2020 MLB National League Preview


2020 MLB National League Preview

By Brett Wiseman


Embrace the sprint, folks. The weirdest and most unique season in baseball history is upon us. 4 long agonizing months After spring training was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball makes its triumphant return to the diamond. Despite the much publicized labor dispute between the Player’s Association and Major League Baseball, the unique 60 game season will begin this weekend. Regional scheduling, health and safety protocols that ban staples such as high fives, rosin bags and sunflower seeds, and a few unique rule changes, the wildest and wackiest season in the history of our national pastime is upon us. Throw everyone’s 2019 records out the window. Everyone you thought was a clear favorite, has company. Because the sport notorious for being a marathon, is now a sprint. And it’s about to get crazy. We’ll see how well these predictions age, but here’s everything you need to know before Opening Day.


NL CENTRAL:

1. Cincinnati Reds

Projected Record: 42-18


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Shogo Akiyama-RF
  2. Joey Votto- 1B
  3. Eguenio Suarez-3B
  4. Mike Moustakas-2B
  5. Nicholas Castellanos-LF
  6. Jesse Winker-CF
  7. Freddy Galvis-SS
  8. Nick Senzel-DH
  9. Tucker Barnhardt


Projected Starting Rotation: 

  1. Sonny Gray
  2. Luis Castillo
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Wade Miley
  5. Anthony DeScalfani


A team that was expected to contend in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division, is now expected to compete more so than they would have in a normal 162 game regular season. The Reds bolstered an already highly productive lineup by adding sluggers Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, plus Japanese phenom Shogo Akiyama to go along with the established power hitting corner infield combo of veteran 1B Joey Votto and 3B Eguenio Suarez. On top of that, they added much needed pitching depth, re-upping 2019 trade deadline acquisition Trevor Bauer and bringing in savvy lefty Wade Miley to go along with the 1-2 punch of flamethrowers Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. With one of the best rotations in all of baseball and a lineup built to score a TON of runs in what’s arguably the most hitter friendly ballpark in the bigs, the Reds won’t just win the NL Central. They might just win it all. 


2. St. Louis Cardinals

Projected Record: 40-20


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Kolten Wong-2B
  2. Matt Carpenter-DH
  3. Paul Goldschmidt-1B
  4. Paul DeJong-SS
  5. Yadier Molina-C
  6. Dexter Fowler-RF
  7. Tyler O’Neill-LF
  8. Tommy Edman-3B
  9. Harrison Bader-CF


Projected Rotation:

  1. Jack Flaherty
  2. Adam Wainwright
  3. Dakota Hudson
  4. Miles Mikolas
  5. Carlos Martinez


The defending division champions return the best defensive 9 in baseball, spearheaded by the middle infield duo of Paul DeJong at SS and Gold Glove 2B Kolten Wong, as well as electrifying center fielder Harrison Bader. On top of that they return one of the best pitching staffs in the bigs, led by young ace Jack Flaherty and the addition of Korean pitching phenom Kwang-Hyun Kim to an already stellar bullpen, the Cardinals have two of the three most important pieces to contend. The only question mark with the Redbirds is the offense, one that greatly underperformed last season, especially in the NLCS, and did not make any additions in the offseason. The Cards look for a bounce back season from barehanded slugger Matt Carpenter, who they hope will benefit from likely being the full time DH with it now being universal into the National League for 2020. The Redbirds will also lean heavily on franchise pillars Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Yadier Molina, and hope for added production from young emerging stars Tyler O’Neill and do-it-all switch hitter Tommy Edman. Expect the Cards to fall just a couple games short of Cincy, despite having the third weakest strength of schedule in baseball, and expect to see them as the NL’s first of two Wild Card teams in 2020. 


