Terry’s National League preview

NL East:

Winner: Atlanta
Wild Card: Miami

Atlanta lost Freddie Freeman forever and Ronald Acuña for a month, but the pitching staff is deep and the lineup will be solid with Acuña in center and four potential all-stars filling out the infield.

A name to remember: Spencer Strider struck out 153 in 94 innings across four levels in 2021, his first professional experience. His AA era in 14 starts, was 4.71, but he struck out 94 in 63 innings with his 100-mph fastball. He’s currently in the Braves bullpen, but he projects as a future rotation regular.

Miami: Their rotation would be terrific in any park. The lineup is scotch tape and chicken wire, but they should score enough runs to give pitching a chance. All we are saying …

A name to remember: Jesús Luzardo, a grade A prospect with the A’s a couple of years ago, posted a 6+ era in 2021 but the Marlins gave up Starling Marté for him, anyway.

Luzardo is reportedly throwing 98 this spring, and he made the Miami rotation. The park will protect him, and he used to have great control before his disastrous 2021. He is still only 24 years old.

New York has its usual mix of overpriced veterans, overhyped youngsters and underappreciated bench players who do most of the heavy lifting. The have more DDs* on their depth chart right now than the November 1978 issue of Jugs magazine.

The rotation looks amazing – Jacob DeGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Tajiuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco – but how often will those guys be out there? I’d guess 100 starts between the five of them. And I’d take the under.

A name to remember: Robbie Cano hit .316 with power in 2020, the last time we saw him. He gets to DH, so he might get 500 atbats.

Philadelphia is going to score a lot of runs and there is talent on the pitching staff, so even an average defense would make them a contender. Good luck with that.

A name to remember: If Bryson Stott can hit enough to play, the pitching staff will look at lot better because he can pick it at third base; the alternative, Alec Bohm. I think Stott can hit .270-.290 with double-digit home runs and 60 or so walks. That’ll play.

Washington’s roster is pretty much what you’d expect to see at Spring Training in the next installment of Major League:

  • Nellie Cruz is a million years old
  • Stephen Strasburg is an uber-talented former phenom, always injured
  • Patrick Corbin used to be great but now he’s a broken-down lefty, getting his ass handed to him every fifth day
  • Anibal Sanchez stinks except about every four years he has a stretch where he’s amazing after some trainer manages to scotch-tape his shoulder together
  • Josh Bell was Cerrano for two months in 2019, but he lost the mojo and now he is in dire need of a KFC bucket
  • Cesar Hernandez is a line driver hitter who always seems to get red-hot late in the season
  • Maikel Franco is a guy who hits .500 every spring and looks like he should be great, but he never is
  • Alcides Escobar is a gritty old Dominican shortstop with a cantankerous reputation
  • Victor Robles is, like Willy Mays Hays, a speedster who never learned how to play baseball
  • Lane Thomas is an outfielder from Tennessee who talks funny and can hit a little
  • Steve Cishek is a submariner who is fun to watch. He can be the wisecracking veteran in the clubhouse
  • Sean Doolittle is an aging, bearded lefty fireballer, the closer back when the team was great but now a shadow of his former self

Juan Soto is the young superstar, the one normal player on a team full of Munsters. Coming soon to theaters near you.

A name to remember (actually two): Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray came to the Natties in the trade last summer for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Both are grade B prospects.

Ruiz blossomed in 2021, slashing .310-.377-.616 in AAA at age 22. I can’t speak for his defense, but the kid can hit. Logan drafted him in the 22nd round of the Starbar baseball league; I said “who?” when his name came up.

I think I missed the boat, though; Ruiz could be the steal of the draft. I think .275 with 20+ home runs is easily attainable, as is the rookie of the year award. He is one of a handful of catchers who could finish the season as the top-ranked fantasy backstop.

