MLB 2019 preview: Predicting the NL's division champs, pennant winner, award getters
The National League is about as balanced as it has been in the last decade.
The Central is stacked, the East got better and the West is far from decided.
But even with the parity in the league we are going to give our predictions for all of this year's winners by division, pennant and awards.
Here are those predictions.
Central – Chicago Cubs
Last year, the Cubs were the first team to be a disappointment that won 95 games.
But this year everyone is coming back, Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish will likely be healthier and a lot of players (Ian Happ, Willson Contreras) got bad second years out of their systems.
We are picking them to ride an underrated starting rotation to a division title this year as Milwaukee will likely take a slight step back and the St Louis Cardinals will take some wins away from the Brewers as well. The Cincinnati Reds will do the same thing as they got better too.
East – Washington Nationals
No team is better with the subtraction of Bryce Harper. That is ludicrous. However, the Nationals added Patrick Corbin, still have a fantastic rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and their lineup is solid from top to bottom.
A bad season last year was an anomaly. This team is good. They will prove it this year.
West – Colorado Rockies
The Rockies will ride their pitching rotation to this year's division title.
Between Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela the Rockies have a powerful, young rotation that could guide them for years to come.
And, they have the best third baseman in all of baseball in Nolan Arenado, added a steadying bat in the middle of the lineup in Daniel Murphy and David Dahl, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond fill out a talented lineup. That is more than enough to win a division they lost in a one-game playoff to the ageing Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
Wildcards – Los Angeles Dodgers, St Louis Cardinals
This is as tough of a couple of picks as there could ever be because the argument can legitimately made that the Brewers, Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks and Dodgers could all earn one of the two wildcard spots.
But our thinking here is simple: the Dodgers play in the weakest of the three divisions, and the Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt. The Cards barely missed the playoffs last year, and if they add a pitcher at the deadline that could be the piece to push them over the top.
NLCS pick – Cardinals vs. Rockies
The Rockies learned a lot in their playoff run last season and will hit better in the playoffs this time around. St Louis will get a good second year from Jack Flaherty. Those two things will help them get to the NLCS and in that series Colorado will come away with the win to make it back to their first World Series since 2007.
MVP – Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
Despite finishing amongst the top MVP candidates in the National League five of the last six years, Goldschmidt has somehow never won the MVP. A big reason for that is no one pays attention to the Diamondbacks – unfortunately – and many believe Chase Field inflates numbers for hitters.
Goldschmidt will not have to worry about that this year as the Cardinals are always in the national spotlight and people will not hold his ballpark against him in St. Louis. He will produce there and people will realise he is not a product of a ballpark and then go check his numbers and see he had a higher batting average and more homers away from Arizona.
All of that and a playoff berth for the Cardinals will give him his first MVP award.
Cy Young Winner – Max Scherzer
He had a legitimate argument to win the award last year even when Jacob deGrom had an all-time season. He will anchor the best rotation in the NL and win the award for the third time in the last four years and fourth time in his career.
Rookie of the Year – Nick Senzel, Reds
Nick Senzel has several things going for him: one, he is an incredibly talented player, two, the Reds added several good hitters to an already good lineup with Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp so he will have more protection when he is called up, and three, Great American Ballpark is a hitter's haven.
The only question is how long it will take for Senzel to get to MLB. If he is on the team from the start of the year, .290 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs is not out of the question. That got Miguel Andujar serious consideration for a win in the AL last year. Senzel will get it if he gets there as well.
Manager of the Year – Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks
The perception of the Diamondbacks is they will be bad this year after losing Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Losing a team's two best players is a recipe for regression. So any good success for Arizona will mean they will exceed expectations and that is how a manager wins Manager of the Year.
The Diamondbacks are not bad despite the perception. Zack Greinke is good, as is Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. And the lineup is still pretty solid. If Arizona win 86 or 87 games and competes for a wildcard spot, Lovullo will be in the conversation for Manager of the Year.