National League Early Reactions

We’re not quite a quarter of the way through the baseball season, but there’s been plenty to talk about so far. Both World Series teams from 2016 are currently not in first place in their division, everyone is hurt, and dirt bike riding is the new least favorite activity among people in San Francisco. There’s still plenty of games left to be played, but we can learn a lot about teams through the first quarter of games. Let’s see who and what has caught my eye so far.

Also, check out the AL piece here if you missed it.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Hey now! The Diamondbacks under their new regime are playing some really good baseball by running wild on the bases (second most steals in the majors as a team). The pitching staff that had the second highest ERA in the Majors last season currently sits with the fifth best ERA in the Majors. Zack Greinke looks like Zack Greinke again and should give this young team so valuable veteran leadership down the stretch. Their bullpen is still a train-wreck despite the emergence of Archie Bradley as a multi inning stud reliever, but if Arizona is serious about making the postseason this year, they will need to add some major bullpen help.

Atlanta Braves – The Braves haven’t been quite as frisky as some people thought they would be. Ace Julio Teheran has been a mess (5.47 ERA) and now All Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was maybe the best hitter in the NL at the time of his injury, is likely out two months with a broken wrist. With three teams out West already seven games over .500, it would take a miracle for the Braves to make any kind of Wild Card push. On to 2018 for Atlanta.

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs feel like the Cavs of MLB to me. Joe Maddon is playing with different lineups even more than he usually does and trying to use reclamation projects like Brett Anderson and Eddie Butler in the rotation on a regular basis. Do not panic, the Cubs are just bored. They’ll end up in the playoffs and quickly remind everyone they are still the team to beat.

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds got off to a nice start this season sitting at 19-15 on May 11th, but when you have names like Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, and Tim Adelman in your rotation, you can only stay above .500 for so long. There is still plenty to like about this young Reds team. Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez have been red hot to start the season while the duo of Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen look to be the foundation of an elite bullpen in the near future. Joey Votto is still one of if not the best hitter in baseball, but the Reds are still miles behind the competition despite their surprising start.

Colorado Rockies – I had the Rockies as my surprise team before the season, but didn’t quite have the stones to put them as a playoff team. I really wish I had done so as the Rockies currently have the best record in the National League! The Rockies are still scoring runs with the best of them despite getting very little from Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story. They have gotten major production from Mark Reynolds who has come back from the dead to slugg .587 in 43 games (YCPB). I’m a little worried about the Rockies rotation as ace Jon Gray has been out over a month with a foot injury and guys like Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland appear to be getting by on smoke and mirrors. I still believe in the Rockies however and smell a Jose Quintana trade with White Sox in the near future.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Holy Cody Bellinger! The Dodgers were slumping at 9-11 struggling to score on most nights until the Dodgers called up the young lefty to replace an injured Joc Pederson (who just isn’t that good, sorry Dodgers fans). The Dodgers are 17-8 since calling up Bellinger as he has hit 9 bombs while slugging an insane .653 since his call up. The Dodgers are going to be there again this season with a new face helping lead the way.

Miami Marlins – Poor Marlins. They are just terrible and I think the tragedy of Jose Fernandez is still looming over the clubhouse. It’s a sad situation, but this team is probably done for 2017. The brightside? You can make a real argument that the starting outfield of Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna is the best in all of baseball. Something the Marlins new ownership can build around as all three are 27 or younger.

Milwaukee Brewers – Ladies and Gentlemen your NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers! Now we all know this is not going to last, but the Brewers are still one of the more fun teams in the league to watch. The Brewers are second in the NL in runs per game and I expect that to continue as they offer one of the deeper lineups in all of baseball. Eric Thames may not be Babe Ruth like he was in April, but he proved his doubters such as myself wrong after coming back to the Majors from Korea. What will eventually be the downfall of the Brewers this season is their lack of Major League caliber starting pitching, but the future could be here very soon for the Brew Crew.

New York Mets – What a joke. The Mets have almost successfully ruined all their prized pitchers with the exception of Jacob deGrom, who if he decided to retire tomorrow to avoid a catastrophic injury that is almost certainly coming his way I couldn’t really blame him. It took a bunch of injuries for Terry Collins to finally play Michael Conforto everyday and what do you know? He is probably their second best hitter and looks like he could be an All Star this season. Collins should lose his job for the mismanaging of Conforto alone, but he will probably get another extension because the Mets are and always have been an absolute dumpster fire.

Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies are still a year or two away, but this has been somewhat disappointing so far. The team losing was somewhat expected, but some of the important pieces for their future on the Major League roster have struggled. Jerad Eickhoff has been solid, but hasn’t taken the step many thought he would. Aaron Nola has been hurt and Vince Velasquez looks like he is probably better suited to be a reliever than a starter. Manager Pete Mackanin was quick to drop Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera in the batting order after both got off to slow starts instead of keeping them in one spot and letting them hit their way out of their funks. Aaron Altherr built off a nice second half of 2016 to be the Phillies best hitter this season and looks like he could be part of their core going forward.

Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates currently sit last in a division with two teams who are in the middle of a rebuild. Well done Pittsburgh. The Starling Marte suspension killed whatever chance they had of making some noise this year, but the real issue is Andrew McCutchen. Cutch isn’t good anymore (something I’ve been saying for two years) but he is making things worse by openly complaining about moving from center field to right field among other things. You can only complain so much when your triple slash is .211/.285/.379, slowly draining his trade value with every strikeout and bad body language moment.

San Diego Padres – Is there anything to talk about here? The Padres were expected to be bad and they are bad, really bad. Manuel Margot has shown some nice things and Trevor Cahill was fun while it lasted, but it’s about to be another long summer for Padres fans.

San Francisco Giants – Most people including myself thought the Giants would be a championship contender this season after adding Mark Melancon to a bullpen that was shaky at best last season. What most people including myself didn’t account for is the Giants above average at best lineup taking a major step back in 2017 as they have currently scored the fewest runs in the NL. Something else no one accounted for regardless of how good or bad they thought the Giants would be is ace Madison Bumgarner messing up his shoulder when he wrecked his dirt bike putting his season in jeopardy. I’ve learned to never underestimate the Giants, but I do not see how they recover from Mad Bum’s injury on top of their putrid offense. They’re all but done for 2017.

St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals are back doing Cardinals things. Mike Leake has been the biggest beneficiary of their devil magic for far this season as he somehow has an ERA of 2.03 in 8 starts. The Cards need to give some of their magic to Adam Wainwright who looks done as he continues to get hit hard on a nightly basis. I fully expect the Cardinals to return to the postseason in 2017.

Washington Nationals – If it wasn’t for the entire Mets organization, the Nats bullpen would be the biggest dumpster fire in the NL so far this season. Washington’s poor excuse for a bullpen has blown 8 save opportunities so far to go with countless other self induced jams and meltdowns this season as the Nats relief pitcher WAR is the worst in the NL. Everyone and their mother knew the Nats needed to add some help to their bullpen this offseason and they added no one significant (except Joe Blanton and his 9.49 ERA). The Nats will probably trade for either David Robertson or Kelvin Herrera (they should probably trade for both) to settle the situation some and the rest of their team is loaded enough that they will still run away with the NL East even if they add no one to their bullpen. The issue here is that the Nats organization felt it was ok to put a group of guys in their pen who are one step about beer league softball pitchers in support one of the best hitters of our generation and two of the best pitchers of our generation along with several other All Star caliber players. The Nats do not deserve to win anything except for the worst division in baseball and I’m confident that is all they will win in 2017.

-Randy Haines

Photo Credit: LA Times

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