MLB Predictions – Who Will Win the National League?
There has been a lot of chatter about the powerhouse teams in the American League. I already released a preview looking at the AL Pennant race, as there are at least a few teams trying to catch the Boston Red Sox.
But last time I checked, a team from the National League will be in the World Series at the end of October. So we might as well start paying attention to the teams in the NL, too.
The goal for this blog is to further examine the four teams who I believe are vying for the NL Pennant. Of course, there are a few more clubs that technically still have a chance, but I’m not here to talk about the “maybes.”
I am here to break down the serious contenders in the National League, and right now, I see a foursome of teams in the thick of it.
I’ll start with who I believe is the most complete team in the league, those “Baby Braves” in Atlanta.
When the season started, I knew this team was going to be a young and intriguing team on the rise. But to say I expected to see them blow by the Washington Nationals and gain control of the NL East in early September would be a bold-faced lie.
To be honest, when you start going through the batting order, it starts to resemble one of those beefed-up squads in the AL. Ronald Acuña Jr. has yet to celebrate his 21st birthday, but the dude is playing like a total monster.
Over the past month and a half, the Braves’ leadoff hitter has been tormenting opposing pitchers with his rare combination of effortless power and lightning-quick speed. But it’s not just all about the 20-year-old Venezuelan when it comes to the Braves.
21-year-old partner-in-crime Ozzie Albies has been nothing short of fantastic this season in Atlanta, as he has elevated himself into one of the premier second basemen in all of baseball.
Freddie Freeman is doing what Freddie Freeman does, hitting over .300 and driving in runs as one of the most productive 1B in the league.
But perhaps the nicest surprise in the A-T-L this year has been the consistency from outfielders Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte. Throw in 3B/SS Johan Camargo’s stellar play, and you’ll understand that Brian Snitker’s bunch means business.
Mike Foltynewicz is sporting a 2.67 ERA with 169 Ks through 145 innings, while lefty Sean Newcomb has dazzled on numerous occasions. Adding a guy like Kevin Gausman before the deadline is exactly what this team needed to help them get over the hump.
Other teams will be charging hard, but I really think the Braves could be in the driver’s seat when October baseball arrives.
The Chicago Cubs seemed to be in a lull for most of the season, but an invigorated group is back atop the NL Central standings with less than 4 weeks to play.
Chicago’s president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, wasn’t shy about shaking up his roster in hopes of making a late-season push, so that’s exactly what the brash team president did. David Murphy was acquired from the Nationals, and he looks to immediately be rejuvenated in a “Cubbies” uniform.
Cole Hamels was brought in on July 27th and has been nothing short of marvelous so far in the Windy City.
He lifts this staff into an impressive group, but I don’t think it’s bulletproof. The trio of Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana is a formidable triad of pitchers, but I actually prefer the guys in Atlanta.
Fortunately, the Cubs also have a pretty deadly collection of batters.
Javy Baez has burst onto the scene in 2018, turning into one of the most distinguished hitters in the National League. We already know about Anthony Rizzo, and 3B/OF Kris Bryant is finally healthy again.
Add in quality pieces like Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, and you’ll see why pitchers in the NL aren’t too excited about trips to Wrigley Field.
I prefer the overall youth and exuberance in the Braves clubhouse, but I’m not naïve enough to sleep on Joe Maddon’s squad.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a heated battle with the Rockies and the Dodgers for the NL West crown. It’s too close to call right now, but Arizona is who I believe is the most trustworthy team of the three.
I’ll start with their pitching because that’s where I feel like they set themselves apart and have a legitimate edge. Manager Torey Lovullo justifiably has five starters he can count on to throw quality innings and retire batters. Take a peek.
- Zack Greinke
- Patrick Corbin
- Clay Buchholz
- Zack Godley
- Robbie Ray
The D’Backs team ERA of 3.54 is second in the National League, and they hold the opposition to a meager BA of just .235. Brad Boxberger seems to have settled in nicely as the closer, while Archie Bradley is one of the top set-up men in the league.
The lineup in Arizona isn’t as fierce as it could be, as having 3B Jake Lamb hit the DL for the remainder of the year wasn’t the news they were hoping for.
But guys like David Peralta and Ketel Marte have helped pick up the slack, and it’s nice to see center fielder A.J. Pollock smiling in the outfield, healthy and in uniform for a change.
After a slow first couple months, Paul Goldschmidt is rounding into his typical form, the one that has him entrenched as one of the most illustrious batters in the Big Leagues.
As long as this current group can stay healthy and their starting rotation can remain intact, I see this team emerging from the NL West and securing a spot in a divisional round series. Once that occurs, anything can happen.
Just because the Braves and Cubs have more “pop” in their lineups doesn’t mean it’s time to count the Diamondbacks out. At least not yet.
Los Angeles Dodgers
About halfway through the 2018 baseball season, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked like a lost group that was still feeling the aftereffects of losing a heartbreaking 7-game World Series to the Houston Astros.
But a few adjustments to the roster and some bats coming alive, and suddenly the Dodgers have thrust themselves right back into the discussion.
A bevy of acquisitions has this lineup bolstered to make a run at the World Series again, but I suspect it’ll come down to their pitching. Those of you who still think that Clayton Kershaw is this invincible ace that he once was just aren’t living in reality.
I will admit that the 30-year-old southpaw has looked more like his original self as of late and is hurling the ball terrifically right now, but I still have my doubts as to how his back will hold up as he continues to pack on innings.
Lefties Alex Wood and Rich Hill are certainly capable of pitching deep into games, but how consistent they’ll be down the stretch is still up in the air. Rookie Walker Buehler has looked brilliant at times, as has Hyun-Jin Ryu.
So I can see the promise and hope.
But will these guys perform for Dave Roberts when it matters? I’m still not sure.
Adding a world-class talent like Manny Machado reinforces an already stout list of hitters, as does the Brian Dozier addition. Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig can get red-hot, and I’d like to point out that Jacob Turner is swinging the bat like an absolute flamethrower right now.
Now take into account Max Muncy’s emergence and Matt Kemp’s steady play.
If LA is able to slide into the Playoff picture, they could easily wind up being the team to beat in the NL. It might take a Wild Card play-in game, but if the Dodgers start smelling the postseason, the floodgates could open.
I was close to putting the Phillies in as my fourth team instead of the Dodgers, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
Sleeping on the “Fightin’ Phils” would be a mistake, as their youth and inexperience might actually bode well for them, as perhaps they won’t fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. But they’re still staring up at the Braves in their own division and have a big hill to climb.
Likewise, the Brewers and the Cardinals are by no means out of it, but the Cubs look to be gaining more and more control of the NL Central as the season inches closer to its final days.
For those reasons, I feel like the four teams I revealed on this page are in the best positions to succeed.
I know I can’t get out of here without being firm on a pick, so I will leave you with this.
I don’t care how young and innocent the “Baby Braves” are; I just think they have the best overall team in the National League.
The fact that you can still snag them at +650 on SportsBetting.ag to win the NL Pennant means I can’t type any more right now because it’s time to log into my account and lock this wager in immediately!