2019 MLB Season Preview – NL

Kevin Friedman

As my excitement for the 2019 MLB season grows, I’ve taken another look into my crystal ball in search of all the answers. Since my last post broke down my American League predictions, in this entry I’ll preview all the teams in the National League based on what order I think they’ll place in their respective divisions. Disclaimer: Objective facts, subjective gut feelings, and hot takes included.

NL East

Washington Nationals

The NL East was probably the busiest division this offseason. The Mets made noticeable improvements, and the Phillies made perhaps the most noticeable 13-year, 330-million-dollar improvement landing former Nats star Bryce Harper. And yet despite losing their best player I still see them winning the division. Their pitching is just that good.

The Nats are set to be led by starting pitchers Max Scherzer, who has spent the last five or six years casually booking his trip to Cooperstown, and their ace 1A Stephen Strasburg. They’ve also added the likes of Patrick Corbin, coming off of his best season yet last year in Arizona. I can’t forget to mention their young core guys Trae Turner and Juan Soto who are set to break out this year.

It won’t be a cakewalk, but I think the Nats are the team to beat in the East.

Prediction: 91 wins

Philadelphia Phillies

The aforementioned signing of Bryce Harper should boost the Phils into full on win now mode. After all, they weren’t far out last season, fighting for the division title up until mid-September. Harper will fit right into a line up that’ll give pitchers all kinds of trouble. Odubel Hererra and Rhys Hoskins are both poised to have solid years.

Pitching-wise, they should be good but not great. Aaron Nola turned heads last year and he’s set to be this team’s ace. And in the bullpen, they’ll have former Yankee reliever David Robertson slide into the role of closer for the first time in his career.

Look for the Phillies to improve on their win total from last year and fight for a playoff spot.

Prediction: 86 wins

New York Mets

I think the Mets will be a surprise team this year. Realizing they have some talent already, the Mets made win-now moves acquiring veteran slugger Robinson Cano and upstart relief arm Edwin Diaz.

The strength of this team, however, is going to be its starting pitching. Jacob DeGrom is coming off a stupid-good CY Young season, putting up an ERA of 1.70 in 217 innings. Noah Syndergaard and Zach Wheeler will complete the front end of the rotation that if healthy should feast on NL East hitters.

While the Mets did get better this offseason, so did the rest of the division. Third place feels right.

Prediction: 80 wins

Atlanta Braves

Placing the Braves fourth just one year after winning 90 games and the division might be

my hottest take. Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies are back in action and two of baseball’s hottest young stars. First baseman Freddie Freeman will anchor their lineup as he’s known to mash some of the game’s prettiest long balls.

What might hold this team back this year would be their pitching. Mike Foltynewicz took over ace duties last season and looks to do the same in 2019. After he leaves something to be desired. And while the Braves have a wellspring of talented arms in their farm system, your guess is as good as mine as to when we’ll see them in the majors.

While there is no shortage of potential in Atlanta right now, I don’t expect them to put it all together until next season.

Prediction: 79 wins

Miami Marlins

The Marlins will enter year two of their total rebuilding process, and they proved that this offseason by trading their only all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto for more prospects. Miami’s rotation is lackluster at best, and their lineup has some guys who have been around, but no real leaders to speak of.

I urge Marlins fans to continue to trust in the process laid out by CEO Derek Jeter, who looks to turn the page in the coming years. But I wouldn’t encourage Marlins fans who have expectations of getting out to the AL East cellar this season.

Prediction: 62 wins   

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brew Crew will look to build on their promising 2018 season got them all the way to the NLCS. Outfielder Christian Yelich took home last year’s MVP honors by winning the NL batting title and finishing top three in the two other triple crown categories. The Brewers also utilized one of the most intimidating bullpens in baseball, led by Josh Hader, a power pitcher with one of the nastiest sliders around.

Simply put, the Brewers look locked and loaded again. They’ll have another year of Yelich’s prime. He’ll man an outfield alongside the experienced Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun. We should also see another good year out of the first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who found his big league power last year putting up 35 homers and driving in 108 runs.

This division should be a tight three-horse race, but Milwaukee looks up to the task.

Prediction: 95 wins

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals should walk into this season with a swift boost of confidence stemming from the offseason acquisition of perennial all-star Paul Goldschmidt. He’ll fit in somewhere between Marcell Ozuna and Matt Carpenter to form a lineup that looks solid all the way through.

