Monday, April 4, 2011

Baseball Predictions for 2011 (NL)

National League

Eastern Division Winner:

1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

The Atlanta Braves are my pick to win the division. The combination of young players with super star ability along with some savvy veterans makes them my pick for the division. The Phillies pitching staff is good, but it's not exactly young, one or two of these pitchers could break down rather easily. The rest of the Phillies offense has similar issues in regards to age. Florida continues to develop talent and every couple years they put it together for a World Series championship, it won't happen again this year, but there are some interesting players to watch on the team. New York is a mess right now and the Nationals are making some progress to being a professional organization that develops talent and might even compete in 2-3 years.

Central Division

1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

The top three spots in this division is a toss up. I put the Brewers there based on their aggressive off season moves. They've worked to acquire some pitching to go along with their powerful lineup. Unfortunately for the start of the season some of that pitching is hurt, if it comes around though, this will be a tough team to beat. The Reds are continuing to get better and based on the talent and age of this team, they should be here for the next 5 years. They still need to have their pitchers develop a bit, but this is the team no one wants to see in their division for the next couple years with their lineup. St. Louis lost their ace in spring training for the year, this hurts, but Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan always manage to cope with putting a pitching staff together and this team will score runs if only because of Albert Pujols. Houston and Pittsburgh are afterthoughts, I was tempted to place the Pirates higher then the Astros, but as one of the three worst organizations in baseball over the last 10+ years, I just couldn't do it.

Western Division

1. Colorado Rockies
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
5. San Diego Padres

The Giants are defending champions and the Rockies are up and coming. I'm going with my gut here and picking the Rockies, the lineup has two of the best players in the division (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), they also have a bunch of young fireballers in the rotation that are in various stages of development, with Ubaldo Jimenez on the brink of a Cy Young season. The Giants by virtue of their World Series win and their young pitching staff and ROY Buster Posey are very dangerous, but I have concerns that their patchwork offense can work the same magic again this year and give the nod to the Rockies. The Diamondbacks and Dodgers both have some pieces, but they also have a lot of holes. The Padres are rebuilding, last time they rebuilt they were one win away from making the playoffs. It won't happen this time, but this organization does know how to rebuild quickly.

Wild Card team:
San Francisco Giants:
the Phillies get a lot of buzz for their rotation, but the Giants rotation is better, plus the Giants put it all together last year. Count on the Giants young hitters continuing to get better and the Phillies hitters to continue to get older and more nicked up.

Surprising team:
Atlanta Braves, they win this spot as they beat out the consensus team for their division championship in the Phillies. The Braves have once again retooled and their pitching isn't even at the point of where it could be. Watch out in a couple years for a couple of their pitchers, they may make another 10 year division run in the East.

Upcoming team to keep an eye on:
Cincinnati Reds, there is a load of talent on this team in it's lineup. Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and potentially Drew Stubbs all could be high end All Stars for many years. Add in a mix of young pitchers and you have the recipe for a nice long run for a mid market team. If the pitching doesn't develop, they'll have trouble, but considering they won the division last year with average pitching, they can do a lot if the players develop beyond average.

Most Valuable Player:
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: he doesn't get the recognition Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard does, but Fielder is one of the top players in the NL in a contract year and a very solid lineup around him. Look for him to put it all together this year.

Cy Young:
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies: Jimenez lost the Cy Young last year, he wasn't beaten for it. He started out with a 15-1 record and dominated hitters and then had a very bad run to end the year which pushed him behind Roy Halladay. Halladay had a very good year and a lot of media focus due to his trade before the season. Young pitchers tend to have things like this happen at times though, so outside of an arm injury, look for Jimenez to put a full season together.

Rookie of the Year:
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: Chapman is starting out the season as a reliever and based on the fact that he might average a strikeout an inning that still might be enough to win him the award. Last year had a great crop of rookies and most came through very nicely. This year has some nice candidates (Brandon Belt SF and Freddie Freeman ATL) but I'm taking a shot that those two might struggle a bit, leaving the door open for someone with impressive power numbers, which Chapman should have. This pick is a total shot in the dark though based on a hunch that Belt and Freeman struggle and no one else breaks out.

Comeback/Most Improved Player of the year:
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets: I'll choose Beltran as the comeback player of the year, based on his talent and the fact that he's been sidelined for so long.

Manager of the year:
Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves: Gonzalez gets the nod over Jim Tracy of the Rockies, due to the Braves recapturing the NL East and beating the Phillies and knocking them completely out of the playoffs.

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