Gray is a classic righty prospect, 6-1 and 200 pounds, now 24 years old. He throws 95 with a devastating 12-6 curve and a not-so-devastating changeup that often gets lost in the second deck.

His era was ugly in 2021 (5.48) and he needs to refine everything – control, command, etc. – but if he can stay healthy he should be a rotation regular long enough to make a few hundred million dollars.

NL Central:

Winner: Milwaukee
Wild Card: St. Louis

Milwaukee’s top five rotation starters averaged 151 innings, 110 hits allowed, 47 walks, 13 home runs allowed and 172 strikeouts in 131 starts. Prorated to 162 games that’s 187 innings, 136 hits, 58 walks, 16 home runs allowed and 213 strikeouts. And a combined 2.80 era.

Put another way, the Brewers rotation was, on average, a Cy Young candidate for over 80 percent of their games (131/162). They are all healthy and in the fold for 2022, backed by prospect Aaron Ashby who struck out 100 in 63.1 AAA innings in 2021.

The bullpen, headed by Josh Hader’s 1.23 era and 15.6 k/9, is even more devastating than the rotation. The NL has three dominant pitching staffs; the Dodgers get the most press and the Marlins might get the most wise-guy love, but the Brewers have the most pitchers who can shut you down.

The lineup won’t scare anyone, but the team defense is strong and it won’t take a lot of runs to win games, especially in the weak, tanking NL Central.

A name to remember: Willy Adames (a-DOM-us) is the new Christian Yelich. I don’t mean he’s about to contend for the triple crown; what I mean is, he moved from a park that killed his numbers to a park that helps his numbers. He slashed .285-.366-.521 in Milwaukee after hitting below .200 with Tampa.

I think that’s for real; I think he’s that good. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Adames could pull a Yelich and win the MVP in 2022, his first full season with the Brewers.

St. Louis has four frontline stars building Hall of Fame cases, but the rest of the lineup might as well be wearing Velcro name tags for all of their name-recognition. The 2021 rotation was a mix of old (Adam Wainright, Jon Lester, J.A. Happ), new (Johan Obiedo), borrowed (South Korean import Kwang Hyun-Kim) and blue (Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez).

The upside of this team is limited but they have a safe floor. Meet your 2022 Cardinals, same as your 2021 Cardinals. Pencil in another 90 wins and another quick playoff exit.

A name to remember: Dylan Carlson could be the next in a long line of Cardinal star outfielders. He was pretty good as a 22-year-old rookie, showing a mix of power and some ability to get on base. He could hit .280 with 25-30 home runs in 2022; that’s about what I’d project. Given his age and that missing 2020 season, he could have more upside than that.

The four Cardinal Hall of Fame cases, in order of laughability:

1. Nolan Arenado has played nine seasons, and he owns nine gold gloves. His career ops+ is only 121 (Coors Field), but he is at 270 home runs already at the age of 30. If he winds up with 450-500 home runs, a 120 ops+ and 12-15 gold gloves, he’ll be in the mix with Graig Nettles, Matt Williams, Darrell Evans and Robin Ventura.

2. Adam Wainright famously struck out Carlos Beltran with a perfect 12-6 hook to get the Cardinals to the World Series. In 2006. He’s still there in 2022, coming off one of his best seasons. His career record, as he turns 40, is 185-105 and his career era+ is 120. He’ll probably muddy that record up some at the end (most pitchers do), but if he can put 1-2 more good seasons up, he’ll be in a good place; 200 wins might be the new 250, and most pitchers with 250 career wins eventually make it to the Hall of Fame.

3. Paul Goldschmidt isn’t a name that comes up in Hall of Fame arguments, but he’s building a case. Now 34, he has a decade in the books with a career ops+ of 142. His career WAR is over 50, and he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

4. Yadier Molina is a Hall of Famer unless something bad comes up about him off the field; my guess is that he’ll be voted in his first year with 85 or so percent of the vote. The BBWAA enjoys virtue signaling just as much as the rest of us … they will love voting for Yadi, because he was the Dude That Did it Right. Old-school hardball. Tough as nails, a Winner. And he’s deserving. Tastes great, and he’s good for you. Easy choice.