3. Milwaukee Brewers

Projected Record: 32-28

 

Projected Lineup: 

  1. Eric Sogard-3B
  2. Lorenzo Cain-CF
  3. Christian Yelich-RF
  4. Ryan Braun-DH
  5. Keston Hiura-2B
  6. Justin Smoak-1B
  7. Avasail Garcia-LF
  8. Omar Narvaez-C
  9. Orlando Arcia-SS

 

Projected Rotation:

  1. Brandon Woodruf
  2. Adrian Houser
  3. Brett Anderson
  4. Josh Lindblom
  5. Corbin Burnes

The Brew Crew didn’t add much, but didn’t lose much either. Losing Mike Moustakous to division rival Cincinnati is tough, and replacing him with Justin Smoak isn’t by any means an upgrade. And with barely average pitching outside of the back end of their bullpen with Josh Hader and Corey Knebel, Milwaukee will lean on what they hope will be heavy offensive production perennial MVP candidate Christian Yelich, five-tool center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and emerging superstar second baseman Keston Hiura. They’re also sure to benefit from Ryan Braun as the full time DH. 


4. Chicago Cubs

Projected Record: 28-32

 

Projected Lineup:

  1. Kris Bryant-3B
  2. Anthony Rizzo-1B
  3. Javier Baez-SS
  4. Kyle Schwarber-DH
  5. Willson Contreras-C
  6. Jason Heyward-RF
  7. Ian Happ-LF
  8. Jason Kipnis-2B
  9. Albert Almora-CF

 

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Kyle Hendricks
  2. Yu Darvish
  3. Tyler Chatwood
  4. Jon Lester
  5. Alec Mills

The Cubs are under new management, but the roster with a dwindling core and a window of opportunity has not changed. David Ross takes over for Joe Maddon, managing guys that the majority of which he was teammates with when the Cubs won it all in 2016. Baez, Bryant and Rizzo are sure to carry the Cubs offensively and they will certainly benefit from Kyle Schwarber now being the full time DH. But questions abound in their bullpen, with their defense, and a rotation that’s also starting to age. In the 60 game sprint, the Cubs will need all 3 to work, and in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division, it just doesn’t seem feasible. 


5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Projected Record: 18-42


Projected Lineup:

  1. Kevin Newman-SS
  2. Bryan Reynolds-LF
  3. Adam Fraizer-2B
  4. Josh Bell-1B
  5. Jose Osuna-DH
  6. Colin Moran-3B
  7. Guillermo Heredia-RF
  8. Jacob Stallings-C
  9. Jarrod Dyson-CF


Projected Rotation: 

  1. Joe Musgrove
  2. Trevor Williams
  3. Steven Brault
  4. Mitch Keller
  5. Derek Holland


Even in a normal season, the Buccos weren’t expected to do a whole heck of a lot, and that still rings true for the shortened campaign. Led by switch hitting superstar Josh Bell, the Pirates don’t have much else offensively, especially with the absence of Gregory Polanco. Subpar pitching won’t help either. In what might be baseball’s toughest division, the Buccos are the odd man out. 



NL East:

1. Philadelphia Phillies

Projected record: 37-23


Projected Lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen-CF
  2. Bryce Harper-RF
  3. J.T. Realmuto-C
  4. Jay Bruce-DH
  5. Rhys Hoskins-1B
  6. Didi Gregorious-SS
  7. Jean Segura-3B
  8. Scott Kingery-2B
  9. Adam Haseley-RF 


Projected Rotation: 

  1. Aaron Nola
  2. Zack Wheeler
  3. Jake Arrietta
  4. Vince Velasquez
  5. Zach Eflin 


This pick may surprise a lot of you, but the Phillies are simply too stacked, even in the same division as the defending World Series champs. The brilliant hiring of a great baseball mind in Joe Giradi as manager, paired with what should be a monster year two for Bryce Harper, is deadly enough. Then add in the signing of Giradri’s protege with the Yankees, five tool shortstop Didi Gregorious, slugger Jay Bruce fitting perfectly into the role of full time DH, and a lineup that at each spot can wreak havoc. Aaron Nola spearheads one of the major’s top pitching rotations backed by a bullpen with electric arms and shutdown stuff, the Phitin Phills are destined to win. 


