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Why Your Favorite Team Can And Cannot Contend This Year: 2024 National League Edition

Happy Opening Day to you and yours! We did it! That tingling feeling in your balls right now? It's not testicular cancer, it's hope..most likely. Today is about us. Go get yourself a beer and a hot dog, sit down on the couch, flip on the TV, and enjoy our great game that always gets in the way of itself and eventually beats us down so much we want to die each year. It's our time! 

We're back for the National League version of Hubbs writing a lot of words that most people skip to just tell him he's stupid. Here's the AL version that I spent way too much time on. Hope you enjoy. 

Well, before I dive in I have a nice reminder for you that if you have T-Mobile you can now redeem your free MLB.tv for the year. One of the best perks in the phone business or any business for that matter. This isn't even an ad, just me being a pal. I spent four years at Syracuse without a single bar of cell service using Sprint all for them to merge and get me this deal. A small price for salvation. 

One other thing. There's only one ESPN game on the schedule today? It's Opening Day across America and we've got one nationally televised game? That's growing the game? What happened to the days of a quadruple header on the worldwide leader? I know I just said the MLB.TV thing but there used to be a time where you could sit on ESPN for the whole Opening Day and watch four games consecutively. And before today's postponements we had exactly zero day games planned for Friday? What the actual fuck are we doing Rob? 

*number in parentheses are over/under win totals from Draft Kings #DKPartner

NL East

Braves (101.5)

Yes, the Braves choked massively in the postseason, but they're still unbelievably loaded. A 104 win team returns a better squad in 2024 with the additions of Chris Sale, Jarred Kelenic, Adam Duvall, Reynaldo Lopez, and Aaron Bummer. They lose Eddie Rosario to the Nats and Vaughn Grissom to Boston in the Sale deal, but the net result here is positive. 

Contend: This lineup is disgusting. Like what the fuck do you do with this pre-October? Once they get to the postseason it's anyone's guess as to where the dominos fall and who tightens up in the biggest moments, but during the regular season they're gonna bully pitchers. 

Chris Sale is the real x factor since he hasn't thrown 150 innings in a season since 2018. He did finish off 2023 with a strong September, posting four out of five starts giving up a run or less. As of now there's not a whole lot of pressure who him to be his old self, unlike in Boston, so maybe that helps him get in a groove and wind back the clock. Strider-Fried-Sale as your 1-2-3 is nasty if they get that rolling in the right direction. 

Fail: If you don't contend with this lineup then something tragic happened. Like catastrophic to the point where it involves death, multiple deaths. 

Phillies (89.5) 

The Phillies didn't necessarily make any big external moves in the offseason, but they made sure to take care of their own and lock up their horses in Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola. They're always aggressive with the trade market with Dombrowski always thinking about the present rather than the future. Harper begins his full-time 1st base duties this season which should be interesting to follow. I'm expecting Trea Turner to be much more relaxed this time around and have a really nice season for Philly, as opposed to whatever the hell happened during the first half of '23.  

Contend: Seems like the pattern for them lately has been start slow and finish blazing hot. With Wheeler and Nola at the top doing their thing and a lineup that consists of Schwarber, Harper, Turner, Realmuto, and Castellanos you're gonna probably win a lot of baseball games if everyone stays on the field. 

Fail: Philadelphia's 3-4-5 in the rotation of Suarez, Sanchez, and Turnbull can be an issue. 2020 1st round pick Mick Abel is a name we should hear from this season to possibly help out those question marks. Also how does Alvarado hold up as the full time closer with Kimbrel out of the picture? That's not to say Phillies fans are upset Kimbrel is gone, but you never know how a guy adjust to an upgraded role like that. 

Mets (81.5) 

The Mets are more than likely playing for the future. They've got four top 100 prospects in the system, with Drew Gilbert, Luisangel Acuna, Jett Williams, and Ryan Clifford. As for the current roster? The lineup needed big improvements if they were gonna make noise this year and that's before mentioning the pitching staff. They grabbed J.D. Martinez at the 11th hour of the offseason, but that's not gonna be enough to swing things. 

Contend: Gilbert and Acuna get called up mid-season as the team fights to stay alive as they both provide an enormous burst of energy and life to the lineup. Luis Severino uses a change of scenery to contend for an NL Cy Young and actually stay healthy for a change (remind me to unalive myself if this happens). Edwin Diaz's return to the 9th inning leads to lots of trumpets and things being put into books. Somehow Quintana, Megill, Manaea, and Houser are enough to not sink the ship until Senga returns. 

FailI'm expecting a lot of Tank freak outs. Let's just hope for everyone's sake they extend Pete. 2025 is when I expect this team to be players again. 

