With MLB Opening Day finally here, it’s time to go over our predictions for 2020. Earlier today, we posted our playoff predictions for the American League, and now we move over to the National League. This year for the NL will be a little bit different, as, for the first time ever, the DH is headed to the Senior Circuit.
So who do we think will the playoffs from the NL? Let’s go over our predictions.
NL East Champion: Atlanta Braves
The Braves have won the NL East in each of the past two seasons, and we have no reason to believe Atlanta can’t do it again. The Braves boast a strong rotation, led by Mike Soroka, who had a dominant rookie season in 2019, Max Fried and newcomer Cole Hamels. The Braves also have a new and improved bullpen, as Atlanta added former Giants RHP Will Smith this past offseason. Not all news with the former Giants reliever is good though, as Smith, along with 1B Freddie Freeman, tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month. While Freeman has since recovered, Smith has not yet recovered. When he does return to action, he will join a formidable rotation that also includes Mark Melancon and Shane Greene.
The Braves’ pitching staff is quite strong, and so is their offense. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. lead the charge here offensively, but don’t forget about Ozzie Albies and newcomer Marcell Ozuna, who signed a one-year deal with Atlanta this past offseason. The Braves’ firepower, along with their depth, should get them past the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals, who are without several key pieces, the Mets, who are dealing with a number of injuries, and the Phillies in the NL East.
NL Central Champion: Cincinnatti Reds
To say it’s been a tough couple of years for the Reds would be a gross understatement. The Reds have endured six consecutive losing seasons since 2013, and four of those were years where the Reds lost 90 or more games. 2020, though, looks to be a different story. Cincinnati improved by eight games in 2019, and the Reds also saw strong seasons last year from right-handed pitchers Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. If RHP Trevor Bauer can dominate like he did with Cleveland, the Reds are in great shape pitching-wise.
Offensively, the Reds look quite strong as well. 3B Eugenio Suarez reached a career-high in home runs (49) in 2019, and he’s healthy to start 2020. With Suarez, Mike Moustakas, Joey Votto, who needs a rebound year in the worst way, and a deep outfield led by newcomer Nicholas Castellanos, the Reds are poised to surpass the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals in the NL Central.
NL West Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been nothing short of dominant in the regular season over the past decade. That trend should continue in 2020, especially considering that Big Blue now has Mookie Betts, who was part of the Red Sox team that defeated the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, on their roster. The 2018 AL MVP, Betts may very well be the missing piece that already has so much talent on their roster.
The Dodgers’ roster far outmatches the other teams in their division, and the Dodgers have more than enough depth to get them through the season should LA deal with any injuries. With all of that said, the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the NL West and move on to the postseason, where the real season begins.
NL Wild Card Teams: St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres
It’s going to quite the battle for the two NL Wild Card spots, but we believe that the two teams that will take them will be the Cardinals and Padres. St. Louis is coming off a season where they fell to the Nationals in the NLCS, and the Cards do bring back much of their roster from 2019. Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna are no longer there, but Paul Goldschimdt, Paul DeJong, and Kolten Wong are. In addition to their veteran talent, youngsters Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, and Dylan Carlson (who did not make the Opening Day roster) will provide some much-needed depth should the Cardinals need it. And their rotation, led by Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Carlos Martinez, has enough firepower to get them through the NL Central.
As for the Padres, San Diego is looking for their first playoff birth since 2006. While San Diego may not have the best roster on paper as compared to some of the other teams, the Padres could be a big beneficiary from their schedule, with features winnable games against the Mariners, Giants, Rockies, and Rangers. The 60 game format should also be beneficial for a young pitching staff that could be let loose. With a nice balance of youngsters and talented veterans, this could be the year the Padres make it back to the MLB Postseason.
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