The National League saw three brand new division winners with the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants securing their division’s pennant; the Giants actually went out and won the whole darn thing! With the ever changing baseball landscape, one has to wonder which new teams will jump to the front of the pack in 2013?
That’s exactly what I’ll be breaking down in this here piece with the following teams my picks to make a run at the 2013 NL pennant.
Favorites To Win N.L.
Washington Nationals (15/4) For a franchise that never once produced a winning record since setting up shop in D.C. the Nationals looked anything but inexperienced a short season ago, as they pulled a wire-to-wire job and won the NL East by four-games over the Atlanta Braves. The Nats were led by their strong starting pitching (3.34 ERA) and anchored by a bullpen that blew just 17 of their 68 overall save opportunities. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get by the defending champion Cardinals in the NLDS. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman will attempt to lead the Nats to the franchise’s first ever playoff series win in 2013, and with the cast of now experienced postseason ball players returning, my prediction is that you can at the very least advance them to the NLCS this time around.
Los Angeles Dodgers (4/1) The Dodgers were an enormous disappointment in 2012. Many pundits expected them to represent the National League in the World Series, but due to a myriad of injuries to major impact players, LA finished up in second place within the NL West and failed to lock down either of the two Wild Card bids. However, the team is now under new ownership and wasted no time in showing just how dedicated it was in winning immediately by pulling one of the biggest trades ever with the Boston Red Sox. If Matt Kemp can remain 100 percent healthy and Clayton Kershaw can bounce back without any hitches from off-season hip surgery, the Dodgers look poised to battle the hated Giants for division supremacy. They along with the Nats are the two most heavily favored teams in the NL to win the World Series.
Cincinnati Reds (6/1) The Reds have now produced a pair of 90+ win campaigns in two of the L/3 seasons under the watchful eye of veteran manager Dusty Baker. After missing out on the postseason in 2011, the Reds finished up just a game in back of Washington for the best overall record in the entire league. And like the Nats, the Reds did most of their damage with pitching and defense, as it ranked fourth in quality starts (98), #1 in bullpen ERA (2.65), and #8 in errors committed. The offense did struggle to score, but the unit had to go at its opposition without All Star 1B Joey Votto for a bulk of the campaign; he wasn’t at all right when he returned either. Now with a healthy first bagger paired with the long ball threats that both Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier proved to be, Cincy’s sticks look to be in much better shape heading into the regular season. Though Aroldis Chapman is being moved into the starting rotation, there are still plenty of live arms in the pen to keep the Reds a force in the NL.
Dark-Horse Picks To Win N.L.
Philadelphia Phillies (8/1) Ryan Howard is now a year+ removed from his Achilles surgery. Veteran Jimmy Rollins is still a stud shortstop. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay still comprise the top three tiers of the starting staff, and Jonathan Papelbon is still there to close things out in the 9th. This team went through a ton of adversity last season, yet still managed to win 81 games. This is an excellent return to get on a team that’s been there and done that!
Arizona Diamondbacks (25/1) Remember, this team ran away with the NL West back in 2011 on the back of an offense that flat out murdered the baseball. It did also get some decent pitching which is something the Snakes will need to get in 2013 to compete with what looks to be an extremely competitive division on paper. Staff ace Ian Kennedy majorly regressed from his 21-4 campaign he had in 2010, but if he can bounce back, I believe the rest of Arizona’s starting staff will follow suit. Zona also possesses a nasty back end of the bullpen, so if things once again fall its way, the pieces are in place for a bounce back year in the desert.
San Diego Padres (40/1) The biggest longshot of the bunch that I actually feel has a better than average chance of turning some heads this season are the Padres. This franchise was flat out bombarded by the injury bug a year ago, yet manager Bud Black’s squad still stuck in the Wild Card race through late September. San Diego was one of the best second half teams in the entire league a year ago, which just goes to show that when healthy, this club’s a contender. From a value standpoint alone, the return is simply ludicrous – they do not deserve to be bookended by a pair of clubs in the Cubs and Mets that showed just how much more they need to win games on a consistent basis. Do not overlook this club – it’s going to be a huge moneymaker just like it was back in 2010!