National League baseball preview

Stephen Strasburg
Former top draft pick Stephen Strasburg could be the ace of the National League’s best pitching rotation this season.
(Jonathan Ernst / Getty Images)

Team outlooks are listed in predicted order of finish. Lineups and rotations are projections.


1 l Washington

2013 l 86-76, second place


Last year in playoffs l 2012

They are supposed to blossom after years of suffering, top draft picks — Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg (first overall), Ryan Zimmerman (fourth) and Anthony Rendon (sixth) — and a few summers of seasoning. When Doug Fister, 29, returns, he’ll be the old man in what should be the majors’ most dynamic rotation.


CF D. Span


SS I. Desmond

RF J. Werth

3B R. Zimmerman

LF B. Harper

1B A. LaRoche

2B A. Rendon

C W. Ramos



RH S. Strasburg

LH G. Gonzalez

RH J. Zimmermann

RH D. Fister*

RH T. Roark


RH R. Soriano

2 l Florida


2013 l 62-100, fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 2003

The Marlins fleece taxpayers more often than they get to the playoffs, so this pick is a risk. They scored an NL-low 513 runs last year, the only NL team not to top 600, but in an era when veteran pitchers break down with disturbing frequency, the Marlins boast the best young pitcher — Jose Fernandez, 21 — and the best young rotation in baseball.


2B R. Furcal

LF C. Yelich

RF G. Stanton

1B G. Jones

C J. Saltalamacchia

CF M. Ozuna

3B C. McGehee

SS A. Hecheavarria


RH J. Fernandez

RH N. Eovaldi

RH H. Alvarez

RH J. Turner

RH T. Koehler


RH S. Cishek

3 l Atlanta

Last year l 96-66, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

The Braves might have a better rotation on the DL than they do on the active roster. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are out for the season. Gavin Floyd and Mike Minor could return within one month. That’s a painful hit for a team expecting little offense at the bottom of its lineup.


RF J. Heyward

LF J. Upton

1B F. Freeman

3B C. Johnson

CF B. Upton

2B D. Uggla

C E. Gattis

SS A. Simmons


RH J. Teheran

RH E. Santana

LH A. Wood

RH A. Harang

RH D. Hale


LH C. Kimbrel

4 l New York Mets

2013 l 74-88, third place

Last year in playoffs l 2006

This team should have great young pitching — next year, with Matt Harvey back from injury and Noah Syndergaard ascending from the minor leagues to joining Zack Wheeler. For now, the Mets are an odd mix that includes franchise player David Wright, past-their-prime players Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson, and unwanted regulars such as Ike Davis.


LF E. Young

2B D. Murphy

3B D. Wright

RF C. Granderson

1B I. Davis

CF C. Young

C T. D’Arnaud

SS R. Tejada


RH D. Gee

RH B. Colon

RH Z. Wheeler

LH D. Niese

RH D. Matsuzaka


RH B. Parnell

5 l Philadelphia

2013 l 73-89, fourth place

Last year in playoffs l 2011

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said “there might have to be a disaster plan.” Cole Hamels already is injured, and the team slipped from 102 wins in 2011 to 73 in 2013. It would be no surprise to hear trade rumors linking the Dodgers to Cliff Lee and Chase Utley in July, assuming each is healthy.


CF B. Revere

SS J. Rollins

2B C. Utley

1B R. Howard

RF M. Byrd

LF D. Brown

C C. Ruiz

3B C. Asche


LH C. Lee

RH A. Burnett

RH K. Kendrick

RH R. Hernandez

RH J. Manship


RH J. Papelbon


1 l St. Louis

2013 l 97-65, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

The Cardinals led the NL in runs last year with little offense at shortstop or third. Those spots have been upgraded, and ex-Angel Peter Bourjos puts a little speed into a team that ranked last in stolen bases. The Cardinals have the best pitching depth in the majors, much of it in the form of relievers throwing 100 mph.


3B M. Carpenter

2B K. Wong

LF M. Holliday

RF M. Craig

C Y. Molina

1B M. Adams

SS J. Peralta

CF P. Bourjos


RH A. Wainwright

RH M. Wacha

RH L. Lynn

RH S. Miller

RH J. Kelly


RH T. Rosenthal

2 l Milwaukee

2013 l 74-88 fourth place

Last year in playoffs l 2011

The Brewers opened last season with John Axford at closer. He lost his job after four games. The bullpen will be better, and Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza make for a decent top three in the rotation. Carlos Gomez is the only Brewer who hit 20 homers last season, but Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Reynolds could.


CF C. Gomez

SS J. Segura

RF R. Braun

3B A. Ramirez

C J. Lucroy

LF K. Davis

1B M. Reynolds

2B S. Gennett


RH Y. Gallardo

RH K. Lohse

RH M. Garza

RH M. Estrada

RH Wily Peralta


RH J. Henderson

3 l Pittsburgh

2013 l 94-68, second place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

The Pirates were baseball’s best story last summer, but their winter was spotty at best. They got worse at first base, and they so botched the A.J. Burnett negotiations that they ended up with Edinson Volquez in their starting rotation at a guaranteed $5 million. (The Dodgers got Paul Maholm at a guaranteed $1.5 million.)


