Before the Braves and Dodgers kick this whole thing off tonight, I decided to roll out some of our famous predictions.  First, I’ll start with division-by-division standings, in bottom-up fashion:

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

The Padres are bad, and they just aren’t getting better any time soon. The sad thing is that they are sucking away the primes of guys like Gonzalez, Peavy, and Young’s careers. The Rockies: meh. They lost one of the best hitters in baseball and haven’t really added anything. But at least they have some real young talent like Chris Ianetta, Troy Tulowitzki, Seth Smith and, farther off, Dexter Fowler. Everyone seems to be raving about the Giants’ upwelling of young talent, but really it’s the same team they had last year. The new additions: Rentaría and a 45-year-old Johnson. Their “pitching depth” is young Cy-Younger Lincecum, followed by Matt Cain who had pretty brilliant seasons last two years but only managed a 8-14 and 7-16 records, and then Zito? Does anyone really still think this guy is good? Jonathan Sánchez? Noah Lowry is alright, but only alright and right now he is only injured. Anyways, I’m not seeing it. The Diamondbacks are going to be good but not great. Same under-achieving lineup, but perhaps Upton will be better with another year under his belt, and great pitching. Finally, the Dodgers, they of the Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier outfield (probably the best in baseball). Offensively this team is bristling: I haven’t even mentioned James Loney or Russell Martin yet. If Kuroda, Billingesly and Kershaw can keep doing what they’ve done, and Randy Wolf can use Dodger Stadium’s massive dimensions to keep some of his impressive HR/IP numbers down, this team has a chance to go deep in the playoffs.

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Houston Astros

The Astros were terrible last year.  This year they are worse.  Just attrocious.  They signed Iván Rodríguez for Hell’s sake.  The Pirates are almost ready to blossom into a beatiful flower.  But probably not this year.  Their Minor Leagues hold three of the most impressive prospects in baseball, and they all showed well this spring.  Pedro Alvarez crushed a homie that, due to the dimensions of the park and the fact that it cleared a pond behind the park, was estimated at about 550-ft.  People are beginning to forget about the holdout.  With the weakness of the division, they could bump up a spot if they had an unbelievable year.  The Cardinals are not that good either.  Their staff is pretty terrible behind Wainwright:  will Lohse have as good a season as the obvious devation from norm that was last year?  Will Wellemeyer continue his conversion from crappy reliever to fairly dependable starter?  Will Joel Pineiro not suck?  Will Carpenter come back from massive injury and pitch well?  All these are not questions you want to be asking of 4/5ths of your rotation.  Ludwick will probably still crush homies (can you believe this guy is older than Pujols?–who, by the way, will have his usual ball-crushing season).  Ankiel will probably continue to hit as well, but the rest of the lineup really is just terrible. The Brewers are said by many pundits to compete for a playoff spot.  I don’t believe so.  They lost CC Sabatthia and Ben Sheets is MIA.  That leaves Jeff Suppan as their “ace”.  Suppan?  Yeah, he had a couple…literally two…intriguing years for the Pirates and Cardinals, but the dude has a 4.63 ERA and a 1.67 K/BB ratio (both career);  that’s not ace material.  Their pitching is key.  Yes, their lineup, even with the likes of sub-.250 hitting Weeks, Cameron, and Hall, will score some runs, but does the pitching keep them in it?  I really think 3-5 could all move around here, depending on such things as injuries and standout campaigns by key contributors, because their talent is all fairly similar IMO.  The Cincinnati Reds have a nice (for the most part) looking lineup with plenty of youngsters, and absolutely dynamite pitching.  WIth Harang likely to return more to his career norm, the likes of Volquez, Cueto, and even Arroyo could be pretty impressive.  Finally, the Cubs, who take the first spot merely by virtue of having the best team last year in a division that did little to change.  I don’t think they will do as good as last year, but so long as Alfonso Soriano avoids any prancing injuries while mincing about like a goddamn fairy they should be OK.

NL East

  1. NY Mets
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Washington Nationals

Mets and Phillies is such a toss up here.  I gave it to the Mets because I think they have maybe one more really good batter in the lineup and similar situations with the pitching.  I figure for the intangibles, maybe Philly lets up a little this year after winning the championship.  Whoever doesn’t win this will likely get the wild card, as all the other non-first-place NL teams are not as good as these guys.  I picked the Marlins next, even though the Braves dominance of yore probably forced many to put them high in the standings, but it is a new era in NL east play.  The Marlins have a great looking young rotation, and while Hanley, Uggla and Cantu may not be the flashiest middle of the lineup, this team is scrappy, and scrappy teams win with good pitching.  So long as the youngsters hold up, I’ll take them for 3rd.  The Braves really haven’t shown me any reason to get excited about their team.  Jair Jurrjens looks good, but all in all their team seems like players that are pretty good, but just maybe shouldn’t be starting.  At least they shouldn’t all be starting for the same team.  Chipper Jones’ O/U for ABs this year is probably about 400, and I’ll take the under.  Finally the Nationals.  Their lineup is entirely bizarre:  Cristian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard up the middle, Adam “I single-handedly (pun intended) lost the WBC for the US” Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman manning the corners, and Willingham, Milledge and Dukes in the outfield.  Jesus Flores is a great youngster behind the plate, watch for him to have a breakout season, unless they decide to hide him behind an aging and terrible Wil Nieves.  If ever a team had no leader, I would have to say this must be the team.  Their pitching staff has a couple of good guys (and no, Daniel Cabrera is not one), but absolutely no depth.  It’s a shame that, like the Pirates, the Nationals built a beautiful new stadium in which they will now play some number of losing seasons in.

Now, for some awards:

MVP

Probably deserves it: Manny Ramirez
Dark horse: David Wright
Will end up being: Another damn Philly

Cy Young

Probably deserves it: Johan Santana
Dark horse: Brandon Webb
Will end up being: Tim Lincecum

Batting Champion

Probably deserves it: Albert Pujols
Dark horse: Lance Berkman
Will end up being: Someone out of left field like it always is

Most Improved/Bounceback Season

Probably deserves it: Aaron Harang
Dark horse: Kosuke Fukudome
Even darker horse: Andy LaRoche
Will end up being: Some Giant because their team did terribly and the pundits thought they would be good

Rookie of the Year

Probably deserves it: Andrew McCutchen
Dark horse: Seth Smith
Will end up being: Some Giant (see above)