Why Your Favorite Baseball Team Can And Cannot Be a Contender This Year: National League Edition

Annnnnnd we're back for the National League side of business here as we get ready for first pitch on Opening Day. If you clicked on the AL preview blog I appreciate you because I was up til about three in the morning churning that baby out and wasn't sure if a lick of it made sense. Oh wait…none of it made sense?

Funny how that works…

If you wanna catch up on that after you're done here you can find that link right here. Without further ado let's delve in and see why and why not your favorite team can contend in 2022. 

First of all, welcome to the universal DH. It's been a long, long time coming with people screaming about the one time Bartolo Colon hit a home run and how awesome it was. You know what's not awesome? Walking a hitter to load the bases in a crucial part of a game only to have a reliever come up and stare at three pitches down the dick. I'm very happy we're done with that. 

NL East

Braves (o/u 91.5) 

Never in a million years  did I expect Freddie Freeman to sign elsewhere in the offseason. Never even crossed my mind that he'd have a new home come this time, but that's where we're at. The Braves won the World Series and Freeman got his money in LA where he'll be closer to home. There's also this recent development…

As a backup plan the Braves traded for Matt Olson who is fucking awesome. On top of that Atlanta is getting back some guy named Ronald Acuna Jr. Just for good measure Marcell Ozuna also returns to the lineup. Michael Soroka should hopefully be back in the summer as he returns from another achilles injury (this poor fucking guy.) What I'm getting at is that the Braves are returning a powerful offense that will only be better with the reinforcements. 

Contend: The Braves were a top 10 offense with only half a season of Acuna. They'll get Soroka back at some point to boost the rotation as well. This team is loaded and filled with confidence. 

Fail: I am struggling to find one reason why the Braves won't be a World Series contender this year. I'd say champagne hangover but Acuna, Ozuna, and Olson joining the lineup won't help that narrative. 

Mets (o/u 88.5) 

Steve Cohen owns the Mets so all their problems are gone right? They won the offseason getting Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Chris Bassitt, and Mark Canha. On paper that actually is awesome and this should be the year the Mets take the jump from ending their season in July to being a real player in October. The only problem? Kevin Clancy still exists and with that his curse of life will remain. Jacob deGrom will be out until at least mid-season if not more with his shoulder injury. Still no one knows why he was shutdown a week into July last year. We're going to be looking at a year of no deGrom before the thought of him returning becomes a thing. It's great that Max Scherzer is there and Bassitt is an awesome third option, but without Jake their hopes certainly change. 

Contend: deGrom actually returns in the second half to form the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball with Scherzer and Bassitt. Lindor decides to not start the season 0-150 and instead plays like the guy who posted an .856 OPS from July on. I like the Starling Marte and Mark Canha additions as well. This lineup has the potential to be legit. 

Fail: deGrom never returns and the bullpen blows countless games leading to Frank the Tank's demise. Adam Ottavino can be awesome, but when he's bad it's unwatchable. He could very well end up being the Tank's most hated player of all time. This is a big year for Lindor. He was a tale of two halves in 2021, so which one will it be? 

Phillies (o/u 86.5) 

Every year I buy into what the Phillies are doing only to have that blow up right in my face. Adding Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to a lineup that already included Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Rhys Hoskins? How does that lineup not put up a boat load of runs? It almost seem impossible, right? The question has to be, will the pitching hold up their end of the bargain? 

Contend: This offense scores the most runs in baseball outside the Dodgers because they shouldn't even count in stats realistically. Aaron Nola has a bounce back year and finishes inside the top-10 of the Cy Young race along with Wheeler. Ranger Suarez picks up where he left off and delivers once again to solidify the rotation. 

Fail: The bullpen once again blows every lead. Maybe adding Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia to the equation was a bad idea? Another year where this team falls well below expectations as they sit behind the improved Mets and Braves. 

Marlins (o/u 75.5) 

The Marlins can be that team who surprises the shit out of you in any given series leaving you confused as to what just happened. Adding Jorge Soler on the cheap was a nice move, especially considering he just won World Series MVP. Coveted catcher Jacob Stallings also comes in to manage the staff and provide a solid bat from the position. This lineup can hit a bit and make some noise, but I like the rotation even more. Alcantara, Trevor Rogers, and Pablo Lopez combine to make a really nice trio. Unfortunately premier prospect Sixto Sanchez appears to have been a casualty of the lockout. As he was rehabbing his shoulder the right hander was unable to talk to the team and that may have had something to do with him recently suffered a setback. Although no structural damage was found, his return is being delayed. Hopefully he joins the staff sometime around the ASB. 

