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Your 2020 Guide to the National League

It’s time for the guide to the NL in 2020! Here is what you need to know about each team!

NL East

Atlanta Braves

Additions: Will Smith, Felix Hernandez, Marcell Ozuna, Travis d’Arnaud, Cole Hamels

Subtractions: Josh Donaldson, Julio Teheran, Dallas Keuchel

2019 Win Total: 97

2020 O/U: 91.5

My Prediction: 91-71

This Braves team, despite losing a few key players, is still a very good team. They replaced Teheran and Keuchel with Felix and Hamels, which doesn’t make sense long-term, but it will at least hold the pitching staff together for this year. The loss of Josh Donaldson makes room for Austin Riley to perhaps get some starts at third base this year. The team is full of young studs like Acuna, Albies, Swanson, and Soroka, whom are balanced out by valuable veterans in Markakis, Hamels, and Melancon. Freddie Freeman is the leader of the lineup, and he will have more protection in the lineup this year with the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna. There’s no questioning the Braves’ offense and recently improved bullpen, but will the starters be able to hold up? My guess is that they may face some problems late in the year when they need to win a key game and have to rely on one of their lesser pitchers, a conundrum that could have been solved by the signing of either Bumgarner or Ryu. I still think this team is one step away from being title contenders, but they are certainly primed for at least a few games in October

Washington Nationals

Additions: Will Harris, Eric Thames, Starlin Castro

Subtractions: Anthony Rendon

2019 Win Total: 93

2020 O/U: 90.5

My Prediction: 90-72

The reigning champs are not favored to repeat, but they still have some talent that could get them to October. They lost Anthony Rendon to free agency following an outstanding year. While they didn’t look to replace all of Rendon’s production, they did add some worthwhile hitters in Thames and Starlin Castro. The main problem with their roster as currently constructed is that after Soto, there isn’t a big threat in the lineup that forced pitchers to face him. Now, pitchers might be motivated to walk Soto and take their chances with whoever follows him. Their pitching is among the best in baseball, and they proved that their bullpen can hold up, even before adding Will Harris, but I think Rendon took the club’s hopes for a repeat with him to Anaheim.

Philadelphia Phillies

Additions: Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler

Losses: Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, Corey Dickerson

2019 Win Total: 81

2020 O/U: 85.5

My Prediction: 87-75

This team, like the Braves, has a great core of hitters in Harper, Hoskins, Realmuto, and Gregorius. Their top 3 pitchers, Nola, Wheeler, and Arrieta are dangerously good. So why only 87 wins and a third-place finish? Well, the Phillies have greatly underachieved the past few years, and their bullpen is pretty shaky. Simply said, this team isn’t complete. I would expect them to compete for a wild card this year, and maybe have their all-in push start next year with the way their roster looks right now.

New York Mets

Additions: Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha

Subtractions: Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier

2019 Win Total: 86

2020 O/U: 86.5

My Prediction: 83-79

The Mets are so inconsistent. Except when it comes to expectations–they always fail to meet them. I think that this year will be no different, especially because I think this team is a bit worse than last year. Sure, they have a balanced hitting attack of Alonso, Nimmo, McNeil, and Conforto, and top-tier pitching in deGrom, Stroman, and Syndergaard, but picking up Porcello and Wacha (both coming off of disappointing seasons) to replace Zack Wheeler doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. It seems like the NL East’s trend is to load up on offense, have an outstanding first 3 rotation slots, and not care about patching up their leaky bullpens. Edlose Diaz, Betances, and Seth Lugo are good, but Diaz and Betances are coming off forgettable seasons, albeit for different reasons. This team just reeks of underachieving and Mets to me.

