With the Atlanta Braves rebuilding to compete in their new stadium in 2017 and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. still believing it’s 2011, this division will be dominated by the Nationals. Adding Max Scherzer to 2014’s best pitching staff will prove devastating to a division weak on offense.
Expect the Marlins and Mets to fight for the second spot, as both teams benefit from quickly-rising young players and the return of their top starter. I give the edge to the Marlins, based on the bat of Giancarlo Stanton and the acquisitions of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Mat Latos. The young Braves and the aging Phillies will occupy the final two spots.
The only surprise out of this division will be if the Phillies finally trade stars such as Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley to boost a lacking farm system.
Another season of baseball, and the NL Central is again one of, if not the most, stacked division in the Major Leagues. Likely headed by perennial championship contenders the Saint Louis Cardinals, the division is the strongest from top to bottom.
Yet again, the Chicago Cubs are receiving a large amount of hype, as has regularly been occurring this century. Each year seems to be “the year” for the Cubs to break out of mediocrity and into contention, and this season shows more promise than recent years, with the addition of Jon Lester to the starting rotation and young star Kris Bryant having a breakout spring.
Neither the Pittsburgh Pirates nor the Milwaukee Brewers made significant changes during the offseason, but after strong seasons in 2014, we can expect them to be competing for the division title.
With all the talent in this division, the Cincinnati Reds will have trouble keeping up, and will likely fall short of the top teams.
The Central is the Cardinals division to lose, and the health of their pitching staff will play a major role in their success this season. Look for the Central to send two teams to the postseason, the division winner and a wild-card team.
Tickle me surprised if the Dodgers don’t more or less run away with this division come October.
The biggest competition in this division may be for the No. 2 spot, between the revamped San Diego Padres and the reigning San Francisco Giants. For the first time since Tony Gwynn, the Padres’ brass seems to want to win a baseball game or two, after free agent acquisitions Matt Kemp and James Shields.
Meanwhile, a second-place finish would be a moderate surprise for the Giants, who are poised for a fall back to reality this season. The joke’s on the rest of MLB though, because the Giants will inevitably win the 2016 World Series crown.
The Rockies and Diamondbacks will undoubtedly round out the bottom of the division, as you can’t name more than two players from either roster.
The AL East holds the winner of free agency this past offseason, the Boston Red Sox. They have the most dominant lineup in the MLB after acquiring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Pitching is still a question mark for them which doesn’t make them a cinch to win the division.
The Orioles and the Blue Jays have the best chance of giving the Sox a run for their money, but it will be a rough road considering they didn’t do much in the offseason.
The Rays and Yankees bring up the bottom of the division. It may be a rough year for the Evil Empire; the first time that they will be without their beloved captain.
This is not just Detroit’s division anymore. The four-time defending division champs will have to fight off the upstart Indians and free-agency splurging White Sox for another trip to the playoffs.
Minnesota is still a few years away with top prospects still waiting in the minor leagues and oh yeah, the American League champion Royals will be competitive as well. This division will beat each other up the entire season with no one team standing out.
At the end of the year though, I like the White Sox to be the surprising Chicago team to make the playoffs.
AL West – This division will definitely be one of the most competitive in 2015. The Mariners proved that they can compete with the Angels and the Athletics last year, barely missing the wild card matchup and with King Felix on the mound, the Mariners look to be in a position to make a run out west.
The Rangers have been plagued by injuries yet again (Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar are out for the year), and it will show in their record. The Astros will not compete by any means, but will improve as their young roster continues to develop.
With the Athletics going all out last year and trading some of their best talent in a World Series run (which ended early in the wild card game), I think the Angels and Mariners will make the playoffs in a tough division.
Jesse Keipp, Joey Byron, Joseph Edmunds, Mason Morgan and Matt Rechtien contributed to this article.