Contend is an aggressive word here. Can the Marlins be a pesky team in the NL East and give teams like the Mets fits? Definitely. They have an arsenal of young pitching just waiting to get the call. I'll have no problem taking a stab on them as a dog throughout the year. 

Nationals (o/u 70.5) 

Can the Nationals convince Juan Soto to sign long-term? He's already rejected a $350 million deal so I would guess probably not. If that's the case and you're a Nats fan I'd take the season to cherish this man. Hey you also have Nelson Cruz which is cool. Everything else should be pretty sad. 

NL Central

Brewers (o/u 91.5) 

Will the real Christian Yelich please stand up? Seriously what's going on here? You go from MVP and MVP runner up in '18 and '19 to a sub .800 OPS the last two seasons? The Brewers are the front runners in the NL Central, but Yelich is preventing them from being a legitimate World Series threat. Milwaukee probably boasts the best top to bottom rotation in baseball, but they need consistent offense. 

Contend: Burnes, Woodrufff, Peralta, Houser, Lauer. There's no doubt they will contend and rack up wins in this division, but if Yelich can return to MVP form then we're talking maybe a 100 win season. Remember yesterday when I talked about that terrible trade the Red Sox made? Yeah that was with the Brewers where they received Hunter Renfroe. Andrew McCutchen also signed in the offseason to give them a little more firepower. 

Fail: Yelich's regression continues and the Cardinals give them hell for the division crown. Either way a wild card spot is a worst case scenario realistically. 

Cardinals (o/u 85.5) 

St. Louis is a solid baseball team. Good offense, solid rotation, serviceable bullpen, but does anything jump off the page to you? If Tyler O'Neill wants to do that thing again where he homers every game then they're going to be just fine. The lineup has a pretty good balance of speed, contact, and power. News yesterday broke that flamethrower reliever Jordan Hicks is going to be the fifth man in the rotation which is fascinating. Injuries to Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes have sorta forced the move, but while in the minors he did start a ton so this isn't completely out of left field. He's also only thrown 10 innings the last two years. I have no clue what to expect, but a surprise move like that gets me going. 

Contend: If the Cardinals are going to be a legit player this year, Nolan Arenado has to return to MVP form. You know Paul Goldschmidt is going to wake up, get out of bed, and hit close to 30 bombs while driving in 100. Nolan is the one who has had a dip in production since 2019. An .807 OPS from a guy of his caliber isn't going to cut it. He has to become the guy again. The rotation will need Flaherty and Reyes back as well at some point. They can hold their own for a few months, especially if Hicks can give them a boost, but for a whole season with 40 year old Waino being the ace? Not ideal. 

Fail: Arenado's dive continues, the Jordan Hicks project blows up in their face, and neither Flaherty or Reyes are able to give the team anything impactful. At worst they should hover around a wild card spot with their lineup, but they expect more in St. Louis when you look at some of the names on this team. 

Cubs (o/u 73.5) 

The Cubs blew things sky high last year and it was sad to see. This offseason they tried to work in a few cheeky moves to help get themselves trending in the right direction/trick the fan base that they're trying. Coveted Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki will be interesting to watch early on. Yankees OF Clint Frazier also came aboard after a tumultuous last few years in the Bronx. They're buying low on a guy with a ton of potential and I don't hate it. A change of scenery might be the best thing ever for his career. Marcus Stroman was desperate to find a team before the lockout went into place and oddly took the Cubs 3 year $71 mill deal. The Cubs aren't very good, and I wouldn't be overly shocked if they became sellers once again at the deadline with a guy like Wilson Contreras. Hopefully guys like Suzuki, Clint, Ortega, and Madrigal are exciting enough to make summer days in Wrigley tolerable for Carl. 

Reds (o/u 72.5) 

Like the Cubs, I feel for Reds fans. Just two years removed from the playoffs they have now cut Wade Miley to save $10mill, traded Sonny Gray, let Castellanos walk, traded Tucker Barnhart, and traded fan favorite Jesse Winker just to shed Eugenio Suarez's money. Mr. Cincinnati Joey Votto remains, along with the 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India and Mike Moustakas. Probably the most exciting thing in Cincy all year will be the long awaited debut of Hunter Greene. This dude hits 102 on the gun frequently and now that he's healthy he's ready to rock. Hopefully he's able to stay off the IL for a whole year so we can see what the kid's got.

Pirates (o/u 63.5) 

If you're a Pirates fan these days you should be spending your days plotting a blackmail scheme on your owner rather than watching the games. You better just hope they extend Bryan Reynolds instead of trading him, even if that move would get back a haul and a half. At least you paid Ke'Bryan Hayes. 

NL West

Dodgers (o/u 98.5) 

The Dodgers having a Vegas win total of 98.5 is laughable. Usually these things are set on the low side, but not with LA. Maybe 98.5 is low? I mean this lineup is laughable. 