2. Washington Nationals

Projected Record: 35-25


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Trea Turner-SS
  2. Adam Eaton-CF
  3. Starlin Casto-2B
  4. Juan Soto-LF
  5. Howie Kendrick-DH
  6. Eric Thames-1B
  7. Victor Robles-RF
  8. Yan Gomes-C
  9. Carter Kieboom-3B


Projected Rotation:

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Stephen Strasburg
  3. Patrick Corbin
  4. Anibal Sanchez
  5. Erick Fedde

While the defending World Series champs are still loaded with talent, the free agent departure of 3B Anthony Rendon, and the opt out by 1B Ryan Zimmerman, albeit for good reason, will hurt the Nats in 2020. However, it will not bury them. The fountain of youth found Howie Kendrick last October, and he should carry that momentum into this season, fitting perfectly as Washington’s new full time DH. RF Juan Soto turned himself into a bonafide superstar and leads a hard charging, run scoring machine of a lineup with one of baseball’s best rotations. What has the Phillies finishing a couple games ahead of them are abounding questions with the Nats bullpen, and the uncertainty of Eric Thames defensively taking Zimmerman’s spot at first as well as top prospect Carter Kieboom taking over for Rendon at third. Expect an NLCS rematch between these guys and the Redbirds at Busch Stadium in the NL wild card game.


3. Atlanta Braves

Projected record: 33-27 


Projected Lineup:

  1. Ronald Acuna Jr-RF
  2. Ozzie Albies-2B
  3. Freddie Freeman-1B
  4. Marcell Ozuna-LF
  5. Travis D’Arnaud-C
  6. Ender Inciarte-CF
  7. Austin Riley-DH
  8. Dansby Swanson-SS
  9. Johan Camargo-3B

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Mike Soroka
  2. Max Fried
  3. Mike Foltynewicz
  4. Sean Newcomb
  5. Cole Hamels

The defending division champs have a much tougher hill to climb in 2020. Despite a power heavy lineup of Acuna, Freeman, breakout Austin Riley, and newcomer Marcell Ozuna, the Braves simply don’t have the pitching to match up with the Phillies and Nationals, nor do they have a lineup deep enough to compete with the firepower of those two in a crowded NL east. 


4. New York Mets

Projected record: 31-29


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Jeff McNeil-3B
  2. Pete Alonso-1B
  3. Robinson Cano-2B
  4. Yoenis Cespedes-DH
  5. Michael Conforto-LF
  6. JD Davis-RF
  7. Wilson Ramos-C
  8. Brandon Nimmo-CF
  9. Amed Rosario-SS

Projected Rotation:

  1. Jacob DeGrom
  2. Marcus Stroman
  3. Rick Porcello
  4. Stephen Matz
  5. Michael Wacha/Noah Syndergaard(on IL)

If the Mets weren’t in a division as crowded as the NL east, they’d have a lot better record and finish a lot higher. They’re loaded with talent, including reigning Rookie of the Year sultan slugging 1B Pete Alonso and reigning Cy Young Award winning ace Jacob DeGrom. Despite the additions of Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello to the rotation, the offense, outside of Alonso and Yoenis Cespedes, will have the same problem it has had for years. These guys simply don’t have enough offensive firepower to produce enough run support for their elite pitching staff. 


5. Miami Marlins

Projected Record: 13-43


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Jonathan Villar-CF
  2. Brian Anderson-3B
  3. Corey Dickerson-RF
  4. Jesus Aguilar-1B
  5. Isan Diaz-2B
  6. Jorge Alfaro-C
  7. Harold Ramirez-LF
  8. Garrett Cooper-DH
  9. Miguel Rojas-SS

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Sandy Alcantera
  2. Caleb Smith
  3. Jose Urena 
  4. Pablo Lopez
  5. Elieser Hernandez

While the Marlins have a good crop of young talent and brought in the super productive bats of veterans Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar, the unprovenness of that young talent in the lineup and on defense is concerning. Throw on top of that a rotation that has young talent but also gives up runs in bunches, and put them in a division as stacked as this plus having to play the stacked AL east as well, it’s another rough year in South Beach. 



NL East

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Projected record: 44-16


Projected Lineup: 

  1. Mookie Betts-LF
  2. Max Muncy-1B
  3. Justin Turner-3B
  4. Cody Bellinger-RF
  5. Joc Pederson-DH
  6. AJ Pollock-CF
  7. Corey Seager-SS
  8. Will Smith-C
  9. Kike Hernandez-2B

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Ross Stripling
  3. Julio Urias
  4. Alex Wood
  5. Walker Buehler

The best team in the NL is the Dodgers. There isn’t really a debate. Out to avenge two consecutive losses in the Fall Classic and a Division Series exit last fall to the eventual champion Nationals, and adding electric outfielder Mookie Betts via trade from Boston make LA even more scary. A lineup that has MVP candidates and Silver Slugger candidates throughout it, and possibly the strongest middle of the order in all the bigs with Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Joc Pederson, there isn’t a lineup in baseball other than the Yankees that is this deep and has this much pop. On top of that, one of the top rotations in all of baseball, the Dodgers are destined to return to the Fall Classic and avenge the demons of falls past. 


