2017 MLB Predictions – The National League

April 1, 2017

So the boss here is a huge baseball fan. Each year, he has emailed his friends his annual predictions for the upcoming MLB season. Then last year, he posted these predictions on Dahday for the first time. Readers liked it. He got some things dead right (like the exact finish of the NL East standings in order; the Cleveland Indians winning the AL Central). He also got some things dead wrong (like predicting a Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Texas Rangers World Series). But, hey, it’s all in fun!

Collage baseball_edited-1So Collazo is taking another swing at it. If you want to look into tickets for any ballgame, fill out this form and we will help you out. We start with the National League. Are the Mets going to stay health enough to return to the playoffs? Will the Phillies’ young star Odubel “El Torito” Herrera keep the short dreads look? Read up and see what Michael Collazo thinks. Click here for his American League and post-season predictions.


NL East | NL Central | NL West

NL East:

The Nationals: Though baseball is not played with one, this team is certainly “on the clock.” D.C. has enjoyed division crowns in 2012, 2014 and 2016 yet have lost in the NLDS each time. The club has had arguably two of the best free agent signings of the 21st Century (Jayson Werth in 2010; Matt Scherzer in 2015), but the biggest signing could be one the organization may not be able to afford – for homegrown star Bryce Harper. So every decision GM Mike Rizzo has made recently keeps this in mind. The Nats have to go for it. So they made basically a lop-sided trade for an older version of Odubel Herrera in Adam Eaton. Despite a lack of closer, you best believe D.C. will trade for one before the all star break. The lineup is excellent – Harper, Eaton, Daniel Murphy, the young and talented Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, the veteran Werth and now ex-Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, among others. Their one-two punch of Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg might be the best top of the rotation in the game. Their bullpen has question marks because of a lack of an established closer but you know, D.C. has had that before and it didn’t work. So go with the arms and figure it out. The post-season hasn’t been kind to The Nats but I think at least D.C. will have another shot at a World Series run this season.

The Kings of Queens: The Mets over-achieved last season. Give them credit. The team suffered lots of injuries but persevered. Who knew Seth Lugo would pitch in big games? New York’s less talented offense simply is what separates them from the Nats. I still like Michael Conforto despite his struggles last season. Yoenis Cespedes is a beast! But beyond that, I don’t know how the Mets will consistently score runs. Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes are getting older, Juan Lagares is hurt and Jay Bruce is a hack who may be more suited for a smaller ballpark. We can’t assume as well all of their pitching staff remains healthy. We will see Zack Wheeler for the first time since Daya had the baby on Orange Is The New Black, but can the Mets know for sure he will perform, let alone stay healthy? Ditto Matt Harvey? Can Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard each pitch 180-200 innings? Fans certainly know not to expect much PT from David Wright. With a stronger National League in general the Mets will be in it but not sure they sneak into the wild card this year.

The Bravos: The Braves have moved to the suburbs and now got a nice shiny new crib – so they gotta start keeping up with the Joneses. Atlanta signed some veterans to solidify a dope 2012 roster – like Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia on the mound and Brandon Phillips at second base. Juxtapose that with young #ATLiens like Dansby Swanson at shortstop, Adonis Garcia at third base and the speedy Ender Inciarte in center field and you have the mix of vets with the young players. The Braves have an outside chance of meddling in the 78-82 wins range if colombiano Julio Teheran pitches like a couple of years ago and flame-throwing prospect Mike Foltynewicz pitches above expectations. Atlanta also could be horrible and trade their geriatric gang for more prospects in July. This is not a strong division so expect the meddling scenario.

