Breaking Down MLB's National League Landscape

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 7:42 PM GMT

It might have been the wildest baseball off-season ever and sportsbooks had to spend way more time making adjustments on future betting odds then any time in recent memory. 

Chicago Cubs Moving up but Overvalued?
The days of being the “lovable losers” are gone as President Theo Epstein has stuck to his plan and is ushering in a new era of Chicago baseball. The Cubs farm system has been stockpiling players for three years and at the end of last season they started to arrive on the major league level, with names like Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Jorge Solar. Right behind them studs Chris Bryant and Addison Russell, to go along with established everyday players still 25 years old or younger in Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.

Epstein made a huge splash by bringing Joe Maddon to manage this group and added a foundation pitcher in Jon Lester, a solid everyday catcher in Miguel Montero and retrieved Jason Hammel for the rotation.

The only negative aspect about the Cubs was the public reaction to what Chicago has accomplished, taking them from 15-1 MLB odds to 6-1 to win the National League, making them the third choice. This is purely speculation, as collectively they have proven nothing and the franchise has not finished above .500 since 2009.  

 

San Diego Gaining Ground on San Francisco?
The Padres were very busy in the off-season adding Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers. If all three players play up to capabilities, San Diego could make a legitimate run at the playoffs this season, especially if the Friars get full seasons out of starters Andrew Cashner and Odrisamer Despaigne.

However, there is the possibility one, two or all three of these acquisitions might not reach their potential and each has defensive limitations and that is why San Diego did not move the meter all that much and is the ninth choice in the NL at +1800.

The loss of Pablo Sandoval will hurt San Francisco not just because of his numbers, rather because the guy was a winner. Casey McGhee was the best pickup they could arrange to take his place. The Giants finished fifth in runs scored in the NL playing in run-suppressing AT&T Park and if Brandon Belt,

Angel Pagan and Joe Panik can play close to 140 games apiece, compared to their average of 77 last season, at least the offense will be satisfied. Will the World Series champions be able to piece together a starting staff? We know what Madison Bumganer is capable of, but does Matt Cain come all the way back and how much do Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum have left? San Francisco is the sixth choice in the league at +1000.

 

The Dodgers and Nationals are Still the Favorites
Los Angeles jettisoned Kemp and Hanley Ramirez and might miss some of their production but the clubhouse will also be less volatile. Adding an aging Jimmy Rollins will help and Joc Pederson improves the outfield defense and he has pop in his bat.

Likely more important is adding Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson to the rotation, which could make this contingent the best in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu already in place.

The Washington starting staff is an equal to the L.A. with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. However, this has to be their year because Zimmermann and Fister will become free agents. Reports have Zimmermann already being shopped with a possible eye on signing Max Scherzer. (stay tuned)

The Nationals were third in runs scored but tended to score in bunches or not at all and should win their division convincingly.If you are making MLB picks, hard to go wrong with either of these two teams the way it looks now with Los Angeles at +300 and Washington at +400.