Miami Marlins

Additions: Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, Jesus Aguilar, Brandon Kintzler

Subtractions: Starlin Castro

2019 Win Total: 57

2020 O/U: 64.5

My Prediction: 61-101

The perennial cellar-dwellers of the NL East are poised for another 100-loss season, with no real shakeups other than to shuffle which flash-in-the-pan players are on their roster. Their pitching? Trash. Their bullpen? Steamy trash. The pipeline? Tra–actually they have a few good prospects coming soon. Other than ridiculously cheap tickets, Marlins fans don’t have much to look forward to this season.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

Additions: None

Subtractions: Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha, Jose Martinez

2019 Win Total: 91

2020 O/U: 88.5

My Prediction: 89-73

The NL Central is going to be bonkers this year, y’all. It starts with the Cardinals doing a whole lot of nothing this offseason besides losing offensive stars/defensive liabilities Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna, leaving the door open for other teams to compete with them. We saw last year that their pitching, consisting of Jack Flaherty and contact specialists Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, is viable for both the regular season and postseason. Their hitting looks a little shaky on paper, but it seems as though the entire lineup is capable of doing some damage, so I wouldn’t take them lightly. Their bullpen of Carlos Martinez, Andrew Miller, and breakout ‘stars’ Gio Gallegos and John Brebbia is a bullpen to be reckoned with as well. They have a great chance this year to return to the NLCS, maybe with better results this year.

Cincinnati Reds

Additions: Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Wade Miley

Subtractions: Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman, Jose Iglesias, Jose Peraza

2019 Win Total: 75

2020 O/U: 84.5

My Prediction: 88-74

IT IS FINALLY TIME FOR MY BRIGHT-FUTURE REDS TO MAKE SOME NOISE!!!! The club that I have been bringing to the public’s attention is now in a great spot to compete for a wild card spot if not more. They bolstered their lineup this offseason, adding Moustakas and Castellanos to the middle of their lineup in addition to acquiring Japanese hitter Shogo Akiyama, who will likely get most of the starts in center field. These bats are fuel to the preexisting regime, consisting of a declining Joey Votto, a resurgent Freddy Galvis, and a potentially lethal platoon of Jesse Winker and Aristides Aquino. Their pitching is dynamite, led by breakout star Luis Castillo, the quirky Trevor Bauer, the short king Sonny Gray, and rounded out by journeyman Wade Miley. Their bullpen showed promise last year, with Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, and Robert Stephenson all proving effective. All of this combined gets you a Reds team that should be foaming at the mouth to return the playoffs for the first time in 7 years.

Chicago Cubs

Additions: None

Subtractions: Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Steve Cishek, Kendall Graveman, Brandon Kintzler

2019 Win Total: 84

2020 O/U: 86.5

My Prediction: 86-76

The Cubs, after missing the playoffs last year, don’t look like they are primed to return to October. They made no additions in the offseason, and let key performers Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, and Steve Cishek depart for greener pastures. Their September collapse led to Joe Maddon’s firing, in addition to being a big gut punch for the organization. They are now shopping Kris Bryant, making it look like they are perhaps trying to reload for another push in a couple years. This team does not seem to be one with championship ambitions for 2020.

Milwaukee Brewers

Additions: Justin Smoak, Avisail Garcia, Eric Sogard, Brett Anderson, Omar Narvaez, Josh Lindblom

Subtractions: Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames, Jordan Lyles, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz, Travis Shaw, Zach Davies

2019 Win Total: 89

2020 O/U: 83.5

My Prediction: 84-78

When Juan Soto’s base hit in the 8th inning of the NL Wild Card Game scooted past Trent Grisham, it signaled the beginning of the end for the Brewers. They do have MVP-runner-up Christian Yelich, bullpen stud Josh Hader, and breakout performer Brandon Woodruff returning, but that’s about it. They lost key lineup-members in Grandal, Shaw, and Moustakas, in addition to losing starters Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Lyles. They did acquire Smoak, Avi Garcia, Brett Anderson, and Omar Narvaez, all of whom should have positive outputs this year, but it seems they lost more than they gained this offseason. Combine their roster situation with the impending nightmare that is the NL Central being up for grabs, it seems to spell the end of the line for this club’s championship aspirations.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Additions: None

Subtractions: Starling Marte

2019 Win Total: 69 (nice)

2020 O/U: 70.5

My Prediction: 65-97

The Pirates finally admitted defeat when they ended their relationship with manager Clint Hurdle, GM Neal Huntington, and franchise cornerstone Starling Marte. The Pirates will now start what looks to be a full reboot of the franchise, with Josh Bell and sophomore studs Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds being their building blocks. It may take a while before this club plays meaningful baseball again. Get ready for hibernation.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

