Welcome back to part deuce of our Thoughts, Musings and Bold Predictions segment. I realized in the first segment I gave you all the winners of each division in the National League, but I didn’t name the Wild Card teams. So, here they are, the two NL Wild Card teams, plus the winner of the play in game, and individual awards for the upcoming season.
National League Wild Card: The Arizona Diamondbacks
Another unfortunate turn of events for us Giants fans, but Arizona is really good and only getting better. They have a great young pitching staff, at the top of which is Pat Corbin who will contend for the Cy Young Award this year, it doesn’t help (the Giants) that they also just signed Bronson Arroyo Giant Killer to a two year deal making that pitching staff look even better. However, it isn’t the pitching that makes Arizona so dangerous.
The Diamondbacks added even more firepower this offseason in Mark Trumbo whom they acquired from the Angels in a three team deal for Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton. Trumbo has hit 30 or more home runs in the last three years, including 35 last season. Pair that with MVP Runner up Paul Goldschmidt’s 36 HR and 125 RBI, and you have yourselves two bona fide mashers at the plate. Those two, along with three models of consistency at the plate and in the field, Catcher Miguel Montero, Third Baseman Martin Prado, and Second Baseman Aaron Hill gives the DiamondBacks one of the best all around lineups in the league, and will be a formidable foe to any team that plays them. Oh, and not to mention, they also got themselves a young Closer Addisson Reed in a trade with the White Sox, and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball in Archie Bradley who should make his debut in the League sometime in the middle of the season.
*The Pittsburgh Pirates
One of the hardest things to do in sports is improve your team when they’ve made the playoffs. You now have expectations attached to every move you make, and it is extremely difficult to get back to that place you were last season. Just ask the Golden State Warriors. That is why, unfortunately, I am NOT picking the Pirates to make the second Wild Card spot. They didn’t do enough in the offseason to improve themselves, and I still don’t know just how good Starling Marte and Jose Tabata are in right and left field. I also don’t expect Pedro Alvarez to do what he did last year. McCutchen is great, and Gerrit Cole is arguably the best young pitcher in the league, but who knows what the rest of that staff, especially Francisco Liriano is going to do. They just don’t have enough to win the spot over the next team who will make the Wild Card.
The Atlanta Braves
The Braves are perennial contenders. They have the best bullpen in baseball, with the best closer in Craig Kimbrel. Al Lieter, from the show Clubhouse Confidential on MLB Network (and former Mets Ace) predicted in their bold predictions segment like this one, that Kimbrel would convert 60 of 60 Saves this season. THAT is how good this guy Kimbrel is. And in front of him are Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and Jonny Venters. All of whom can be closers in this league. Their starting staff is young, with Ace of the staff Kris Medlin being the wily old vet at a whopping 28 years old. Atlanta always produces good pitching and its no different this year with Mike Minor, much hyped prospect Julio Tehran, Brandon Beachy and 22 year old Alex Wood.
Their lineup is still going to be potent even with the loss of Brian McCann. Evan Gattis, McCanns backup and Left Fielder when Justin Upton went down last year still managed to hit 21 home runs in only 105 games. Gattis does strike out a lot, and with Justin and BJ Upton in the linuep, that can make for a few (hundred) too many K’s. That being said, Justin Upton is still one of the premier hitters in baseball today, paired with Jason Heyward, and rising star Short Stop Andrelton Simmons, the Braves should be in good shape to contend for the National League Wild Card.
Wild Card Winner: Arizona Diamondbacks.
Their firepower is just going to be too much for Atlanta, especially in a one game format.
National League Cy Young Award.
Clayton Kershaw: Its going to be Kershaw until he can’t pitch anymore. Thats how good this guy is. He’s just a rung above everyone else in baseball.
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants: Bumgarner could have his best year to date. He’s slowly but surely taking Cain’s place as the ace of the Giants staff. He was about the only pitcher last season with the Giants who had success. If he can build on last year, and on the 2012 season, he can finish as runner up to Kershaw in the Cy Young voting. He could even win it if Greinke has a great year, and he and Kershaw split the votes leading the way for Madison to win his first.
