2007 MLB Preview: National League

2007 MLB Preview: National League

2007 MLB Preview: National League
By Seth Doria

Things are shaping up to be a great 1-2-3 weekend.

1. Final Four on Saturday. (After my annual golf tournament with my friends. It's called the Shart Open. There's a story from our inaugural event that ends up in a discarded golf towel. You can probably figure out the rest.) Anyway, tee time at 10, a classic college basketball double-header starting 5, staying at a hotel so nobody has to drive. They're keeping the bar open just for us. Yes.

2. First game of the baseball season on Sunday night (8 PM EST, ESPN2) featuring the Cardinals hosting the Mets here in the home opener. (Also, Dallas/Phoenix in the NBA.)

3. Opening Day for the rest of baseball (except for the Giants and Padres, who begin on Tuesday) and the NCAA Championship Game (which will be fantastic no matter who wins on Saturday).

Now that's a fine three days of sports.

We gave you a few random thoughts on the AL teams, so now the NL, division-by-division, in predicted order of finish. Playoff predictions, along with individual awards, at bottom.

NL EAST
Philadelphia Phillies

What's good: Freddy Garcia. He's had only one losing season out of his eight in the majors, and the move from AL to NL has been known to rejuvenate a pitcher. Also, I like Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer in the four and five spots. This is by far the best starting rotation in the division.

What's bad: Garcia has a sore arm, Brett Myers is slightly crazy, Cole Hamels is untested over the long haul, Eaton is injury-prone, and Moyer broke into the majors the same year "Top Gun" was released. In other words, things could fall apart in a hurry.

Atlanta Braves

What's good: Andruw Jones playing for a billion dollar contract.

What's bad: They had to give up Adam LaRoche in the Mike Gonzalez trade, so now Scott Thorman (.234 avg in 128 career ABs) gets the full-time gig. Also, I don't like Kelly Johnson (.241 in 270 career ABs) as a replacement for Marcus Giles at 2B and lead-off.

New York Mets

What's good: Carlos & Carlos Inc. might top 80 HR and 250 RBI combined.

What's bad: An interesting bet — what number will be higher, the total combined home runs hit by Delgado and Beltran or the combined age of Tom Glavine and El Duque (78)?

Florida Marlins

What's good: Scott Olsen. He came on strong last year. Also, Anibal Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks. If they can put it together again in '07, the Marlins may make some noise.

What's bad: Nobody in South Florida would care.

Washington Nationals

What's good: A lineup featuring 3B Ryan Zimmerman, RF Austin Kearns, 1B Dmitri Young, and LF Ryan Church three through six has the potential to do some damage.

What's bad: The rotation is an utter mess. To put it in perspective, they are disappointed that Jason Simontacchi, who last played for St. Louis in 2004, is going to have to start the season on the DL instead of the five spot in the rotation.

NL CENTRAL
Houston Astros

What's good: Great, great move getting Carlos Lee. With him batting clean-up, Lance Berkman is going to be that much better in the three hole and Morgan Ensberg is going to have a lot of opportunities hitting fifth. (There's actually a chance he could hit second, in front of Berkman, which would be even better.) Along with Detroit getting Gary Sheffield and Boston getting Samurai Slim, the Lee move was one of my favorites of the offseason.

What's bad: The back of the rotation is a little soft. I'm not sure how much Woody Williams has in the tank, and Wandy Rodriguez has yet to put it together.

St. Louis Cardinals

What's good: The team lost Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis for somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million and are actually going to have a better rotation with newly acquired Kip Wells (I have high hopes) and the duo of Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright. I'm not sure about Braden Looper as a starter, but I wasn't a huge fan of his when he was in the 'pen, either. At least this way he can only screw up one game a week.

What's bad: The most dependable outfielder right now is Chris Duncan. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan. But I wish Jim Edmonds was 10 years younger and Juan Encarnacion played for somebody else.

Chicago Cubs

What's good: Lou Pinella (experienced winner and teacher) and Carlos Zambrano (210 SO in '06, clear ace, looking for a new deal).

What's bad: Lou Pinella (old school nut job) and Carlos Zambrano (115 BB in '06, a little bit insane, the kind of guy you hope takes a line drive off the cup).

Cincinnati Reds

What's good: With 500 AB his for the taking, 3B Edwin Encarnacion could be on the verge of a break-out season (even more than the 15 HR and 72 RBI in 117 games in '06).

What's bad: If I told you the over/under on games played by Ken Griffey, Jr. was 115, even the most die-hard of Reds fans would have to think long and hard before putting their money down.

Milwaukee Brewers

What's good: 1B Prince Fielder is the next Ryan Howard. He could pop for 40 and 120 this year.

What's bad: Ben Sheets has got great talent, no doubt, but after averaging more than 220 innings '02 through '04, he's averaged barely more than 130 over the past two. There's a psychological damage that a team suffers when their ace goes down again and again. If it happens this year, he's officially in Mark Prior territory.

Pittsburgh Pirates

What's good: Jason Bay, Freddie Sanchez, and Adam LaRoche.

What's bad: Everybody else.

(Really, how much else is there to say?)

NL WEST
Colorado Rockies

What's good: Word that Todd Helton will hit clean-up between Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday makes a resurgence from last year's debacle that much more likely. Expect a monster year.

What's bad: Anybody who picks Byung-Hyun Kim for their fantasy team should be forced to pay double their league entry fee for extra suckage.

Arizona Diamondbacks

What's good: Four potential 200-inning starters (Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez).

What's bad: Two potential 100-inning injury-plagued seasons from Johnson (vertebrae of glass) and Hernandez (whose right arm is the pitching equivalent of Jenna Jamison's ... um ... knee).

San Diego Padres

What's good: Greg Maddux and David Wells have a combined 563 wins.

What's bad: It's not 1995.

Los Angeles Dodgers

What's good: With the Juan Pierre/Rafael Furcal combo at the top, smart hitters Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, and Luis Gonzalez make up the heart of the order. These are professional hitters who know how to work a count and drive runners home.

What's bad: Garciaparra, Kent, and Gonzalez will all most likely spend at least one stint on the DL this season.

San Francisco Giants

What's good: Barry Zito should be helped by moving to the NL and not having to pitch to Anaheim and Texas over and over again.

What's bad: Funny quote on just how old the Giants really are, courtesy pitching coach Dave Righetti (speaking about the bullpen): "We've got to get the ball over the plate. That's a priority. We've got an older team and we don't want guys out there standing on the field for a long time."

***

Cards take the wildcard over the Braves, then lose a tough series to the Phils. Philly then goes on to beat the Astros, who beats Colorado in the other ALDS. Phillies beat the Angels in the Series, giving the city of Philadelphia a much-needed champion and making Ryan Howard a hero for life.

NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt
NL MVP: Matt Holliday
NL Rookie: Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
NL Manager: Clint Hurdle (COL)
NL Biggest Disappointment: San Francisco Giants
First NL Manager Canned: Grady Little (Though I think it happens after the season. And yes, I know they just picked up his option.)

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