It just doesn't stop. I'd say the biggest question mark with this team revolves around Trevor Bauer. I have no idea what's going to happen with him this season. He's currently on administrative leave, but you have to imagine that's coming to an end sometime soon. Will the Dodgers welcome him back if that's the case? Their rotation with and without Bauer is drastically different. 

Contend: LA should run away with the division and position themselves atop the NL. I could see Milwaukee giving them a run for their money for the 1 seed, but at the end of the day look at this lineup and all your doubts should slip away. They did lose closer Kenley Jansen, but were able to add Craig Kimbrel. 

Fail: If Bauer isn't part of this rotation I do have my concerns for LA. Buehler is a bonafide ace, but can Kershaw be this team's 2? Urias, Gonsolin, and Andrew Heaney as the 3-4-5? Not exactly the strongest bunch, although they should be getting Dustin May back from TJ surgery in the 2nd half. I want to remind everyone again that the Dodgers willingly gave Andrew Heaney $8.5 million to pitch for them this season. I wonder if they become a buyer for a big named arm at the deadline to sure up this staff if Bauer isn't in the mix. 

Giants (o/u 86.5) 

The Giants continued to defy all logic and doubts last year as they won the NL West. It was fucking incredible to watch them refuse to slip away. Their lineup won't jump off the page at you, but it's solid from top to bottom. They lost Kevin Gausman in the offseason but brought in Carlos Rodon and Alex Cobb to join a staff that includes Logan Webb, DeSciafani, and Alex Wood. Apparently Alex Cobb is throwing in the upper 90s now after averaging around 90-93 his whole career???

Contend: You know guys like Yaz, Crawford, and Belt are going to hit, but now with Buster Posey retired it's time for the Joey Bart show. The Giants need their 2020 no. 2 pick backstop to arrive this season. His bat can immensely help out this team, but it's up to him to seize the opportunity. The rotation should be among the best in the league as it was last year. Unfortunately they're stuck behind the Dodgers more than likely this season. That being said the Wild Card should be easily attainable for the Gigantes.  

Fail: As solid as the lineup appears, Belt-Crawford-Ruf are all 34 years old and up. Maybe this lineup doesn't find the same magic in the bottle as 2021. Carlos Rodon was great last year when he was healthy until his arm died and he lost all his velocity. Is he capable of pitching a full season? I wonder they're going to be in the market for a bat come the deadline. 

Padres (o/u 88.5) 

The Padres are a fascinating bunch. Somehow last year they managed to finish below .500 despite all the excitement. They bring in a great veteran manager in Bob Melvin who will hopefully be able to manage these younger heads better than Jayce Tingler. Unfortunately, Fernando Tatis Jr. was addicted to riding motorcycles this offseason and showed up to camp with a broken wrist. Classic. We probably won't see him until July. Sean Manaea comes over from Oakland with Melvin to solidify the rotation while Chris Paddack was traded to the Twins this morning in exchange for reliever Taylor Rogers. The Padres needed to sure up their pen. The closer role for this team is up in the air with some speculating it could be former starter Dinelson Lamet. 

Contend: Even without Tatis this lineup mashes, especially if Luke Voit finds his 2020 magic again under a clean bill of health. He'll be the team's everyday DH and likely cleanup hitter which should provide him with a ton of chances to post a big bounce back offensive season. Manny Machado will really have to carry the load with Tatis' absence and he's certainly more than capable of doing that. The 1-2-3 of Darvish-Musgrove-Manaea should be excellent. Maybe Blake Snell decides to have a good season as well? He likes to do this thing where he alternates good and bad seasons. Based off that pattern he's due for some success in 2022. Look out for some young guns to make a difference with this team as well with CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore in the mix. Padres announced Abrams (their no. 1 prospect) made the Opening Day roster today. 

Fail: Tatis comes back in the summer, but never gets in a groove. The Padres once again fall well below expectations for no reason at all. 

Rockies (o/u 68.5) 

I don't know what the Rockies are doing and I don't think the Rockies know what they're doing. A year ago they gave the Cardinals $50 million to take their franchise player off their hands. Now they've given Kris Bryant $182 million?? Have the Rockies overtaken the Kings as the worst run franchise in sports?

Diamondbacks (o/u 65.5) 

Ketel Marte is a fun player to watch and I'll get suckered into betting them at home late at night. Definitely will lose those bets, but it's an automatic wager for me and I can't tell you why. 

And that's the NL breakdown for ya. Realistically the Dodgers to lose, but I'm not discounting the Brewers or Braves at all. Cubbies getting things going at 2:20 vs. the Crew. Let's have ourselves a season boys and girls. Cheers.