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NL preview: Cardinals again look poised for a run

Matt Holliday and the Cardinals are looking for a return trip to the World Series.

David Goldman/AP

Matt Holliday and the Cardinals are looking for a return trip to the World Series.

NL EAST

1. Washington

Even after last year’s letdown, the Nationals are far too talented not to win the division. The addition of Doug Fister should bolster a strong, deep rotation. The bullpen is decent as well. With an added year of experience, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper could evolve into potential Cy Young and MVP candidates.

Rookie to watch: The Nationals have most of their young players up, but one prospect to keep an eye on is righthander A.J. Cole, who will start the season at Double A.

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2013: 86-76, 2d. Manager: Matt Williams (1st year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFDenard Span170447.279.707
RFJayson Werth1472582.318.931
LFBryce Harper1162058.274.854
3BRyan Zimmerman1562679.275.809
SSIan Desmond1682080.280.784
1BAdam LaRoche1212062.237.735
CWilson Ramos781659.272.777
2BAnthony Rendon93735.265.725

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHStephen Strasburg8-93.009.41.049
RHJordan Zimmermann19-93.256.81.088
LHGio Gonzalez11-83.368.81.252
RHDoug Fister14-93.676.91.308
RHTanner Roark7-11.516.70.913
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHRafael Soriano433.116.91.230

2. Atlanta

Can they survive the loss of Brian McCann and the season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy? Ervin Santana will help the rotation. The Braves need better production out of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla to pick up the lineup. The return of Jonny Venters should help the bullpen.

Rookie to watch: Righty David Hale will step into the starting rotation with the pitching injuries. Tommy La Stella could supplant Uggla if the veteran second baseman struggles.

2013: 96-66, 1st. Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (4th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
RFJason Heyward971438.254.776
LFJustin Upton1472770.263.818
1BFreddie Freeman17623109.319.897
CEvan Gattis862165.243.771
3BChris Johnson1651268.321.816
SSAndrelton Simmons1501759.248.692
2BDan Uggla802255.179.671
CFB.J. Upton72926.184.557

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJulio Teheran14-83.208.21.174
LHMike Minor*13-93.218.01.223
RHErvin Santana9-103.246.91.142
LHAlex Wood3-33.138.91.326
RHDavid HaleMINORS IN 2013
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHCraig Kimbrel501.2113.20.881

3. New York

No Matt Harvey, and tough sledding at shortstop, but the promise of good, young talent on the horizon makes this a transitional season for the Mets. Veteran additions Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson could keep them competitive, but not consistently enough to contend.

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Rookie to watch: Righty Noah Syndergaard is the phenom everyone is waiting for. The Mets will keep him down to avoid starting the arbitration clock, but he should be up in May.

2013: 74-88, 3d. Manager: Terry Collins (4th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LFEric Young94126.251.647
2BDaniel Murphy1881378.286.733
3BDavid Wright1321858.307.904
RFCurtis Granderson49715.229.723
1BIke Davis65933.205.661
CFChris Young671240.200.659
CTravis d’Arnaud2015.202.548
SSRuben Tejada42010.202.519

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHDillon Gee12-113.626.41.281
RHBartolo Colon18-62.655.51.166
LHJon Niese*8-83.716.61.441
RHZack Wheeler7-53.427.61.360
RHDaisuke Matsuzaka3-34.427.71.241
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHBobby Parnell222.167.91.000

4. Miami

They will improve, but by how much? Veteran additions Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, and Rafael Furcal should improve the clubhouse atmosphere around young stars Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. But the full effect of the combination of strong, young talent and veteran leadership may not mesh until 2015.

Rookie to watch: Lefthander Andrew Heaney was the ninth overall pick in 2012. He’s likely targeted for Double A but could be part of Miami’s youth movement soon.

2013: 62-100, 5th. Manager: Mike Redmond (2d year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
2BRafael FurcalINJURED IN 2013
LFChristian Yelich69416.288.766
RFGiancarlo Stanton1062462.249.845
1BGarrett Jones941551.233.708
CJarrod Saltalamacchia1161465.273.804
CFMarcell Ozuna73332.265.693
3BCasey McGeheePLAYED IN JAPAN IN 2013
SSAdeiny Hechavarria123342.227.565

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJose Fernandez12-62.199.70.979
RHJacob Turner3-83.745.91.441
RHNate Eovaldi4-63.396.61.317
RHHenderson Alvarez5-63.595.01.140
RHTom Koehler5-104.415.81.357
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHSteve Cishek342.339.61.077

5. Philadelphia

The Phillies still have plenty of big names, including Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, and Jonathan Papelbon. But is there a last hurrah in this bunch? The general consensus is no. The Phillies still have some pitching.

