NL preview: Nationals ready to take next step?

Stephen Strasburg and the talented young Nationals may ready to take the franchise to the next level.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Stephen Strasburg and the talented young Nationals may ready to take the franchise to the next level.

Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo previews the 2013 National League season, with teams listed in their predicted order of finish:


1. Washington

Clearly the most talented team in the NL with superstars Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, etc. But there are some developing pockets of concern. For instance, CF Denard Span, starter Dan Haren, and relievers Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano didn’t perform well or played on a limited basis in camp. The Nationals have all sorts of depth with a strong minor league system.

Chemistry rating: 5 out of 5 — They seem to have it all.

2012: 98-64, 1st; Manager: Davey Johnson (3d year)

CFDenard Span441.283.738
RFJayson Werth531.300.827
LFBryce Harper2259.270.817
3BRyan Zimmerman2595.282.824
1BAdam LaRoche33100.271.853
SSIan Desmond2573.282.845
2BDanny Espinosa1756.247.717
CWilson Ramos310.265.752
RHStephen Strasburg15-63.1611.11.155
LHGio Gonzalez21-82.899.31.129
RHJordan Zimmermann12-82.947.01.170
RHDan Haren12-134.337.21.291
LHRoss Detwiler10-83.405.81.223
RHRafael Soriano422.269.21.167

2. Atlanta


If prospect Julio Teheran pitches up to his potential, which he did in camp, the Braves’ rotation could be lights-out. The bullpen is solid with Craig Kimbrel on the tail end. Catcher Brian McCann will be back from his shoulder surgery rehab by mid-April and the Upton brothers have created excitement. Dan Uggla needs to regain his power form. We’ll see if someone emerges from the 3B platoon.

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Chemistry rating: 3 — Uptons have never been chemistry builders.

2012: 94-68, 2d; Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (3d year)

SSAndrelton Simmons319.289.751
RFJason Heyward2782.269.814
LFJustin Upton1767.280.785
1BFreddie Freeman2394.259.796
CFB.J. Upton2878.246.752
2BDan Uggla1978.220.732
CBrian McCann*2067.230.698
3BJuan Francisco932.234.710
RHTim Hudson16-73.625.11.154
RHKris Medlen10-11.577.80.913
LHPaul Maholm13-113.676.71.222
LHMike Minor11-
RHJulio Teheran0-05.687.10.947
RHCraig Kimbrel421.0116.70.654

3. Philadelphia

The big concern is Roy Halladay, who had reduced velocity in a poor spring training. An injured Halladay could derail the Phillies, who finally have a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup. The emergence of RF Domonic Brown has also been encouraging. The Phillies get catcher Carlos Ruiz back 25 games into the season after he serves a drug-related suspension. The bullpen’s good.

Chemistry rating: 4 — Healthy Howard, Utley create more wins.


2012: 81-81, 3d; Manager: Charlie Manuel (9th year)

SSJimmy Rollins2368.250.743
CFBen Revere032.294.675
2BChase Utley1145.256.793
1BRyan Howard1456.219.718
3BMichael Young867.277.682
LFJohn Mayberry1446.245.695
RFDomonic Brown526.235.712
CErik Kratz926.248.809
LHCole Hamels17-
RHRoy Halladay11-84.497.61.222
LHCliff Lee6-
RHKyle Kendrick11-123.906.61.274
LHJohn Lannan4-
RHJonathan Papelbon382.4411.81.057

4. New York

The Mets have some good young players. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and righty Zack Wheeler (oblique) will both will start at Triple A. David Wright injured himself in the WBC (intercostal) and the hope is he won’t be hampered long term. Johan Santana (shoulder) is likely to miss the season. If the Mets aren’t competitive, an ongoing story could be Terry Collins and his job security.

Chemistry rating: 2 — They lost R.A. Dickey and will likely struggle.

2012: 74-88, 4th; Manager: Terry Collins (3d year)

CFJordany Valdespin18.241.710
2BDaniel Murphy665.291.735
3BDavid Wright*2193.306.883
1BIke Davis3290.227.771
RFMarlon Byrd19.210.488
LFLucas Duda1557.239.718
CJohn Buck1241.192.644
SSRuben Tejada125.289.685
LHJonathon Niese13-93.407.31.172
RHShawn Marcum7-43.707.91.266
RHDillon Gee6-
RHMatt Harvey3-52.7310.61.146
RHJeremy Hefner4-
RHFrank Francisco235.5310.01.606

5. Miami

We all know what the Marlins did, so nobody expects much. All eyes will be on Giancarlo Stanton in terms of how many homers he’ll hit and where he might be traded. The Marlins were encouraged with outfielder Christian Yelich, who starts at Double A along with righty Jose Fernandez. Placido Polanco has fielded and hit well at third. Closer Steve Cishek is one of the best relievers in the game.


Chemistry rating: 2 — An unhappy Stanton, a team slapped together.

2012: 69-93, 5th; Manager: Mike Redmond (1st year)

LFJuan Pierre125.307.721
2BDonovan Solano228.295.717
RFGiancarlo Stanton3786.290.969
3BPlacido Polanco219.257.629
CFJustin Ruggiano1336.313.909
1BCasey Kotchman1255.229.612
CRob Brantly38.290.832
SSAdeiny Hechavarria215.254.645
RHRicky Nolasco12-134.485.91.366
RHNate Eovaldi4-134.305.91.508
LHWade LeBlanc2-53.675.61.311
RHHenderson Alvarez9-144.853.81.441
RHKevin Slowey INJURED IN 2012
RHSteve Cishek152.699.61.304


1. Cincinnati

As the most balanced team in the division, unless things fall apart, the Reds should contend with a strong rotation and a good lineup led by Joey Votto, who is healthy and should provide major production. The Reds toyed with making Aroldis Chapman a starter but have returned him to closer, which gives their bullpen a huge boost with Jonathan Broxton now the setup man.

