Search This Blog

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 Major League Baseball Preview - National League

Yesterday, we previewed the American League. Today, the rest of the majors...! Teams are listed by division in their expected order of finish.

National League

N.L. East

Washington Nationals – The Nationals, anchored by Stephen Strasburg, are loaded in their starting rotation. This year, provided they stay healthy, the Nats should have enough pop in their batting order to give their arms the (relatively minimal) run support needed to win against most opponents. Last year was a bitter disappointment resulting from one bad break after another. Expect D.C. to put the train back on the track in 2014.

Atlanta Braves – What a surprise! The Braves are expected to contend again. Arguably one of the National League’s two best run franchises in the past 20 years, the Braves are not rebuilding after coming up short in the playoffs last year. They’re reloading. And they are loaded with power in their batting order.

Losing longtime ace starter Tim Husdon to the San Francisco Giants is going to remove some reliable stability from the rotation. Still, Atlanta has a lot of youth with a lot of upside in waiting, starting with new ace Julio Teheran. The Braves also went young in the bullpen. How that plays out remains to be seen. What is fairly certain is that if they can get to the 9th inning with a lead, closer Craig Kimbrel should nail it down 9 times out of 10.

Miami Marlins – To paraphrase Charles Barkley, they won’t be “turrble”. This team has a ton of young talent that I expect to demonstrate an exponential degree of development since last season. Jose Fernandez is on his way to establishing himself as one of the bright, young, future superstars on the mound. Giancarlo Stanton brings something the Fish haven’t had since trading Hanley Ramierz: a young star-potential player with some pop in his bat. Finally, picking up Jared Saltalamacchia from Boston behind the dish was a good move; the 2 position won’t be a black hole in the batting order.

Philadelphia Phillies –With this roster, you may as well hand the N.L. East division title over to them now…five years ago. They are long in the tooth from top to bottom.

New York Mets – This team’s opponents would already need to have their maple bats replaced with plastic whiffle ball bats just to keep the playing field level. Notwithstanding the crippling loss of ace Matt Harvey for the season (Tommy John surgery), the Mets have a respectable starting rotation. Their bullpen, however, appears to be an afterthought, with the big turd in the punch bowl being overweight, washed up Jose Valverde as the closer.

They have done very little to offset the anemic hitting that plagued them last season. They did acquire former All-Star centerfielder Curtis Granderson. But at age 33, coming off of an ineffective, injury-riddled season, I’m of the opinion that “The Grandy Man can’t ”!

That's the same blur that batters see when facing Strasburg. 1
N.L. Central

Pittsburgh Pirates – Losing A.J. Burnett to the Phillies cost the Bucs some experience, but also with his departure left some unreliability in big moments for which Burnett was becoming infamous in recent years. The rotation is reasonably solid. If Endison Volquez, now age 30, can turn it around – being the strikeout machine he was with the Cincinnati Reds while limiting the number of critical runs given up – the Pirates could put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Central division by the All-Star break. In spite of having reigning MVP centerfielder Andrew McCuthchen, this team is going to live and die with its arms.

St. Louis Cardinals – This team is loaded in the field. Their seasoned and (mostly) accomplished rotation is intact and healthy this season. Cardinals fans should keep an eye on the bullpen, however. They are very young with little experience relative to other bullpens. Still, last postseason showed us that “age ain’t nothing but a number” with the breakout performances of starting pitcher Michael Wacha and relief pitcher Carlos Martinez, both age 22.

Cincinnati Reds – This is a Big Red Pitching Machine. The big equalizer for the Reds is closer Aroldis Chapman, who will miss a few weeks after being hit in the head recently by a line drive. The sooner he returns, the sooner Cincy can race at full speed. Their lineup will be very dependent upon middle-of-the-order sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to provide adequate run support, though.

Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers went from, just a few years ago, having the best position players in the National League but underwhelming pitching, to having a good pitching rotation (perhaps “very good”) but a cast of unknowns playing every day. Former MVP outfielder Ryan Braun’s return from a PED suspension will give the Brew Crew an offisive lift over last season.

Chicago Cubs – A collection of unknowns and has-beens in the field plus some never-will-be’s on the mound equals another finish in the cellar for the Cubs. I'm not sure where General Manger Theo Epstein is taking the Cubs.

Their mascot outfit is terrible.

McCutchen is a mega-star, but is he clutch enough to put the entire batting order on his back? 2

N.L. West

Los Angeles Dodgers – Let’s see. This team was in last place at the end of last June. They get some key players back healthy, such as shortstop Hanley Ramirez, call up a rock star in right fielder Yasiel Puig, and their pitchers all begin hitting their strides at once. Voila! L.A. runs away with the division.

I wonder what will happen this year with those key pieces in place on Opening Day. They have one obvious weakness, at the catcher position. They brought in veteran Drew Butera to call the signals behind the plate. I don’t know much about his defensive scouting report but he must be really good: he has hit below the Mendoza line for his career.

Otherwise, this team has no soft spots on its roster. This is a pennant or bust year for the Dodgers and they are set up to reach their goal. 

Arizona Diamondbacks – All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the real deal. The Snakes also added some significant power to the order in trading for Mark Trumbo from the Angles. Otherwise, the rotation is average. The bullpen is average. Their closer is average, perhaps a notch below average. Expect the result for the D-Backs to be average.

San Francisco Giants – Picking up starting pitcher Tim Hudson was a step forward for a team that struggled with previously accomplished but underachieving pitchers last year. Still, the Giants did little else to turn their play around on the mound. This is a team whose pitchers struggled in a pitcher’s park to defend their 2012 World Series title.

They need run support to compete. Picking up left fielder Michael Morse was a plus for the power in the batting order. Still, the roster remained otherwise largely unchanged in terms of hitting talent. They aren’t built to drive in runs in bunches.

Colorado Rockies – Their hitters are all studs, but that advantage is hedged off somewhat by playing in the thin air at Coors Field, where every hitter can get a little better. They brought in a lot of new pitchers and they are all lousy as a group. That disadvantage is heightened by playing in the thin air at Coors Field, where every pitcher has the scales tipped against them when facing power hitters. Their pitcher is 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who is in the twilight of a long, competent, but unremarkable career.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer in the Mile High City.

San Diego Padres – Their pitchers are okay but their lineup looks like they may as well come to the plate with rubber hoses. If this were the NFL, I would say that this team could be on the clock.

There's more of Puig coming in 2014. 3

To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at

1) Image from
2) Image from

No comments:

Post a Comment