LF S. Marte

SS J. Mercer

CF A. McCutchen

3B P. Alvarez

2B N. Walker

C R. Martin

1B G. Sanchez

RF J. Tabata


LH F. Liriano

RH G. Cole

LH W. Rodriguez

RH C. Morton

RH E. Volquez


RH J. Grilli

4 l Cincinnati

2013 l 90-72, third place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

Shin-Soo Choo, last year’s leadoff batter, had a .423 on-base percentage. Billy Hamilton, his replacement, might lead the world in stolen bases, but he had a .308 OBP at triple A. The on-base-plus-slugging percentage of Brandon Phillips, whom the Reds tried to trade, has dropped from .810 in ’11 to .750 in ’12 to .706 last year.


CF B. Hamilton

2B B. Phillips

1B J. Votto

RF J. Bruce

LF R. Ludwick

3B T. Frazier

C D. Mesoraco

SS Z. Cosart


RH J. Cueto

RH H. Bailey

RH M. Leake

LH T. Cingrani

RH A. Simon


RH J. Hoover

5 l Chicago Cubs

2013 l 66-96 fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 2008

The Cubs have two of baseball’s brightest prospects in infielders Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. That won’t help this year, when the Cubs could finish 25 games out of first place for the fourth consecutive season. But it might help in 2015, the year predicted for a Cubs World Series victory in the 1989 movie “Back to the Future II.”


SS S. Castro

2B L. Valbuena

1B A. Rizzo

RF N. Schierholtz

3B M. Olt

LF J. Lake

C W. Castillo

CF R. Sweeney


RH J. Samardzija

LH T. Wood

RH E. Jackson

RH J. Hammel

RH C. Valenzuela


RH J. Veras


1 l Dodgers

2013 l 92-70, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

There will be no underdog story told by the most expensive team in baseball history. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a payroll of about $112 million. The Dodgers left $111 million in payroll behind when they traveled to Australia — Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Dan Haren, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett — and still beat the Diamondbacks twice.


RF Y. Puig

LF C. Crawford

SS H. Ramirez

1B A. Gonzalez

3B J. Uribe

CF A. Ethier

C A. Ellis

2B D. Gordon


LH C. Kershaw*

RH Z. Greinke

LH H. Ryu

RH D. Haren

RH J. Beckett*


RH K. Jansen

2 l San Diego

2013 l 76-86, third place (tie)

Last year in playoffs l 2006

This would be a good time for Carlos Quentin, 31, to put up his first season with 500 at-bats, and a good time for Chase Headley to show his monster 2012 season is not the outlier it appears to be. Yet Quentin is already on the disabled list. The Padres last made the playoffs in 2006, when their catcher was Mike Piazza.


SS E. Cabrera

CF W. Venable

3B C. Headley

LF C. Quentin*

1B Y. Alonso

2B J. Gyorko

RF C. Denorfia

C N. Hundley


RH A. Cashner

RH I. Kennedy

RH T. Ross

LH E. Stults

LH R. Erlin


H. Street

3 l San Francisco

2013 l 76-86, third place (tie)

Last year in playoffs l 2012

Madison Bumgarner might be the most underpaid pitcher in the majors. He had a 2.77 ERA last season, best besides Kershaw in the NL West. The Giants can buy him out of his first three years in free agency (2017-19) for no more than $12 million per year; Tim Lincecum (4.76 ERA in 2012-13) is getting $17 million this year.


CF A. Pagan

1B B. Belt

C B. Posey

RF H. Pence

3B P. Sandoval

LF M. Morse

2B J. Arias

SS B. Crawford


LH M. Bumgarner

RH M. Cain

RH T. Hudson

RH T. Lincecum

RH R. Vogelsong


RH S. Romo

4 l Colorado

2013 l 74-88, fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 2009

The Rockies have a fearsome foursome in Cuddyer, Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Morneau, each of whom has hit 30 homers. Unfortunately, Gonzalez and Morneau last hit 30 five years ago, Cuddyer did it four years ago, and Tulowitzki last did it three years ago. Closer LaTroy Hawkins, 40, last led his team in saves in 2004.


CF D. Stubbs

RF M. Cuddyer

LF C. Gonzalez

SS T. Tulowitzki

1B J. Morneau

C W. Rosario

3B N. Arenado

2B D. LeMahieu


LH J. De La Rosa

LH B. Anderson

RH T. Chatwood

RH J. Nicasio

LH F. Morales


RH L. Hawkins

5 l Arizona

2013 l 81-81, second place

Last year in playoffs l 2011

The Diamondbacks were going to get Masahiro Tanaka, or Shin-Soo Choo, or Matt Garza in free agency. They got Bronson Arroyo, 37. They traded young depth to get slugger Mark Trumbo and closer Addison Reed, yet Arizona did not summon uber-prospect Archie Bradley to replace injured ace Patrick Corbin.


CF A. Pollock

2B A. Hill

1B P. Goldschmidt

3B M. Prado

LF M. Trumbo

C M. Montero

SS C. Owings

RF G. Parra


LH W. Miley

RH T. Cahill

RH B. McCarthy

RH R. Delgado

RH B. Arroyo


RH A. Reed

*Could start season on disable list.

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