Marlins (78.5) 

I wish the Marlins were better because they do have some fun pieces. Unfortunately Sandy is done for, Eury Perez has elbow inflammation, while Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera are battling shoulder injuries. Their strength was supposed to be amazing, young pitching, but they're all sidelined. It's Jesus Luzardo and then a rag tag group of starters. Offensively they lost Soler, which hurts. A lineup that was already not a strength, got worse. 

Contend: Perez, Garrett, and Cabrera all magically return from injury and dominate. Josh Bell hits 40+ bombs, Jazz bounces back, and Arraez wins the batting title again. Is that enough for a wild card spot? 

Fail: Pitching staff is just too beaten down to really expect much here, plus they fail to invest any real money into the offense. Should have kept Kim Ng. 

Nationals (65.5)

The Nats are not planning on contending in 2024, but they're building up a farm. James Wood, Dylan Crews, and Brady House all crack the MLB top 50 of prospects. How quickly do we see Crews though? Is he a 2024 guy? That would be awesome. Watching that kid hit at LSU was special. What a polished hitter that guy is. Bring him up if he's having his way early. 

Contend: A win for the Nats would be Joey Gallo having a big first half so you can flip him at the deadline. That and Crews comes up in the 2nd half and absolutely hits the shit out of the ball. Just give the fans something to come to the park for. 

Fail: It's the Nats. Patrick Corbin is your number 2. The bullpen is an atrocity that can and will blow any lead handed to them. Offense needs the kids to ignite them but they probably wait til 2025 for the Avengers portals to open up. 

NL Central

Cardinals (84.5) 

The Cardinals had a nightmare 2023 and finished in dead last in this weak ass division. How does that even happen with some of the talent on the roster? The answer is pitching. Their starting rotation ERA was bottom five in the sport. To counter that they brought in Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn. Gray beings the year on the IL with a hammy strain, but it doesn't appear to be too serious. The offense didn't improve at all, but the bench now includes Brandon Crawford and old friend Matt Carpenter. 

Contend: It's tough for the highest win total o/u for a division to be 84.5 but that's the beauty of the NL Central. Someone has to win this. 2024 actually can't be worse than 2023 was for St. Louis, right? Paul Goldschmidt needs to have a vintage Goldy year. All of his numbers in 2023 were well below his career averages, and he was healthy. That can't happen again. The same goes for Arenado. If those two are clicking then the Cardinals can get back in business. 

Fail: While the Cards brought in some veteran help for the rotation, it's not enough. Things go nowhere in the first half and they decide to ship off Paul Goldschmidt at the deadline for a few prospects. Things get bleak from there about the direction of the franchise. 

Cubs (84.5)

Hard to not love the Cubs' offseason. They waited out the market perfectly and ended up getting Cody Bellinger back on a very team friendly deal. Best case scenario for both parties is he repeats his monster 2023 season and opts out to get a big deal. Crafty lefty Shota Imanaga joins the rotation that's headlined by Cy Young candidate Justin Steele (awesome fella by the way). 

Contend: I'm not sure what this team's ceiling is, but hey I like the lineup's balance. I'll convince myself to take them on Friday afternoon's at home no problem. 

If Cody repeats his revival season and the rest of the lineup does their job this is going to be a fun team to monitor. Shota has some nasty stuff as well. 

Dude struck out 25 guys in spring in just 12.2 innings. He doesn't walk many and gets a ton of whiffs. How much soft content he generates will be the question. There's a chance he is a nightmare change of pace guy for hitters and there's a chance they pulverize him. If Shota can be a reliable arm for them, this team's prospects shoot up to the sky. Speaking of prospects, did you know the Cubs have SEVEN top 100 guys in their system? Bellinger's signing ticketed Pete Crow Armstrong to begin the year in the minors, but the top prospect will be back with the team at some point this summer as an added boost. I like the Cubs chances of sneaking in as a wild card team this year, maybe even winning the division. 

Fail: Bellinger proves the nerds right that his soft contact success wasn't sustainable. He resorts back to inconsistent results. Shota gets rocked in his first year with the team and instead of competing they slide below 80 wins. 

Reds (81.5)

Am I crazy to love the Reds? Maybe a little recency bias with how exciting they were in 2023, but they did a nice job of bringing in vets this offseason to help their cause. Jeimer Candelario, Frankie Montas, and Nick Martinez aren't going to blow your socks off but when you've got an extremely young group to start with, those kind of guys help big time. I can watch Elly do just about anything and be amazed. Him doing his entire press conference in English yesterday was very cool. 

Oh a down note, Matt McLain did just undergo shoulder surgery that's gonna keep him out indefinitely, possibly the whole season. That'll put a bigger load on India and Candelario's shoulders. 

