Hey all, hope you have had a good holiday so far. With a week left of 2012 and Spring Training rapidly approaching, let's check out what each National League squad might be hoping for in the new year as we gear up for PFP's in Florida and Arizona.
Atlanta Braves: 94-68, Wild Card
2013 wish: That its starting pitching rivals that of the Nationals in the East. With Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Mike Minor and Paul Maholm making a highly above average start to the rotation, can young guns Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado heat up in Orlando this spring to challenge the Nats? If so this rotation could rival that of the great Braves teams of the 90's.Arizona Diamondbacks: 81-81
2013 wish: That the outfield logjam gets resolved. Justin Upton, whose been up and down, has been mentioned in multiple trade rumors this offseason. Did a hand injury limit him last year? Is there an attitude problem? Just in the last week Arizona added veteran outfielder Cody Ross to a three-year deal. This adds him to a projected outfield of Upton, Jason Kubel, and Gerardo Parra. The team also has left fielder A.J. Pollock (31 games last year) and top prospect Adam Eaton on the roster. Could Kubel be enticing for an American League team looking for a DH? Does GM Kevin Towers feel the $38.5 million owed to Upton over the next three seasons is not worth the investment? Questions abound in the desert.Chicago Cubs: 61-101
2013 wish: That Theo Epstein can work his magic. Entering his second year with the Cubs as President, Epstein needs time to develop the North Siders. And really, why rush it? He has good pieces in place in shortstop Starlin Castro and first basemen Anthony Rizzo; he's brought in Edwin Jackson to help stabilize the rotation; and in a surprise move he inked Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to be the new closer. The only issue is since international signing rules changed before last season, Epstein cannot turn the Cubs around through international talent like he wants.Cincinnati Reds: 97-65, National League Central Champions
2013 wish: That it all comes together. Loaded lineup, top of the rotation talent, and Aroldis Chapman. A tough, injury-filled October derailed the Reds, but these guys are primed for a deep run in 2013.Colorado Rockies: 64-98
2013 wish: Troy Tulowitzki is healthy and productive. San Francisco is coming off a World Series victory, Los Angeles is trying to acquire more talent than Motown Records in the 60's, San Diego can be sneaky if its pitching stays healthy, and Arizona has 32 outfielders on their roster. The fact the Rockies have no pitching is a big issue. But the only way this rebuilding team is going to sell tickets to Coors Field is if its shortstop is healthy. Tulo only played in 47 games last year, but when healthy he is almost a lock for a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Having #2 in the lineup is the first step in the right direction.Los Angelas Dodgers: 86-76
2013 wish: That money can buy happiness. With new ownership spending over $2 billion last season to purchase the franchise and a current payroll of $214+ million, can LA copy the success like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia? Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Matt Kemp is a great start but I wonder if Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford are what they once were. One important question I ponder, Is Dodger Stadium safe enough to draw the casual LA crowd consistently?Miami Marlins: 69-93
2013 wish: That the ship will stay afloat this season. It is never easy to lose players like Zack Grienke and Prince Fielder, but with the Brewers payroll appearing to be ~$30 million less than last season's total you have to wonder if this season could be a major letdown. Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez are all a year older in the lineup, but luckily there is still Ryan Braun.New York Mets: 74-88
2013 wish: That the R.A. Dickey Trade works out. I actually applaud the Mets for trading the reigning Cy Young winner at peak value. I'm sure the 38-year old will be marvelous for Toronto, but ownership needs to clear payroll space, build around new starting catcher/top prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran David Wright. New York fans tend to be impatient, but this could be a catalyst for a new generation of winning Mets teams.Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81
2013 wish: That Father Time in 2012 was not here to stay. A huge payroll and a huge step back in 2012. Phillies mainstays Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will be an average of 33.5 years old on Opening Day. All battled injuries last year sans Hamels. New center fielder Ben Revere will electrify the Citizens Bank Park crowd with his defense.Pittsburgh Pirates: 79-83
2013 wish: That finally. FINALLY. They make the playoffs. The team faded throughout the summer last season, but behind MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen there are signs for optimism. Today's trade of clubhouse leader/closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston raises eyebrows, but brings back four prospects and clears some payroll. Before today they were my surprise Wild Card pick, not sure now.San Diego Padres: 76-86
2013 wish: That bringing in Petco Park's Fences helps the offense. San Diego pitching was ravaged last year as talented players like Andrew Cashner, Anthony Bass, and Corey Luebke missed time. The big offseason news has been cavernous Petco Park bringing in its fences to help a consistently anemic offense. Hopefully this helps 2012 breakout star Chase Headley as well as Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and Cameron Maybin.San Francisco Giants: 94-68, National League West Champions, World Series Champions
2013 wish: That nothing changes. Hey when you are the World Champions, have the reigning MVP as your catcher and a former two-time Cy Young winner is arguably your third best pitcher, why want change?St. Louis Cardinals: 88-74, NL Wild Card
2013 wish: That the bridge between 2012 and 2014 will continue to be a success. 2012 was another great season for one of baseball's best towns. Rookie manager Mike Matheny had the enormous task of leading leading the 2011 World Series winners replacing Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa. He also did not have this Albert guy who left for free agency. All this went against them yet they still made the NLCS. Though it will be interesting to see where they will be at around July with veterans like Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday a year older. With top-outfield prospect Oscar Tavares and starters Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez knocking on the door, this season may be one step back but the future is still bright. The Red Birds have gorgeous new alternates, too.Washington Nationals: 98-64, National League East Champions
2013 wish: That last seasons decision to sit Stephen Strasburg does not come back to haunt this year. One of the hottest topics last season was Nats' GM Mike Rizzo's decision to limit the phenom post-Tommy John surgery. After the team with baseball's best record was upset by the Cardinals, one might fear that was the one shot. With Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman at the top of the rotation; a lineup with Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth; a bullpen featuring Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard; and offseason acquisitions like centerfielder Denard Span and starter Dan Haren there is a lot to love in our Nation's Capital. If all goes right they are the odds-on favorite, but we've said that about many teams before...
Tomorrow, a look at the American League where the East has gone crazy, the Central's been lazy and the West brings in Houston where it gets awfully hazy.