The Fightins: The Phillies enjoy one of the best farm systems in baseball and have a deep well of talent in AA and AAA – but there is some uncertainly as to what they have on the Major League roster. Especially by mid-season, the young lineup of Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and eventually J.P. Crawford may drive pitchers crazy. All three have the potential of working counts and getting on base 34-40 percent of the time. That would leave Maikel Franco, Aaron Altherr, Michael Saunders, Tommy Joseph and Howie Kendrick with a lot of chances to drive in runs. We will see how well they do. Defensively Philly is really strong up the middle and Colombia’s WBC star Jorge Alfaro might give the team an upgrade at catcher later this summer, too. Starting pitcher Aaron Nola was excellent in 2016 until he got hurt and during spring training looked healthy but not sharp. Vincent Velazquez has top-of-the-rotation upside but needs to show he can be more of a pitcher than a strikeout thrower. Jerad Eickhoff was Philly’s best 2016 starter but he does not have Harvey-Thor-DeGrom-type ceiling. Having vets Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Bucholtz is cool but they could become trade bait if the AAA pitchers like Hank Thompson or Zach Eflin push their way up. Their bullpen could pan out fine. Hector Neris I predict will close games by the end of the year. Vets like Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit could help hold things down. I am picking the “over” for Philly again this year, winning 75-80 games this year.

The Fish: I can’t think of a more devastating death to a young baseball athlete than the sad, sad, passing of Jose Fernandez late last season. Not only was he a star for the game that we all – and his new born baby – have lost, his death really set a pall over this franchise. Jose’s talent frankly has not been replaced. Edinson Volquez isn’t an ace. Dan Straily isn’t either. I love Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton who shined in the World Baseball Classic. Marcell Ozuna could help the team field the division’s best outfield. Dee Gordon is a blur. But since this team is a fringe wild contender at best and there are reports ownership looks to sell, I would think this environment could trigger a fire sale quicker than others if Miami falters early.

NL Central:

The World Champion Chicago Cubs: This team is a juggernaut. I know, I know. Those who remember the Hector Villanueva era can’t believe it! The Cubs won it all, man. Believe it. This is still the best team in baseball. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Wilson Contreras…loaded. Chicago lost closer Aroldis Chapman and replaced him with the dominant Wade Davis. The Cubs rotation tips a little on the older side – three of their top starters are over 30 – but that is grasping at straws. It is hard to repeat but this club is more equipped than any team in recent memory to win it all again.

The Buccos: Pittsburgh fields maybe the division’s most intriguing team. We know the Cubs barring mass injuries are going to roll and have a dope team to watch. But what do we make of this NL Central power? Lots of questions here. First, is Andrew McCutchen done? He has been an MVP caliber player then at age 29 had a season you associate with a player being over the hill. He even has been given the old man treatment by being moved to play right field, while the younger Starling Marte mans center. Was 2016 just a blip on the screen?  Second, yo, Jung Ho Kang drinks like that, man? This country’s new immigration policies has him out of the country and out of commission for now. David Freese will play third in his stead. Third, could Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow become a terrible trio that rivals the league’s best? All three are former or current top prospects with great stuff. If Cole can repeat his 2015 season and Taillon and Glasnow start to reach their high expectations, the Buccos could “Raise the Jolly Roger” a lot this year.

The Cards: Like always, St. Louis has a balanced club that should contend all year. Though maybe not spectacular the team’s rotation with Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha should keep them in a lot of games. Losing Alex Reyes to injury cuts down on the upside of the rotation. Still, Yadier Molina always helps the staff pitch a little better than they should. Ask team Puerto Rico about that. This team probably lacks punch in their lineup compared to others but Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty will lead the lineup. My man with one of the coolest names in baseball – Korea’s Seung Hwan Oh! Seung Hwan Oh! – is set to close. The Cards will be playing meaningful games in September, no doubt. Not sure they sneak into the playoffs though. I am thinking they fall in the 85-wins range.

The Brew Crew: Milwaukee is not a contender this year, but there are some interesting players on the roster. Two former Phillies prospects Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana have all-around ability. Former Korean League star Eric Thames is back in America playing first for The Brew Crew, so I am interested to see how he does (maybe a 2017 version of Cecil Fielder?). Ryan Braun is still there. Maybe not for long but for now he is. Beyond that, the rotation and patchwork bullpen just lack much talent. However, the Brewers sport one of the top minor league systems in the game and if they decide to figure out a trade to move Braun, the future could get even brighter.