Contend: A youth movement led by the electric De La Cruz parlayed with a rejuvenated Frankie Montas find the Reds right in the think of the Central. The Reds are going to need Elly to show more of the flashes he displayed in the first 30 or so games of his career and not the last 50. He's a raw talent, a long way from being polished, but man is the sky the limit for that kid. 

Fail: Not to sound like Bill Simmons, but are we sure Hunter Greene is good? Is the potential always gonna elevate him in talks more than it should? Are we so distracted by the fastball velo that we ignore the rest? Maybe relying on Frankie Montas to be your ace was a bad idea? If 2024 doesn't go in the right direction then the front office should take a more serious approach to upgrading the rotation. 

Brewers (77.5)

I'm gonna be honest with you guys, I have no idea what the Brewers are trying to do. You deal Corbin Burnes, but then go get Rhys Hoskins and Gary Sanchez? Clearly there isn't much chance for winning here, so why bother at all? Why not go full reset and trade Devin Williams and Willy Adames as well? Obviously it doesn't help that Williams broke his back and is going to miss at least a few months, but even that didn't happen it seems like he'd still be here at this moment. The last thing a bad team needs is a great closer. 

Contend: Yelich somehow reverts back to MVP mode, Rhys mashes 30+ homers, and Gary becomes elite again. Top prospect Jackson Chourio signed an eight year $82M deal earlier this month without playing a single game in the bigs. If the Brewers are to contend in 2024 that means Chourio burst onto the scene like a mad man and won rookie of the year. I still don't know how the pitching staff gets them there, but it has to start with the offense carrying the weight for a change. 

Fail: I'm not usually a Brewers optimist since they typically refuse to improve their offense year after year, so you don't need to twist my arm now to convince me they're gonna suck. 

Pirates (75.5)

I'd like to watch Oneil Cruz play baseball again. That man puts asses in the seats with his freak athletic abilities. How about Elly and Oneil involved in the same game together? Popcorn acquired. The Pirates added some role playing vets in the offseason, but no one crazy. They're gonna try the Royals plan of signing Aroldis Chapman and then flipping him at the deadline. What we really care about is when does Paul Skenes makes his debut. We're getting him this summer, and with that baseball gets their very own Taylor Swift in the stands to help grow the game. We need it. 

No, but actually his debut will be must watch. Similar to Crews being appointment television at the plate at LSU, that was Skenes on the mound. His first start will be a "cancel your plans" kind of night if you're a baseball junkie. 

Contend: Skenes comes up and gives us a rerun of what Stephen Strasburg did in his rookie year. Oneil Cruz lights the world on fire, Bryan Reynolds has a career year, and Jack Suwinski hits 30+ homers. Again, by contend I mean maybe they fight for the division. There are levels to this. 

Fail: Not enough pitching. The offense can definitely give you some moments, but there's still not enough veterans and talent altogether to expect much here. 

NL West

Dodgers (103.5)

Ohtani, Yamamoto, Teoscar, and Glasnow. Come the fuck on. I get that they felt like they had to do something after the weird end to 2023 as they were swept by Arizona, but this just makes everyone else depressed. 

Contend: Yamamoto didn't get past the first inning of his first start and the Dodgers still almost won that game. This offense will keep them in games all the time. It's a relentless lineup. The pitching staff and bullpen are plenty good enough to help them run away with the division and give the Braves hell for the number one seed in the NL. You're going to see insane gambling lines with this team throughout the season. A home game against the Rockies might dub them a -500 favorite. Maybe more. 

Fail: Hypothetically if Shohei Ohtani finds himself in a gambling scandal that kicks him out of the league, I could see the Dodgers getting themselves into trouble. Obviously Yamamoto isn't as bad as the guy we saw in the second game of the regular season, but let's say his flat fastball gets attacked and exposed like some have feared. Then things begin to unwind and you're looking at the rest of the rotation like a confused puppy. What I'm getting at is that you really need to nitpick this team to convince yourself they will disappoint. Braves Dodgers NLCS seems so predictable that something has to go wrong, right? 

Just saying…

Diamondbacks (84.5) 

Credit to the snakes for not being content with the roster that got them to the World Series last year. GM Mike Hazen went out this offseason and made it his bitch. Eduardo Rodriguez, Joc Pederson, Eugenio Suarez, Randal Grichuk, and newly acquired Jordan Montgomery will help upgrade Arizona in 2024. What a job by this front office to keep pressing. 

Contend: One could say last year was a fluke, but the upgrades quickly dispel that logic. Corbin Carroll impacts the game in so many ways. Big relief that he was able to overcome his shoulder issue mid way through the year, let's hope that's all well behind him. Adding E-Rod and Montgomery to join Gallen at the front of this staff is so legit, and then there's the consistent Merrill Kelly to be the 4? Also don't forget my favorite reliever in all of baseball Kevin Ginkel. Goddamn do I like this team. 84.5 feels low. 

