2017 MLB Preview- National League

Nick Hedges, Reporter

Our preview of the American League has Houston beating the Indians to make it to the World Series, but who will play them in the fall classic? Read on to find out. Here is our preview of the National League in 2017:

NL West

1.  Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Year: 91-71 (1st in NL West, lost to Chicago Cubs in NLCS)
Key Players: P Clayton Kershaw, CF Joc Pederson, SS Corey Seager
Season Outlook: After a successful 2016 which saw the Dodgers fall two wins short of a World Series berth, LA will look to try and get over that NLCS hump this year and finally make it back to the World Series. With the pieces they have, it’s not hard to see that happening. Kershaw is still one of, if not the most dominant pitcher in baseball, and bright stars like Pederson and Seager will help lead a younger Dodgers team back to the postseason. With a solid pitching staff behind Kershaw, the major questions will be asked of their lineup. Behind Seager and Pederson, the Dodgers will need to find consistent options to build a consistent team, and I think they can do that. If other players like 1B Adrian Gonzalez or OF Yasiel Puig can produce at their optimal level, don’t be surprised to see Los Angeles fighting for a World Series berth once again.

2.  Colorado Rockies
Last Year: 75-87 (3rd in NL West, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 3B Nolan Arenado, CF Charlie Blackmon, RF Carlos Gonzalez
Season Outlook: The Rockies are going to surprise a lot of people in 2017. Flying under the radar the last few years, the Rockies have quietly built one of the more intriguing lineups in baseball which will feature lots of young talent, namely Arenado, Blackmon, and SS Trevor Story. That talent will combine with veterans like Gonzalez to form a potent team which will definitely score some runs. The major limitation on this team is its pitching. Nobody really stands out. For the Rockies to take advantage of their lineup, their pitching will have to outperform its potential, but that could realistically happen. Don’t look for the Rockies to catch Los Angeles, but they’ll be in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.

3.     San Francisco Giants
Last Year: 87-75 (2nd in NL West, lost to Chicago Cubs in divisional playoffs)
Key Players: P Madison Bumgarner, SS Brandon Crawford, C Buster Posey
Season Outlook: The Giants will be a hit-or-miss team in 2017. A consistent figure in the postseason, San Francisco will have to fight much harder this year to make it back there, and they have the tools to do so. With one of the more experienced rotations in baseball, aced by MadBum, and a potent lineup which features several big bats and good gloves, the Giants could not only supersede my expectations but go on to challenge Los Angeles. At the same time, though, production could fall off, and the team could fall down the standings in the division. At the end of the day, it seems that the Giants are trending toward the bust factor. The youth of Colorado and Los Angeles will push past the Giants and make it really hard for them to make it back to the postseason.

4.  Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Year: 
69-93 (4th in NL West, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, P Zach Greinke, CF AJ Pollock
Season Outlook: Arizona seems to have the star-power to make a run at a playoff spot. With a lineup headlined by Goldschmidt and Pollock, and a rotation headed by Greinke and Taijuan Walker, they look like a potential playoff contender. However, the real issue for the D’Backs comes after those players. They’ll have to find consistency from the rest of their pitching staff, and Goldschmidt and Pollock aren’t good enough to produce offensively for the entire team. In the end, the snakes just don’t have the supporting cast of some of their divisional competitors, and, while their stars will be fun to watch, the team as a whole will struggle for wins.

5.  San Diego Padres
Last Year: 68-94 (5th in NL West, missed playoffs)
Key Players: P Jhoulys Chacin, 1B Wil Myers, 3B Yangervis Solarte
Season Outlook: The Padres really are a team entirely built for the future. Building around Myers, their lineup is still a few years away from potency, and their pitching staff will struggle to get through the season without dominant arms. It will be interesting to see how San Diego develops over the course of the next few years, but for now, don’t expect anything special out of the Padres. Myers and Solarte may provide some fireworks and spoil a playoff run from San Francisco or Colorado, but they’ll be way out of the running for the playoffs early on.

NL Central

1.  Chicago Cubs
Last Year: 103-58 (1st in NL Central, won World Series)
Key Players: P Jake Arrieta, 3B Kris Bryant P Jon Lester
Season Outlook: There really isn’t much to hate about this year’s Cubs. The defending champs do lose OF Dexter Fowler to St. Louis, but the full-time return of LF Kyle Schwarber should help ease that loss. Chicago sees Bryant, the reigning NL MVP, return, and the pitching staff boasts some of the best starters and relievers in the league. Overall, this Chicago team is scary talented, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to get back to the World Series this year.

2.  St. Louis Cardinals
Last Year:
86-76 (2nd in NL Central, missed playoffs)
Key Players: OF Dexter Fowler, P Carlos Martinez, P Adam Wainwright
Season Outlook: After their perennial playoff run ended in 2016, St. Louis will look to get back to the postseason, but with the Cubs in the division, they’ll probably have to get there through a Wild Card. It” all depend on the dominance of their pitching. With Martinez and Wainwright leading the staff, the Cardinals’ arms have the ability to make up for an offense which will struggle at times to score. Because of their pitching, they’ll win some games they won’t be supposed to, and that will get them far. Due to the relative strength of the other divisions, St. Louis will have to scratch and claw to the playoffs, but don’t rule them out.

3. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Year:
73-89 (4th in NL Central, missed playoffs)
Key Players: LF Ryan Braun, P Junior Guerra, 1B Eric Thames
Season Outlook: Milwaukee seems to be the x-factor of this division. With a bullpen that won’t stand out, good or bad, this team’s success will most likely hinge on the success of their lineup. Braun is capable of getting back to his old self, and that would be a big boost, but the real source of this team’s offensive potential is Thames. After a few seasons overseas, the Brewers took a chance by signing him back to America. If he pans out and hits with the power the Brewers think he can, watch out. Thames could be among the league leaders in homers, and the Brewers could challenge St. Louis and spoil a few games against Chicago.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Year:
78-83 (3rd in NL Central, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 2B Josh Harrison, OF Starling Marte, OF Andrew McCutchen
Season Outlook: After a few years of playoff baseball, Pittsburgh has retreated to mediocrity, hovering around .500 for the bulk of 2016. That seems to be the direction for this year’s team, but that could change. If their pitching can back up what should be a decent lineup, the Pirates could keep up in the division, but making the playoffs is a whole other animal. Don’t be surprised to see the Pirates improve on last year, but they won’t be raising the Jolly Roger enough to finish in the top half of the division.

5.  Cincinnati Reds
Last Year:
68-94 (5th in NL Central, missed playoffs)
Key Players: CF Billy Hamilton, C Devin Mesoraco, 1B Joey Votto
Season Outlook: These are sad times for the Reds, as it looks that they will struggle through another season. Their key players could provide some hope, but, if Cincinnati is especially bad, they could all have new homes by the trade deadline. Without dominant pitching and a stable lineup, 2017 will be a hard year for the Reds. Don’t expect them to do much more than compete for the league’s worst record.

NL East

1.       Washington Nationals
Last Year: 95-67 (1st in NL East, lost to Los Angeles in divisional playoffs)
Key Players: RF Bryce Harper, P Max Scherzer, SS Trea Turner
Season Outlook: Beyond the Cubs, most people would pick Washington as the other favorite to win the NL pennant. With Harper in the lineup, they’ll have a chance to win every day, but the overall success of this team will depend on the pitching. Their staff is easily good enough to win the division, but Scherzer and Co. will have to step it up a notch if they want to make it past Chicago. The pitching will have to be superb, but don’t be completely shocked if Washington finds themselves in the World Series.

2.  Miami Marlins
Last Year:
79-82 (3rd in NL East, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 2B Dee Gordon, RF Giancarlo Stanton, CF Christian Yelich
Season Outlook: It might seem crazy, but Miami really looks like a team ready to make a run at the playoffs. Gordon can make anything happen on offense and defense, and Stanton will mash bombs unlike anyone else can. The Marlins’ success will come down to two things: Yelich and the pitching staff. Christian Yelich has the ability to be a difference maker for Miami and solidify the outfield, and, if the pitching staff comes together well, the Marlins may be onto something. If everything comes together, Miami has the ability to challenge Washington atop the NL East.

3.      New York Mets
Last Year:
87-75 (2nd in NL East, lost to San Francisco in Wild Card)
Key Players: P Jacob deGrom, P Matt Harvey, P Noah Syndergaard
Season Outlook: As you can probably tell from the key players, this is a team that will live and die by its starting rotation. If they can remain healthy and consistent, they’ll win a lot of games, but that’s the issue. It’s hard to see all three of deGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard making it through the entire season unscathed. New York will be a good team, but good enough to contend for a Wild Card spot?

4.  Atlanta Braves
Last Year:
68-93 (5th in NL East, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 1B Freddie Freeman, LF Matt Kemp, SS Dansby Swanson
Season Outlook: The Braves will send an intriguing lineup onto the field in 2017. A unique combination of youth and experience will combine to form a team which will be one of the better squads from Atlanta in recent memory. The lack of dominant pitching will really hurt the Braves, though. The lineup will score some runs, but without solid arms, Atlanta will struggle to win games. They won’t be as bad as they have been recently, but they still are a few years away from contention.

5.   Philadelphia Phillies
Last Year: 71-91 (4th in NL East, missed playoffs)
Key Players: 3B Maikel Franco, SS Freddy Galvis, P Jeremy Hellickson
Season Outlook: The Phillies looked to be a team on the rise in 2016, but with their division looking much stronger than it has in recent memory, Philadelphia looks to be the fifth-best team. Franco and Galvis will provide some excitement, but more pitching will be necessary to compete in the division. They’ll show some signs of hope, but don’t be surprised if the Phillies fall short of 70 wins again in 2017.

Playoff Teams
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL East: Washington Nationals
WC 1: Colorado Rockies
WC 2: Miami Marlins

NLCS: Chicago outlasts everyone else
Whether its Los Angeles, Washington, or someone else, the Cubs are the clear favorites to make it to the World Series, and it looks like they’ll get there again. The Dodgers or Nats would give them the best series, but Chicago still prevails.

So, that leaves us with this:
World Series: Chicago Cubs v. Houston Astros
Astros in 6
These are two of the most exciting teams in baseball right now, and this match-up would be a dream to baseball fans, and a great series. In the end, though, Houston just looks to have too much firepower not to win a championship. Just a few years removed from being the worst team in the league, the Astros will win a championship in 2017.