Rookie to watch: Cody Asche has the third base job for now, but the power-hitting Maikel Franco, 21, is considered the long-term answer.

2013: 73-89, 4th. Manager: Ryne Sandberg (2d year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFBen Revere96017.305.352
SSJimmy Rollins151639.252.667
2BChase Utley1351869.284.823
1BRyan Howard761143.266.784
RFMarlon Byrd1552488.291.847
LFDomonic Brown1352783.272.818
CCarlos Ruiz83537.268.688
3BCody Asche38522.235.691

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHCliff Lee14-82.879.01.010
LHCole Hamels*8-143.608.31.159
RHA.J. Burnett10-113.309.81.215
RHKyle Kendrick10-134.705.41.396
RHRoberto Hernandez6-134.896.71.338
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJonathan Papelbon292.928.31.135

NL CENTRAL

1. St. Louis

The Cardinals are building a homegrown mini-dynasty, led by a pitching staff that is solid 1 through 12. However, the Cardinals have to make up for the loss of Carlos Beltran and need more power in their lineup. Jason Motte, returning from injury, isn’t quite ready to occupy his setup role in a talented and powerful bullpen, which lost free agent Edward Mujica to Boston.

Rookie to watch: Outfielders Oscar Taveras, slow in recovering from an ankle injury, and Stephen Piscotty could burst onto the scene if there are injuries in St. Louis.

2013: 97-65, 1st. Manager: Mike Matheny (3d year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
3BMatt Carpenter1991178.318.873
CFPeter Bourjos48312.274.710
LFMatt Holliday1562294.300.879
RFAllen Craig1601397.315.830
1BMatt Adams841751.284.839
CYadier Molina1611280.319.836
SSJhonny Peralta1241155.303.815
2BKolten Wong903.153.363

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHAdam Wainwright19-92.948.21.068
RHMichael Wacha4-12.789.01.098
RHShelby Miller15-93.068.81.206
RHLance Lynn15-103.978.81.314
RHJoe Kelly10-52.695.71.355
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHTrevor Rosenthal32.6312.91.102

2. Pittsburgh

The Pirates needed a true power bat at first base and didn’t get one, but their pitching depth is solid, even without A.J. Burnett. The Pirates believe a Gaby Sanchez/Chris McGuiness platoon at first base will provide enough production. Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon need to excel in the bullpen again.

Rookie to watch: Outfielder Gregory Polanco is a five-tool prospect who could make a big league impact this season.

2013: 94-68, 2d. Manager: Clint Hurdle (4th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LFStarling Marte1431235.280.784
2BNeil Walker1201653.251.757
CFAndrew McCutchen1852184.317.911
3BPedro Alvarez13036100.233.770
1BGaby Sanchez67736.254.762
CRussell Martin991555.226.703
RFJose Tabata87633.282.771
SSJordy Mercer95827.285.772

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHFrancisco Liriano16-83.029.11.224
RHGerrit Cole10-73.227.71.168
RHCharlie Morton7-43.266.61.284
LHWandy Rodriguez6-43.596.61.117
RHEdinson Volquez9-125.717.51.585
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJason Grilli332.7013.31.060

3. Milwaukee

The Brewers need Ryan Braun to carry the lineup, Matt Garza to live up to expectations, and consistency in the back end of their rotation after Kyle Lohse, Garza, and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers fished for a first baseman all offseason but go into the season unsettled at a primary power position. Some scouts believe the Brewers could wind up being a surprise team.

Rookie to watch: Khris Davis took Milwaukee by storm after Braun’s PED suspension. He takes over in left field, with Braun moving to right.

