big year. Cardinals will keep it interesting. Really close.
Adam Butler – Chicago Cubs
I want to say the Cardinals here, so badly. Unfortunately I think it takes a few things to break the right way for them to top the Cubs and that’s just not something that I can bet on. The Cubs went out and improved their rotation in some big ways. Yu Darvish is a pretty solid improvement over what they got from Arrieta last season and Tyler Chatwood should thrive after getting away from Coors field. They also added Brandon Morrow to close who I’ve always thought is a stud. Pitching exclusively out of the bullpen, as he did last season, should help him stay healthy. The Cubs aren’t unbeatable, but topping them won’t be easy for the Cardinals.
Austin Lamb – St. Louis Cardinals
I’m likely thinking more with my heart than my head here, but I truly think the Cardinals can win this one. The lineup could be fantastic if everyone produces to their abilities and the rotation could surprise a lot of folks. Weaver, Mikolas and Flaherty all have shown flashes of brillance. Martinez should be great again at the top of the rotation and if Wacha can manage to stay healthy he should be fine too. The bullpen scares me, but the addition of Hicks is an extremely interesting option for a possible closer. This is all being said of course without factoring Alex Reyes and his eventual return to further strengthen the pitching staff. The Cubs will be great again but they showed some cracks last off-season and lost a key member of their recent success in Jake Arrieta.
Colin Garner – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are still the superior team. The Cardinals certainly have a chance to win the division, that’s without a doubt. But the smart money is still on the Cubs who replaced Jake Arrieta with Yu Darvish. Their weakness could be their bullpen, but hey, that’s a question mark for the Cardinals as well. They have a significant advantage in the dugout with Joe Maddon, who clearly got in the Cardinals head in 2015 and has made himself at home. Until the Cardinals prove they can beat the Cubs head to head, the NL Central goes through Wrigley.
Rusty Groppel – Los Angeles Dodgers
Last year’s NL Champions should have no problem repeating as NL West champs. First of all, they have the best pitcher of this generation in Kershaw, and then a formidable cast behind him and a stud in the bullpen. Even if the Turner injury requires a lengthy absence, they still have a very deep lineup (even if it means playing Matt Kemp). The biggest risk with the Dodgers is that they are currently relying on the breakouts of Bellinger, Chris Taylor and Enrique Henandez to be legit. If they hold serve, the team will be fine. It won’t be the runaway that it was last year, but I don’t think the Diamondbacks quite catch them, and I’m always doubtful when it comes to the Rockies. The Giants are too old and their pitching is hurting, the Padres are too young.
Sean Mintert – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are the most complete team in their division, and it’s going to show this year. Even without Yu Darvish, the rotation is still stacked with Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood leading the line. Los Angeles isn’t lacking in hitting either with Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger coming off breakout seasons at the plate. Throw in guys like Yasmani Grandal and Yasiel Puig, and you’ve got an offense that’s capable of putting up its fair share of crooked numbers. Once Justin Turner returns to the lineup, the Dodgers could be set for another run at a World Series title. The Diamondbacks lost a lot when J.D. Martinez headed to Boston, and I don’t think Steven Souza Jr. is going to be quite enough to pick up the slack.
Allen Medlock – Colorado Rockies
This what a toss-up for me. I truly believe that the Dodgers are the best team in the division. I also have a hard time betting on the Rockies pitching. All that being said, I feel like the Dodgers take a step back this year after playing as late in the season as possible last year. The injury to Turner only makes me believe that they maybe are snake-bitten this season. The Rockies prediction comes simply from the fact that the lineup is just too good to bet against. The may not last long into October but I feel like they get to the tournament.
Graham Jacobi – Los Angeles Dodgers
On paper, between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, the talent is very close.Thee Dodgers can last the whole season though (depth). Arizona has been let down before (Pollock) and are now without JD Martinez. Dodgers won’t win 100 again but they look phenomenal still with a healthy Justin Turner. I believe Chris Taylor is legit.
Adam Butler – Los Angeles Dodgers
I’m with Graham here. The Diamondbacks could make this very interesting. The Dodgers just have so much depth that they should win consistently over the course of the 162 game season. I love what they have behind the plate with Grandal and Barnes. Cody Bellinger is an absolute stud. Plus Corey Seager might still have another step to take. Having a guy named Kershaw doesn’t hurt either. I will be interested to see whether the league steps in and puts an end to their DL shenanigans or not.
Austin Lamb – Los Angeles Dodgers
Their lineup is stacked and they still have Clayton Kershaw fronting the rotation. Alex Wood took a huge step forward last season and if his success continues is another dynamite arm in their rotation. Jansen was basically un-hittable last season and is back again to slam the door should he get the ball with a lead.
Colin Garner – Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw, Jansen, Turner, Seager, and Bellinger. Who am I forgetting?
NL WILD CARD
Rusty Groppel – Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks
The Cubs will be there. They are just too good of a team, even though I picked our Redbirds to edge them out in the division. Now, I’m not so confident in my D’Backs pick. The lack of J.D. Martinez will hurt and it remains to be seen how much the humidor will affect the offense overall. However, if does neutralize the conducive nature of Chase Field, then I love their pitching. The Phillies, Mets, and Rockies all figure to be contenders. I see the Brewers more on the periphery here, as well.
Sean Mintert – St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies
There’s a lot to like about the Cardinals this year, just not enough to chase down the Cubs. Marcell Ozuna is going to be a star, and I think Carlos Martinez is in for his best year yet. They’ll fall just short of the division title, but they’ll finish first in the wild card fairly comfortably. The Phillies will be the surprise team of this season. The Aaron Nola-Jake Arrieta combination at the top of the rotation is a really good one, and I’m a huge fan of all the young talent that’s going to break into the big leagues this year. Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford are for real, and it’s going to a lot of fun to watch the youth movement in Philly this summer.
Allen Medlock – Chicago Cubs and New York Mets
The Cubs are due for a down year but still find a way to make the playoffs. Rizzo and Bryant are stars and that makes them constant contenders. My Mets pick may surprise but the pitching is lights-out when healthy. I get a strong feeling that Mickey Callaway is able to turn New York into a feel-good story in the second half.
Graham Jacobi – St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs
The NL Central is stacked. It ends up being a photo finish between the Cards and Dbacks. The pitching is going to finish really strong, while the Dbacks suffer some injuries and go on a cold streak. The Cubs lineup is still stacked.
Adam Butler – St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks
This will be a dogfight for which team gets to host the play-in game but I think these two teams clinch playoff spots pretty early. I see the National League as a five team race. Carlos vs. Greinke should be fun.
Austin Lamb – Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks
This one is totally up in the air in my opinion. You could pick any number of teams to be in this game and have a valid point. I think the Dodgers and Cardinals just barely edge the Dbacks and the Cubs for the division crowns and leave those two battling it out for the Wildcard.
Colin Garner – St. Louis Cardinals Philadelphia Phillies
After picking the Cardinals to win the first wild card, its a toss up. The Cardinals offense is good enough to win games, so I think they’ll host it. After that, theres always a surprise team. Last year it was the Twins who took an enormous leap forward, and this year I think it will be the Phillies and their new ace Jake Arrieta.
NL AWARDS / NL CHAMP / WS CHAMP
Cy Young – Max Scherzer
MVP – Bryce Harper
Rookie of the Year – Jack Flaherty
NL Champions – Washington Nationals
World Series Champions – Washington Nationals
Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw
MVP – Joey Votto
Rookie of the Year – Ronald Acuna
NL Champions – St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Champions – St. Louis Cardinals (Why the hell not?)