Chicago looks like an expansion team. The Cubs’ pitching staff is a bunch of boring veterans and the lineup is a weird mix of random imports, middle-aged retreads and old hands who stuck around too long. It’s like they own a laundromat next door to E-Harmony.

A name to remember: Frank Schwindel was one of the most unlikely .340 hitters in major league history. Based on his minor league record, I’d expect him to hit .240, not .340 (he hit .271 in 2019 between AA and AAA). He was 29 years old in 2021; when the Cubs signed him, his major league career batting average was .111. The A’s had designated him for assignment in July.

Schwindel got his first start in the second game of an August 3 doubleheader (he was only in the majors because the Cubs held a fire sale at the trading deadline); He hit in his first eight games and 15 of 16 to cement his lineup spot. on August 20, his slash line was .397-.436-.741. He couldn’t keep that pace up, but from there to the end of the season he slashed .325-.375-.571, hitting nine home runs, scoring 34 and driving in 25 runs in 39 games.

Can he do it again? Lessee ….

1. Don’t be silly. He wasn’t supposed to be able to do it the first time.

2. But he’ll get a chance to play and maybe a long leash for a middle-aged AAAA player.

Nobody expects Schwindel to hit .340 again. But he’s in the Cubs’ lineup this year, playing regularly. He doesn’t walk much, but he doesn’t strike out much, either. I’ll pencil him in for .240-.270 with 22-28 home runs.

If he’s at the upper end of those projections, Chicago writers will gush about him all summer. If he’s at the lower end, he could lose his job.

Cincinnati is in no-man’s-land, not bad enough to tank but not good enough to contend. The young prospects ain’t that young, or really all that prospective outside of Hunter Green.

Their best hitter is 38 years old, their second-best hitter is in Seattle and their third-best hitter is in Philadelphia. Their two best prospects are a utility player and a second baseman who hit .259 with no power in his final minor league season.

They have some pitching talent, but they always have pitching talent. The park usually kills ‘em off, though, so not to worry. The Reds have broken more pitchers than a 12-step meeting in the basement of a Parkinson’s clinic.

A name to remember: Nick Lodolo is a 24-year-old pitching prospect with a career k/bb ratio of ten to one. He’s a huge lefty with college polish (he was TCU’s ace), but he only threw 50 innings last year because of some blister problems so it’ll be a year or two before he’s a rotation regular.

Hunter Green is the team’s top pitching prospect because he throws 100, but I think I might prefer Lodolo in the long run. His arm is healthy (Green has already had Tommy John), he has far better command, and he struck out 78 in 50 innings last year.

Pittsburgh sucks. Next?

A name to remember: Oniel Cruz is a shortstop like I’m a Rockette, but he’s a legit hitter in the Aaron Judge mold, though from the other side of the plate. Cruz should be up at least by mid-season, but it’ll depend on how he takes to the outfield. I think the best guess is that he’ll be up in late May or early June.

Cruz was involved in an accident that killed three people in 2020. The the original reports said that he was intoxicated, but it quickly became apparent that he was not, that it was simply an accident.

Cruz was driving his jeep on a Dominican Republic highway, with his pregnant wife and feverish son along, when he rear-ended a motorcycle with no lights on and three people riding. All three died at the scene.

There is no recent news on the accident, so I assume it’s a closed case.

NL West:

Winner: Los Angeles
Wild Card: San Francisco

Seven pitchers on the 2021 Los Angeles roster have a combined 26 top-10 finishes in the Cy Young award voting. Four of them (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, David Price and Trevor Bauer) combined for eight wins, five seconds and four thirds. Five 2021 Dodger relievers have made the all-star team and saved 30 games in a season.Those lists don’t include 26-year-old Walker Bueller with two top-10 finishes, or 24-year-old Julio Urias who just picked up his first. Bueller and Urias combined for a 36-7 record and a 2.70 era in 2021.

