The Major League Baseball season is set to get underway. With players moving around the league via free agency, the teams will have new and in some cases, very improved looks this season. Here’s breakdown of the top teams in each division.
Should be one of the toughest divisions in the league. The Phillies likely made the most strides and will contend with the Braves and Nationals for likely two playoff spots in the NL this year.
The Phillies signed former and current All-Stars Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, JT Realmuto, David Robertson and one of the prizes of the free agency pool, Bryce Harper. Although some question marks remain among the staff, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta are very solid and the bullpen should be one of the best in the NL.
Atlanta Braves are lead by first baseman Freddie Freeman and the addition of Josh Donaldson. Ronald Acuna Jr and Ozzie Albies should provide good young bats to the lineup. The Braves have four very good starting pitchers that will keep them in most games. They will contend until the end.
The Nationals have a dominant starting rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. Although they lost the big bat of Harper, youngster Juan Soto, combined with Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Victor Robles provide enough offense with the stellar pitching to contend.
The entire division has improved, but the Cubs have the top roster in the division and should be the team to beat. However, don’t overlook the St. Louis Cardinals and last year’s division winner, Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cubs possess a high scoring attack lead by Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant and Wilson Contreras had below average seasons and if they can rebound, the Cubs should have one of the most explosive offenses in the NL.
On days when the offense is struggling, the Cubs have a strong enough pitching staff to carry them. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana post a solid starting five, while closer Brandon Morrow provides stability to the back end.
St. Louis has a variety of middle to upper end power threats with Marcell Ozuna, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. The offense shouldn’t be a problem. The Cardinals will go as far as the pitching will take them. Mike Mikolas is the ace, followed by Jack Flaherty. They need to produce for an otherwise mediocre rotation.
The question in Milwaukee is whether or not they can get enough pitching. A run of the mill rotation lead by Jhoulys Chacin and a solid bullpen took them a long way last year. Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich lead the attack. One must wonder how much Ryan Braun has left in the tank. At 35-years old, if Braun can turn back the clock a few years, the Brewers will be serious threats in the division.
The Dodgers are the favorites, having won the last six division titles. The Rockies are likely to pose the most threat, while the other teams in the division are in building mode and not mentioned further here.
Los Angles lost key bats in Matt Kemp, Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig and Yasmani Grandal. However, the return of Justin Turner and Corey Seager from injury and the long ball production of Max Muncy, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger gives the Dodgers plenty of offensive ammunition.
The pitching staff should have a healthy Hyun-jin Ryu to go along with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Ross Stripling and Walker Buehler. The talent is there to form one of the top starting five in the league. Closer Kenley Jansen is still one of the better closers in the league.
Playing in Colorado is always tough on pitchers, but this year’s Rockies team should have a legitimate duo at the top of the rotation in Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. The remainder of the rotation doesn’t need to be stellar, just solid enough to keep the team in games.
Nolan Arenado is a perennial All-Star and has 40 home run, 120 RBI potential. Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story should also add to the attack as they did in 2018. If the team stays healthy, they have enough offense to remain competitive throughout the season.
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