2. San Diego Padres

Projected record: 32-28

Projected Lineup: 

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr-SS
  2. Trent Grisham-CF
  3. Manny Machado-3B
  4. Tommy Pham-LF
  5. Eric Hosmer-1B
  6. Wil Meyers-RF
  7. Josh Naylor-DH
  8. Jurickson Profar-2B
  9. Francisco Mejia-C



Projected Rotation: 

  1. Chris Paddack
  2. Dinelson Lamet
  3. Garrett Richards
  4. Zach Davies
  5. Joey Lucchesi

The Friars likely would’ve had a much better shot at a wild card spot in a full 162 game season. A team that is loaded with talent around the infield, with phenoms Fernando Tatis Jr and Manny Machado at SS and 3B respectively, and a former World Series MVP in Eric Hosmer who is looking for a huge bounce back year. The emergence of Chris Paddack as the ace of the pitching staff is great, but there isn’t anyone stellar beyond that. Offense from those listed above plus outfielders Tommy Pham and Wil Myers simply won’t be enough. The simple fact is, the Padres aren’t the Dodgers. 


3. Colorado Rockies

Projected Record: 31-29


Projected Lineup:

  1. David Dahl-RF
  2. Trevor Story-SS
  3. Charlie Blackmon-CF
  4. Nolan Arenado-3B
  5. Daniel Murphy-DH
  6. Ryan McMahon-1B
  7. Garrett Hampson-2B
  8. Sam Hillard-LF
  9. Tony Wolters-C

Projected Rotation:

  1. German Marquez
  2. Jon Gray
  3. Kyle Freeland
  4. Antonio Senzatela
  5. Jeff Hoffman

The Rockies are another team that is hindered by this shortened schedule. However, expect them to make some noise here and there, with the best third baseman in the bigs, perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado manning the hot corner and pacing a lineup that’s supported by offensive powerhouses Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. That being said, the lack of quality pitching keeps this team where it has been for the past few years: mired in mediocrity. 


4. Arizona Diamondbacks

Projected Record: 31-29


Projected Lineup:

  1. Starling Marte-LF
  2. Ketel Marte-2B
  3. Eduardo Escobar-3B
  4. David Peralta-CF
  5. Christian Walker-1B
  6. Kole Calhoun-RF
  7. Nick Ahmed-SS
  8. Jake Lamb-DH
  9. Carson Kelly-C

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Robbie Ray
  3. Zac Gallen
  4. Luke Weaver
  5. Merrill Kelly

Another team that's in the same boat in the middle of the west, the D-Backs made a huge splash, bringing in former Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP, and division rival Madison Bumgarner from the Giants to be the ace of the pitching staff. With an offense that has proven it can perform with power threats and consistent RBI guys 1 through 9, Arizona simply doesn’t have the pitching depth outside of MadBum to ascend out of the middle of the pack. 


5. San Francisco Giants

Projected record: 20-40


Projected Lineup:

  1. Mike Yastremski-CF
  2. Evan Longoria-3B
  3. Brandon Belt-1B
  4. Hunter Pence-DH
  5. Alex Dickerson-LF
  6. Brandon Crawford-SS
  7. Mauricio Dubon-2B
  8. Rob Brantly-C
  9. Steven Duggar-RF

Projected Rotation: 

  1. Johnny Cueto
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Kevin Gausman
  4. Drew Smyly
  5. Tyler Anderson

The Giants are still in rebuild mode in 2020, and the decision by star catcher Buster Posey to opt out of the season, albeit for the right reasons, won’t help things. With an aging core of veterans such as Hunter Pence and Evan Longoria and raw and unproven young talent in Maricio Duban and Rob Brantly, the Giants aren’t built for a run, especially in 2020.