Ten other Dodger pitchers, all 25 years old or younger, pitched a combined 255.2 innings and struck out 275.

The Dodgers staff posted an era+ of 136. Seven pitchers in major league history posted an era+ of at least 136 in 3,000 innings: Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Kid Nichols, Roger Clemens, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove and Three-Finger Brown.

Scherzer is gone and who knows when Bauer will be back, if ever. But the Dodgers still have the two phenoms and Kershaw. They brought Craig Kimbrel in to anchor a deep, talented bullpen. The lineup will be good, even if Cody Bellinger isn’t. The defense anchored by gold glovers Mookie Betts in rightfield and Bellinger in center, should be fine. If they don’t win 100+ games, something went horribly wrong.

A name to remember: Dustin May, who looks like somebody stuck Justin Turner into a taffy puller and then shaved off his eyebrows, should be back by mid-season. In another organization he might not be that interesting, but he has a career 2.93 era in 113.2 innings with the Dodgers over three seasons. He struck out 35 in 23 innings in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May.

San Francisco got good years from a roster full of retreads in 2021 and won 107 games. Don’t expect that to happen again:

1. Buster Posey retired.
2. Kevin Gausman signed with Toronto.
3. Kris Bryant signed with Colorado.
4. The Brandons (Belt and Crawford) are old.
5. And were never that good before.
6. Lamonte Wade Jr. is injured.
7. And he was never that good before.
8. Evan Longoria is injured.
9. And old.

Posey, Belt, Crawford, Wade Jr., Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf, Anthony DeSciafani, Alex Wood, Tyler Rodgers, Jarlin Garcia, Jose Alvarez, Zack Littell, Dominic Leone, Camilo Dovall … that’s a lotta best-case-scenario seasons.

It’s not all bad, though. It’s not like the Giants lost everyone that mattered.

Joey Bart won’t be Buster Posey, but he has a top-end pedigree and some history of hitting in the minors. Belt is never healthy, but he’s always a quality run producer. Crawford won’t be an MVP candidate every year, but he’s been a quality regular forever and he’s still playing plus defense at short. The cadre of sluggers won’t hit as well again, but they are all major league hitters.

Joc Pederson should fit right in with this crew, playing good defense and raking in a platoon role. Mike Yastrzemski had a poor year in 2021, so he could bounce back some. There is depth all over the field as well as the pitching staff. The bullpen can give up an extra run a game and still be pretty good. Alex Cobb could be the comeback player of the year.

Will they make the playoffs? I think they can be one of the six best teams in the NL, but it might be tough to get credit for it.

The NL West is easily the toughest division in the NL, giving the Central and East contenders far easier schedules. It seems bizarre to project a 107-win team down to 85, but I don’t think the Giants were really a 107-win team in 2021. It’s not impossible that they finish with a losing record.

A name to remember: Joey Bart is old for a prospect because of Covid-related delays; he’s going to finally get 120 starts in 2022, after playing just 234 games in his first four professional seasons. He isn’t likely to have a huge rookie season – I’d project 12-15 home runs and a pedestrian batting average – but I think he’ll have some .270-.300, 20-25 home run seasons over the next decade.

San Diego faded badly in 2021, going 12-34 down the stretch after starting the season 67-49. They shored up the pitching staff, though, and they are built for a win-now push.

Losing Fernando Tatis Jr. for half the season will hurt, but the lineup is deep enough to keep it going without their young superstar. The pitching isn’t Dodger-good, but it might be Marlin-good. There’s a lot here to like.

The Padres have lots of soon-to-expire contracts, though; a bad start could lead to a massive fire sale.