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals: When haven’t we talked about Wainwright in contention for the Cy Young? This guy is a model of consistency, and one of the best pitchers in the league every single year.
Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals: If Wacha can reproduce what he did when he got called up to the majors during the second half of last year, has a real chance as a rookie to contend for the Cy Young in the National League. He only started 9 regular season games last year and went 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA and 65 Ks. His only problem is that he has Wainwright pitching in front of him, who will take some of his Cy Young votes.
Jose Fernandes, Miami Marlins: The reigning Rookie of the Year has a chance to build on his brilliant 2013 season. If you haven’t heard of Jose Fernandez, look him up because he is one of the best young pitchers in the league. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA last season and can hit triple digits on occasion. He’s going to be one of the premier pitchers in this league for years to come. Too bad he plays on a team that really doesn’t care.
Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants: Yes, he’s coming off a rough season, yes Bumgarner is overshadowing him a bit. But The Horse is rested, and has two Word Series and a Perfect Game under his belt. This guy shouldn’t be counted out for anything.
Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates: You can basically take what I said about Michael Wacha or Jose Fernandez and insert here.
National League Most Valuable Player
Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals: You read that right. I am picking Bryce Harper to win the MVP award this season. Its his third year in the league, and this is the year he puts everything together. He was plagued last season by injury, but if he can stay healthy he can really be something this year. His SABR numbers are what’s going to put him over the top. Last season he may have only hit .272, but he posted a .368 OBP, Slugged .468 and posted an .856 OPS. If he even builds on that a little, he can slug .500 and have an almost .900 OPS, those are Votto like numbers the year he won it. This isn’t unheard of either, he just needs to improve a little bit, and I expect him to improve A LOT. I expect his home run numbers to go up from 20 to 30 or more. His BA and OBP should go up as well, bringing the rest of those numbers up. Bryce Harper is going to live up to the hype this season, and lead The Washington Nationals to a division title.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: We expect last year’s MVP to have around the same numbers. This guy has it all in terms of tools. He has speed, he can field with the best CF’s in the league, he actually IS the best CF in the league, he can hit, and he’s good on the basepaths. He won’t go back to back due to the fact that The Pirates will come back to earth a little bit, and that Harper, I believe is going to have a career year.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona DiamondBacks: Goldschmidt is a lot of peoples favorite going into this year. Last year’s Runner Up posted 36 HR’s 125 RBI and hit .302/.401/.551. He probably should have won it last year with numbers like those, but the voters almost HAD to give it to McCutchen due to the fact that he lead the Pirates to their first playoff appearance in 20 years. If he has that kind of season again, voters would be hard-pressed not to give him the MVP.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: Expect Buster to have a 2012 like year rather than a 2013 like season. This guy is the best catcher in the league, and will be in the conversation for MVP almost every year.
Hanley Ramirez, SS/Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers: Gonzalez is in the conversation every year. He’s driven in 100 runs every year since 2007. His power number have dropped significantly since hitting his career high 40 HR’s with San Diego in 2009. Expect more of the same from the Dodgers slugger this season.
If Hanley Ramirez does what he did in only 86 games last season, this guy could be a lock for MVP. in 86 games he hit 20 HR’s, 60 RBI, and hit .345/.402/.638. If he can duplicate those numbers throughout the course of the season then the Dodgers are going to be looking REALLY good. The problem with Ramirez is that he’s given no indication that he can stay healthy. Every year its always some sort of nagging injury that keeps him out a month or two.
DARK HORSES: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
Troy Tulowitski, SS, Colorado Rockies : If they can stay healthy, they’ll be in the conversation.
NL Rookie of the Year
Michael Wacha: See Above!
So, thats it, its finally over. The National League Bold Predictions have been made. Hopefully there is not baseball overload going on in your brain right now, because I haven’t even started the American League Bold Predictions yet! Stay tuned for Parts III and IV when I do this same damn thing, only about the AL this time! Happy Beer Week Folks!