Fail: I just said so much good, how do I spin it into bad? Carroll has a sophomore slump, E-Rod and Montgomery regress, and the aging reinforcements don't get the job done. You know I didn't mean any of those words. 

Giants (83.5) 

Another team that saw weaknesses with their roster and got aggressive. Blake Snell, Jorge Soler, Jung Hoo Lee, Matt Chapman, Robbie Ray, and Jordan Hicks? This is basically a brand new team we've got here. The Giants have tried to sign a big fish for a while, but have failed to reel one in. This offseason they waited out the market and hunted to perfection. They've reloaded in a big way and are poised for resurgence. Maybe when they visit New York the football Giants will actually take them out to dinner this time. 

Contend: I've been hesitant on this "make Jordan Hicks a starting pitcher" movement, but man did he look good the other night. Forget it's the A's, just focus in on stuff and location. If Jordan Hicks comes out of 2024 with a clean bill of health then I think the Giants have something here. 

Sure there's concern over whether Blake Snell can repeat his Cy Young campaign, but if he can come close enough with Logan Webb heading the staff, then you are deadly to face. We don't really know a lot about Jung Hoo Lee and how he'll fair, but with spring training the only current barometer, it looks like he'll be just fine. I was certain Jorge Soler was gonna end up in Boston somehow, but then they made it clear they had no interest in improving. A welcomed sight to see him in San Fran. 

Insane stat: The Giants haven't had a 30 home run hitter since Bonds in '04. 

Fail: Snell resorts back to an average pitcher with inconsistent results, Hicks gets hurt, Jung Hoo Lee doesn't adapt to the majors as quickly as hoped, and Matt Chapman shows why the water was cold with his free agency. It feels like Vegas has set 84.5 as this over/under because they truly have no fucking idea how this new assembly of parts will turn out. 

Padres (83.5) 

The Padres were busy this offseason. If you didn't know already, Juan Soto is on the New York Yankees. Pretty cool, huh? In exchange for him the Fathers got several pieces including Michael King and reigning minor league pitcher of the year Drew Thorpe. Shortly after that deal, Thorpe was shipped off to Chicago for Dylan Cease. For a franchise that doesn't want to add payroll, Cease was the perfect addition. Their offense subtracts Soto and Grisham, but adds rookie Jackson Merrill who looked very impressive in the first two South Korea games last week. Not exactly a fair exchange of players, but youth is going to be the name of the game with them if success is to come about. 

Contend: All those one run losses last year and unclutch at bats flip over to wins in 2024 as the Padres thrive with less expectations. Darvish, Musgrove, Cease, and King form a really nice foursome in the rotation. Fernando Tatis Jr. takes it upon himself to be the face of the team and contends all year long for the NL MVP. 

Fail: I'm not totally in love with Cease and didn't want the Yankees to give up Spencer Jones for him. He throws way too many pitches per innning, walks guys, and doesn't go deep in games. Yu Darvish enters his age 38 season and Joe Musgrove looked like shit in his first start. Michael King is the x factor. He looked incredible down the stretch for the Yankees in his audition as a starting pitcher. Can he hold up physically to do it all year long? That's a big question mark. The Padres bullpen scares me as well. Like the Giants, I feel like their over/under was set because of the unpredictability here. 

Rockies (60.5)

Did you know that Kris Bryant still plays baseball? Good on him for winning a ring and then getting his money, but my god has that guy gone to die in Colorado. Every year when talking Colorado baseball we seem to ask ourselves, "what the fuck are they doing over there?" Same question stands. Their rotation is poor and the offense only comes to life at home. One positive? They did a smart thing and locked up Ezequiel Tovar for a team friendly seven year deal. They must have gotten hacked for a day. 

Contend: The Rockies concoct an Astros esque cheating scandal at Coors Field where they use normal baseballs and their opponents get duds that go nowhere. That's the only way this season goes well for them.

Fail: I have no idea what this team is doing or what they want to accomplish. Coors is fun to go to though!

And that's the whole league. My god do my fingers hurt. I'm sure you'll disagree with some of the stuff I wrote. As a token of my gratitude for reading or skimming that jumble of words here's Jessica Biel

Last year after these blogs I got into a really good conversation with a Diamondbacks fan who was high on his squad going into 2023 and on the defensive. Safe to say he was right. I love the dialogue, unless you're that Guardians fan yesterday who tried to tell me it's a good idea to keep doing what they're doing instead of trading their vets. To each their own. I love the passion and I love baseball. Opening Day has arrived. Let's be safe out there. As always gambling responsibly. #DKPartner