St. Louis also looks to have the best starting rotation in the division with Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty, and Mike Mikolas, all ready to give hitters fits. And their bullpen was boosted with the offseason addition of Andrew Miller who will act as the setup man for the 22-year-old Jordan Hicks.

If the Cards still healthy this year I don’t see why they can’t win 90+ games and claim a wildcard spot.

Prediction: 91 wins

Chicago Cubs

It was a long offseason for Cubs fans after watching them end up on the wrong side of a 13-inning wildcard game. But the good news is they retained their core hitters and have a rotation that’s healthier now than it has been in a while. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez will again make up the meat of the batting order. Baez emerged last season as the surprise Cubs provider, leading the team in homers and leading the NL in RBI’s.

The front end of this rotation is good to go but the question surrounding this team is what a healthy Yu Darvish brings to the table. Darvish was shut down after just eight starts with the Cubs last season, dealing with various arm injuries.

We’ve seen Darvish be great in the past, but with the division being as tough as it is, his production could either make or break this teams playoff hopes.   

Prediction: 87 wins

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds will enter the season under the guidance of new manager David Bell. Bell at least gets to take the reigns of a team that looks better this year than they last year. The offseason additions of outfielders Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and pitcher Sony Grey, should help give the Reds a puncher’s chance of staying alive in a loaded division.

Joey Votto remains the heart and soul of their lineup, and they won’t be as bad as their 67-95 record from last season would make it seem. Expect them to hit a lot of balls out of the most hitter-friendly park in the league, but inevitably be derailed by a lack of pitching depth.

The Reds will marginally improve, but will still miss the invitation to play in October.

Prediction: 75 wins

Pittsburgh Pirates

I’d be surprised to see anything other than the last place for the Pirates this year even though they won a respectable 82 games in 2018. They’ll send out an okay lineup, that gets noticeably thinner once you get passed starting Marte and Corey Dickerson. Though Jameson Tallian looks like he’s got ace stuff they’ll still need more help considering how often they’ll see the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs.

Keeping up in this division will be a tall order for the Bucko’s this year.

Prediction: 69 wins

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

After back to back World Series appearances the Dodgers look ready to contend in the West again. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and the rest of the lineup should do their part in scoring plenty of runs. They also have the now 30 but still a viable ace Clayton Kershaw, and one of the games most dominant closers Kenley Jansen. Walker Buehler looks to be this teams emerging pitching star, he logged 137 innings last season and put up an ERA of 2.62. That’s not bad for a 23-year-old in the majors.

There’s no doubt in my mind that manager Dave Roberts has these guys winning and playing October baseball again.

Prediction: 93 wins

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies won the offseason this year not by bringing in a star, but by paying their own. Superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado received an eight-year $260 million extension from Colorado. Locking up one of baseball’s best players both offensively and defensively should help the Rockies set their sights on winning games in a fairly manageable division.

Arenado will be flanked by capable hitters Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon so looks for the ball to sail through the mile high air as it usually does. But thin air that helps a ball carry goes both ways, and the Rockies have always struggled to get good pitching production as a result.

I believe the Rockies will play meaningful baseball all the way until the end, but come up short of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Prediction: 85 wins

San Francisco Giants

This team will have solid veteran Leadership coming from the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Evan Longoria. They also have a good core of relief arms to work with lead by probable closer Will Smith. Their weaknesses, however, appears to be their lack of depth at starting pitching and an outfield that’s still wet behind the ears.

They’re not in the toughest of divisions so they should steal some extra wins, but I don’t see them finishing above .500

Prediction: 75 wins

San Diego Padres

Padres fans have been waiting a long time to see the light at the end of the rebuild-tunnel, and I think they’re close. Obviously, the signing of stud third baseman Manny Machado to a massive ten year $300 million contract captivated the baseball world, At least until Harper Signed. Machado will look forward to the cavalry of top prospects like Francisco Mejia and Fernando Tatis Jr., who should be up and providing for this team sometime this year. Their pitching is lackluster, however, look for that to hold them back some.

The Padres will win some exciting games this year and give us a glimpse of what’s to come.

Prediction: 71 wins

Arizona Diamondbacks

The D-backs will give it a go this year with a glaring hole in their offense this year. The loss of Paul Goldschmidt means someone else is going to have to drive in the runs, and none of their projected starters really jump off the page. Zack Greinke will be their opening day starter, but at 35 people wonder how much longer he’ll be a productive ace.

Look for Arizona to be one of the teams selling at the deadline to kickstart a rebuild.

Prediction: 67 wins