A name to remember: Dinelson Lamet was one of the best NL starting pitchers in 2020, finishing fourth in the Cy Young award voting. He struggled in 2021, but not so much that he should be at the bottom of the bullpen pecking order.

Word was that he would close before the Padres brought in Taylor Rodgers. Lamet could be traded for a needed piece, or he could wind up in the rotation after the fire sale.

Either way, he’s too talented to gather dust.

Colorado’s farm system has been threadbare for the past few years. Top prospects like Garret Hampson, Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon turned out to be just ok players, nothing special. The Rockies have done better with pitchers, but it’s Coors Field. Good luck with that.

The Rockies scored 283 runs on the road in 2021, less than three and a half per game. They hit .217, with a .291 onbase average. They were, in context, the worst offense in baseball.

A name to remember: Connor Joe is a former first-round draft pick out of San Diego State who has never gotten even 400 atbats in a professional season. He’s been good enough to play in the majors since 2018, but he was stuck in the Dodger system for two years before losing all of 2020 when the minor leagues were cancelled.

Finally, in 2021, he got a chance to play. And he played well, posting a 117 ops+ in 177 major league atbats after slashing .326-.418-.696 in AAA. He was slotted into the Rockies outfield in the spring, but then they signed Kris Bryant and traded for Randall Grichuk.

This time, though, Joe is going to get atbats. He’s slotted in as the primary DH and he will fill in at the outfield positions and first base. He’s a fun player, a surfer dude Korean-American with bowl bangs and a mullet who plays like his hair is on fire.

He’s a fan favorite, and if he hits (I think he will) he could be a surprise all-star in July. It’s not like the Rockies have a bunch of those; the only hitter better than Connor Joe in 2021 was retread firstbaseman CJ Cron.

Arizona is a mess. I have never seen a team with so little pitching talent; nobody on the roster can throw 94 consistently.

Their top prospects are a glove-only shortstop and a couple of undersized outfielders, one with warning track power and one with 29 trips to the plate in 2021 because he separated his shoulder taking a swing.

It’s going to be ugly in the desert. We’ll check back in 2024 or so.

A name to remember: Daulton Varsho has fantasy relevance; he qualifies at catcher and he’s playing every day in the outfield, so he could wind up with an extra couple hundred atbats compared to other catchers.

He can hit some, and catchers who get out from behind the plate often blossom with the bat. I see no reason to doubt him; he could hit 30 home runs if things go right, and he won’t be a total suck hole in batting average.

*******************

So who’s going to win the NL this year? The Dodgers.

Seriously, some odds I’d be willing to pay:

Los Angeles: 8/5
Milwaukee: 10/1
Atlanta: 12/1
Miami: 50/1
San Francisco 75/1
Philadelphia, San Diego, St. Louis 100/1
Everyone else: nope

MVP race:

1. Juan Soto
2. Bryce Harper
3. Freddie Freeman
4. Matt Olson
5. Ronald Acuña

Wild cards: Willy Adames, Jesus Sanchez

Cy Young race:

1. Sandy Alcantara
2. Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff/Freddy Peralta (you pick; I can’t decide)
3. Walker Bueller
4. Max Scherzer
5. Adam Wainright

Wild Cards: Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove, Carlos Rodon, Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Trevor Rogers, Jesus Luzardo|

If I had to pick the best pitcher in the NL right now it would be Bueller. Cy Youngs are part narrative, though, and the Dodgers would win 100 games if Bueller joined a cult.

Rookie of the Year:

1. Hunter Green
2. Seiya Suzuki
3. Kieber Ruiz
4. Diego Castillo
5. Joey Bart

Wild cards: Cooper Hummel, Joan Adon, Spencer Strider, Bryce Elder

* DD, in baseball parlance, stands for day-to-day. In Morgana parlance, it stands for the sound outfielders make when Morgana’s running towards them with her boobs bouncing off her forehead.

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Author: ventboys

Supreme Overlord and dishwasher

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