Additions: Mookie Betts, David Price, Blake Treinen, Alex Wood

Subtractions: Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Alex Verdugo

2019 Win Total: 106

2020 O/U: 100.5

My Prediction: 102-60

Just when you thought the Dodgers couldn’t get better while simultaneously keeping their farm system intact, they trade for Betts and Price and only have to give up Maeda and Verdugo. Betts and Price will join the club that they beat in the 2018 World Series to try to help them win one of their own, and they certainly have the manpower to do so. In addition to these two, they still have 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger, All-Stars Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, perennial Cy Young candidates Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, and young guns Gavin Lux, Will Smith, and Julio Urias. My only hope for the Dodgers is to realize that they can afford to part with some of their excess talent to help fix their bullpen situation, which is the reason they lost to the Nationals last year. LA, if you don’t want to be a laughing stock in October again, either fire Dave Roberts soon, fix your bullpen, or both. That’s all that stands between you and a championship.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Additions: Madison Bumgarner, Starling Marte, Kole Calhoun, Junior Guerra, Hector Rondon

Subtractions: Yoshihisa Hirano, Wilmer Flores

2019 Win Total: 85

2020 O/U: 83.5

My Prediction: 85-77

The Diamondbacks have done a great job to keep a great roster together for a longer time than everyone thought they would. When they traded Paul Goldschmidt, it seemed to everyone that they would start a short-term rebuild, but they were close to a wild card spot last year. Following breakout years from Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Zac Gallen, they added ace Madison Bumgarner, 5-tool outfielder Starling Marte, and some bullpen arms. If this team were in a different division, they might have better chance at playoff baseball this year, but it doesn’t look the stars will align this year for a deep postseason run.

San Diego Padres

Additions: Tommy Pham, Drew Pomeranz, Jurickson Profar, Zach Davies

Subtractions: Hunter Renfroe, Eric Lauer

2019 Win Total: 70

2020 O/U: 83.5

My Prediction: 85-77

The Padres have a lot to look forward to, starting with this year’s team. Not only will they get full years from Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack, they will also see an upgrade in left field from Renfroe to Pham and a slight upgrade in pitching with the acquisitions of Pomeranz and Davies. Add in Manny Machado being in his prime, Francisco Mejia developing into a great catcher, and Kirby Yates being an elite reliever, and you get the potential for a 15-win improvement. It may not result in playoffs this year, but the future looks very bright for the Padres.

Colorado Rockies

Additions: None

Subtractions: None

2019 Win Total: 71

2020 O/U: 74.5

My Prediction: 69-93

Looking back, its amazing that the Rockies made the playoffs in 2018 with such an awful pitching staff. The Rockies are at a crossroads now, having angered Nolan Arenado by dangling him in trade rumors. They now must choose between building around him and admitting defeat like the Pirates and pressing the reset button. Trevor Story, German Marquez, and Jon Gray are all young enough to where they still might be productive the next time the Rockies are competitive. Blackmon is getting up there in age, so he probably won’t be a part of their future. It seems clear that they have no real shot to win in the coming years, as their problems are plentiful, and won’t be solved with a few moves. It’s time for them to bring out the tanks.

San Francisco Giants

Additions: Kevin Gausman, Wilmer Flores, Yolmer Sanchez

Subtractions: Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith

2019 Win Total: 77

2020 O/U: 69.5

My Prediction: 68-94

The Giants did the right thing at the deadline last year by not buying despite winning enough to thrust themselves into the playoff picture for a few weeks. Like Colorado, their best bet is to reset to focus on the future. All of their key contributors (Posey, Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Cueto, Samardzija) are on the wrong side of 30. They represent this team’s decline perfectly, as in their prime, they all contributed to World Series participants, but they are now beginning their graceful decline. The Giants will now have to focus on their youth, but even that is limited.

Now that we have previewed the entire MLB for 2020, it’s time for postseason predictions. Stay tuned for those in the coming week!


Photo: FOX Sports

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