2013: 74-88, 4th. Manager: Ron Roenicke (4th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSJean Segura1731249.294.752
2BScooter Gennett69621.324.834
RFRyan Braun67938.298.869
3BAramis Ramirez861249.283.831
CJonathan Lucroy1461882.280.795
CFCarlos Gomez1522473.284.843
1BJuan Francisco531332.221.733
LFKhris Davis381127.279.949

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHYovani Gallardo12-104.187.21.362
RHMatt Garza10-63.827.91.236
RHKyle Lohse11-103.355.71.168
RHMarco Estrada7-43.878.31.078
RHWily Peralta11-154.376.31.418
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJim Henderson282.7011.31.133

4. Cincinnati

Any time you lose a 200-inning pitcher (Bronson Arroyo), and your All-Star closer (Aroldis Chapman, out 6-8 weeks with facial fractures) goes down, it makes your staff weaker. The Reds still have a potent lineup in their bandbox ballpark, but winning consistently could be a challenge in this division.

Rookie to watch: In his last four minor league seasons, center fielder Billy Hamilton stole 48, 103, 155, and 75 bases. He went 13 for 14 in steals in 13 major league games last season. This should be fun.

2013: 90-72, 3d. Manager: Bryan Price (1st year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFBilly Hamilton701.368.902
SSZack Cozart1441263.254.665
1BJoey Votto1772473.305.926
2BBrandon Phillips15818103.261.706
RFJay Bruce16430109.262.807
LFRyan Ludwick31212.240.618
3BTodd Frazier1241973.234.721
CDevin Mesoraco77942.238.649

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHMat Latos14-73.168.01.210
RHHomer Bailey11-123.498.61.124
RHJohnny Cueto5-22.827.61.055
RHMike Leake14-73.375.71.253
LHTony Cingrani7-42.9210.31.099
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHAroldis Chapman*382.5415.81.037

5. Chicago

The Cubs will keep taking their lumps as they continue to build toward a better day. They will introduce some prospects gradually and then build around them with strategic free agent signings. If they can’t tie up big righthander Jeff Samardzija long term, a deal must be struck for more prospects.

Rookie to watch: Shortstop Javier Baez hit 37 HRs between Single and Double A in 2013, and has flashed power in spring training. As soon as he clears the Super-2 arbitration window, he’ll be up with the big club, perhaps at second or third base.

2013: 66-96, 5th. Manager: Rick Renteria (1st year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSStarlin Castro1631044.245.631
3BLuis Valbuena721237.218.708
1BAnthony Rizzo1412380.233.742
RFNate Schierholtz1162168.251.770
CFJustin Ruggiano941850.222.694
LFJunior Lake67616.284.760
CWelington Castillo104832.274.746
2BDarwin Barney104741.208.569

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJeff Samardzija8-134.349.01.348
LHTravis Wood9-123.116.51.145
RHEdwin Jackson8-184.986.91.460
RHJason Hammel7-84.976.21.457
LHChris Rusin2-63.934.91.357
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJose Veras213.028.61.069

NL WEST

1. San Francisco

The Giants have a way of rebounding from bad seasons with very good seasons, and that may be the case again in 2014. The Giants still have one of the best pitching staffs, and added a righthanded power bat in Mike Morse to an offense that features a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval and a still-terrific Buster Posey. The Giants expect Madison Bumgarner to emerge as a Cy Young candidate.

Rookie to watch: Lefty Edwin Escobar is on the verge of breaking into the Giants rotation. He was 8-8 with a 2.80 ERA between Single and Double A last season.

2013: 76-86, 3d. Manager: Bruce Bochy (8th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFAngel Pagan79530.282.749
2BMarco Scutaro*145231.297.726
CBuster Posey1531572.294.821
RFHunter Pence1782799.283.822
1BBrandon Belt1471767.289.841
3BPablo Sandoval1461479.278.758
LFMike Morse671327.215.651
SSBrandon Crawford124943.248.674

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHMadison Bumgarner13-92.778.91.033
RHMatt Cain8-104.007.71.156
RHTim Hudson8-73.976.51.188
RHTim Lincecum10-144.378.81.315
RHRyan Vogelsong4-65.735.81.563
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHSergio Romo382.548.71.077

2. Los Angeles

Don Mattingly has the toughest job in baseball, managing the egos and/or quirks of Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Josh Beckett, and Zack Greinke. This team has talent, including the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, but the chemistry could be toxic.

Rookie to watch: Righthander Zach Lee, the Dodgers’ No. 1 pick in 2010, has a shot to crack a veteran staff. Outfielder Joc Pederson could get a look if injuries persist in the outfield.