Reds: Cincy is going to join the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres sadly as the worst teams in baseball. A little late on the rebuilding process, the Reds are working their way out of the hole. Adam Duvall had a great year in 2016. Joey Votto is such a great hitter, though he would be a valuable asset to move this year to get young talent. If Billy Hamilton can just get on base 34-37 percent of the time, he would be able to score runs on his own. I root for that to happen. I look forward to seeing former St. John’s hoopster Amir Garrett pitch for them this summer. Beyond that a rotation led by Scott Feldman isn’t a good thing. This club loses 90-plus games.

NL West:

Los Doyers: Despite criticism, Andrew Friedman and Company continue to put playoff caliber teams on the field year in and year out. They try to balance the now with the future and it is still working. Baseball is about knocking on the playoff door and hope you break through one year and win it all. The Dodgers still have an elite Clayton Kershaw, a talented roster with Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Justin Turner. If Yasiel Puig ever figures it out and steps into 30 HR-100 RBI territory the club improves that much more. I like Kenta Maeda. If Hyun-Jin Ryu is healthy he improves the staff tremendously. Kenley Jansen is an elite closer. L.A. can move talent to upgrade in mid-season. The Giants will definitely be a threat but I don’t want to bet against the Dodgers here.

Los Gigantes: The rivalry will be dope once again! San Francisco have the ingredients to win this division and it starts with Madison Bumgarner Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija. That group of arms has the potential to be the best rotation in the game. Moore and Samardzija have the ability to make it so, but they have to execute. The Giants have the same lineup essentially as last year. Not tons of power but Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt can produce some runs. The biggest issue last year was the bullpen so GM Bobby Evans forked over big bucks to sign Mark Melancon. If that part of the club shores up, the Giants could win a division title.

Colorado: This team could surprise but some unfortunate injuries might squash that idea. This lineup led by Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu will be monstrous in hitter-friendly Coors Field. Eventually free agent signee Ian Desmond and David Dahl will join them. The Rockies have a hole at catcher which could also impact its rotation. Jon Gray has a chance of having a breakout year. Tyler Anderson pitched well late last year. But especially since Chad Bettis is suffering through chemotherapy, the depth is not there. That ballpark of course does not help. This team could pull off a Baltimore Orioles-like scenario where the offense bashes and the rotation and bullpen do enough for a winning season. I think Colorado hovers around .500 but not enough to contend in the division.

D-Backs: Arizona’s baseball organization has been in disarray. My man Dave “Smoke” Stewart and Tony LaRussa, to be kind, were miscast as GM and head of baseball ops. Their past moves have left today’s team vulnerable. Still, A.J. Pollock is healthy now after losing for most of 2016 to injury. Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best sluggers in the game. Jake Lamb at third has some pop. Does Yasmany Tomas have another gear? D-backs fans hope so. All mentioned are under 30 years old so there is some room for improvement. Zach Greinke still is an elite starter. Robbie Ray strikes out a lot of batters. For this team to have a chance, Arizona needs Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin to give them good seasons. That would push the club into a fringe playoffs contender.

The Friars: Another team that has a GM that ain’t doing the fanbase any favors. Both Arizona and San Diego are pulling up the rear because the front office pushed the “Win Now” button way too early. Now look where they are. San Diego has an improved farm system but beyond Wil Myers the Padres have a bunch of fourth outfielder-type hitting talent. Young starting center fielder Manuel Margot is probably more suited to start in the minors this season but S.D. doesn’t have anyone else to play ahead of him. Their Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin arguably wouldn’t make half the starting rotations in the National League. The beaches may be beautiful in San Diego but the ball team in Petco Park this year ain’t gonna be pretty at all.

Look out for Collazo’s American League and playoff predictions the evening of April 2.

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