2013: 92-70, 1st. Manager: Don Mattingly (4th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
RFYasiel Puig1221942.319.925
LFCarl Crawford123631.283.736
SSHanley Ramirez1052057.3451.040
1BAdrian Gonzalez17122100.293.803
CFMatt Kemp*71633.270.723
3BJuan Uribe1081250.278.769
CA.J. Ellis931052.238.682
2BDee Gordon2216.234.612

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHClayton Kershaw16-91.838.80.915
RHZack Greinke15-42.637.51.114
LHHyun-Jin Ryu14-83.007.21.203
RHDan Haren10-144.678.01.238
RHJosh Beckett*0-55.198.51.500
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHKenley Jansen281.8813.00.861

3. Arizona

GM Kevin Towers did a terrific job rebuilding Arizona this offseason. He added closer Addison Reed and lefty Oliver Perez to the bullpen, and acquired Mark Trumbo to create a powerful (and hopefully productive) tandem with Paul Goldschmidt. The D-Backs received a blow when they lost ace Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery this spring.

Rookie to watch: Righty Archie Bradley, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a likely candidate to help fill Corbin’s innings. He’s a power pitcher, throwing 97 miles per hour, and could be the next big thing in Arizona.

2013: 81-81, 2d. Manager: Kirk Gibson (5th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
RFGerardo Parra1611048.268.726
2BAaron Hill951141.291.818
1BPaul Goldschmidt18236125.302.952
CMiguel Montero951142.230.662
LFMark Trumbo14534100.234.747
3BMartin Prado1721482.282.750
CFA.J. Pollock119838.269.730
SSDidi Gregorius90728.252.704

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHBrandon McCarthy5-114.535.11.348
LHWade Miley10-103.556.51.317
RHTrevor Cahill8-103.996.31.418
RHBronson Arroyo14-123.795.51.153
RHRandall Delgado5-74.266.11.195
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHAddison Reed403.799.11.107

4. San Diego

Health always seems to be an issue with the Padres, particularly Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso, two power hitters who must be productive. Power arm Andrew Cashner heads a potentially talented staff with Tyson Ross and the addition of Josh Johnson, who will open the season on the DL after a horrible season in Toronto.

Rookie to watch: Outfielder Reymond Fuentes, a former first-round pick by the Red Sox who was acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, will likely find his way to San Diego in 2014. The Padres love his upside.

2013: 76-86, 3d. Manager: Bud Black (8th year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSEverth Cabrera108431.283.736
CFWill Venable1292253.268.796
3BChase Headley1301350.250.747
LFCarlos Quentin761344.275.855
2BJedd Gyorko1212363.249.745
1BYonder Alonso94645.281.710
CYasmani Grandal1919.216.693
RFChris Denorfia1321047.279.732

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHAndrew Cashner10-93.096.61.131
RHJosh Johnson*2-86.209.21.660
RHTyson Ross3-83.178.61.152
LHEric Stults11-133.935.81.272
RHIan Kennedy7-104.918.11.395
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHHuston Street332.707.31.024

5. Colorado

The Rockies have always been a tough team to gauge. They seem to have more depth in the starting rotation this year, but their bullpen, with LaTroy Hawkins as the closer, is suspect. A key consideration is how long super shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will play before he gets injured. The Rockies could use a version of Justin Morneau that resembles his prime years in Minnesota.

Rookie to watch: Righty Eddie Butler’s arrival has been long-awaited. And righty Jonathan Gray, the Rockies’ top pick last June, isn’t far behind.

2013: 74-88, 5th. Manager: Walt Weiss (2d year)

 LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFCharlie Blackmon76622.309.803
RFMichael Cuddyer1622084.331.919
LFCarlos Gonzalez1182670.302.958
SSTroy Tulowitzki1392582.312.931
1BJustin Morneau1481777.259.734
CWilin Rosario1312179.292.801
3BNolan Arenado1301052.267.706
2BD.J. LeMahieu113228.280.673

 ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHJorge De La Rosa16-63.496.01.384
RHJhoulys Chacin14-103.475.71.262
LHBrett Anderson1-46.049.31.612
RHJuan Nicasio9-95.146.81.471
RHTyler Chatwood8-53.155.31.428
 CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHLaTroy Hawkins132.937.01.146

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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