Chemistry rating: 5 out of 5 — Nice rhythm to this team.

2012: 97-65, 1st; Manager: Dusty Baker (6th year)

CFShin-Soo Choo1667.283.815
2BBrandon Phillips1877.281.750
1BJoey Votto1456.3371.041
LFRyan Ludwick2680.275.877
RFJay Bruce3499.252.841
3BTodd Frazier1967.273.829
ssZack Cozart1535.246.687
CRyan Hanigan224.274.703
RHJohnny Cueto19-92.787.11.171
RHBronson Arroyo12-103.745.71.208
RHMat Latos14-43.488.01.161
RHHomer Bailey13-103.687.31.240
RHMike Leake8-94.585.81.352
LHAroldis Chapman381.5115.30.809

2. Milwaukee

The Brew Crew can score, and getting Corey Hart (knee) back from injury in May will be important. If righthander Wily Peralta can live up to his billing, the rotation, though young, could have an Oakland feel, with Yovani Gallardo and late addition Kyle Lohse out front. Jim Henderson, lefty Mike Gonzalez, and John Axford will finish for a team with potential.

Chemistry rating: 4 — The mixture here is good, but it’s not yet complete.

2012: 83-79, 3d; Manager: Ron Roenicke (3d year)

RFNorichika Aoki1050.288.787
2BRickie Weeks2163.230.728
LFRyan Braun41112.319.987
3BAramis Ramirez27105.300.901
CJonathan Lucroy1258.320.881
CFCarlos Gomez1951.260.768
1BAlex Gonzalez415.259.783
SSJean Segura014.258.640
RHYovani Gallardo16-93.669.01.304
RHKyle Lohse16-32.866.11.090
RHMarco Estrada5-73.649.31.142
RHWily Peralta2-12.487.11.207
LHChris Narveson1-
RHJohn Axford354.6712.11.442

3. St. Louis

The Cardinals didn’t re-sign Kyle Lohse, and have lost Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal for the season. But their rotation, led by Adam Wainwright, is still decent. Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, and David Freese provide a strong lineup. Closer Jason Motte starts on the DL but the rest of the bullpen throws really hard.

Chemistry rating: 5 — Lots of homegrown players comfortable with one another.

2012: 88-74, 2d; Manager: Mike Matheny (2d year)

CFJon Jay440.305.773
RFCarlos Beltran3297.269.842
LFMatt Holliday27102.295.877
1BAllen Craig2292.307.876
CYadier Molina2276.315.874
3BDavid Freese*2079.293.839
2BMatt Carpenter646.294.828
SSPete Kozma214.333.952
RHAdam Wainwright14-133.948.31.248
RHJake Westbrook13-113.975.51.391
RHLance Lynn18-73.789.21.318
LHJaime Garcia7-73.927.21.364
RHShelby Miller1-01.3210.50.951
RHJason Motte*422.7510.80.917

4. Pittsburgh

Twenty years and counting. Without Houston in the division, can the Pirates break the longest losing streak in American pro sports? The Pirates improved their catching with Russell Martin and the offense could be decent with Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Garrett Jones. A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald form a decent front three in the rotation.

Chemistry rating: 3 — There’s something amiss.

2012: 79-83 4th; Manager: Clint Hurdle (3d year)

LFStarling Marte517.257.737
CRussell Martin2153.211.713
CFAndrew McCutchen3196.327.953
3BPedro Alvarez3085.244.784
2BNeil Walker1469.280.768
1BGarrett Jones2786.274.832
RFTravis Snider417.250.697
SSClint Barmes845.229.593
RHA.J. Burnett16-103.518.01.241
LHWandy Rodriguez12-133.766.11.269
RHJames McDonald12-
RHJeff Karstens*5-43.976.61.147
LHJonathan Sanchez1-
RHJason Grilli22.9113.81.142

5. Chicago

The rebuilding continues. The Cubs may be able to sell off Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza (on DL), and closer Carlos Marmol. Some of the future — 1B Anthony Rizzo, C Welington Castillo, 2B Darwin Barney, and SS Starlin Castro — is present, as is some of the pitching, with Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, and Travis Wood. The next wave of prospects is about a year or two away.

Chemistry rating: 4 — Good vibe for a transitional team.

2012: 61-101, 5th; Manager: Dale Sveum (2d year)

CFDavid DeJesus950.263.753
SSStarlin Castro1478.283.753
1BAnthony Rizzo1548.285.805
LFAlfonso Soriano32108.262.821
RFNate Schierholtz621.257.728
CWelington Castillo522.265.754
3BLuis Valbuena428.219.650
2BDarwin Barney744.254.653
RHJeff Samardzija9-133.819.31.219
RHEdwin Jackson10-
LHTravis Wood6-
RHScott Feldman6-
RHCarlos Villanueva7-
RHCarlos Marmol203.4211.71.536


1. San Francisco

The defending World Series champions still have that championship rotation, though repeating is difficult. If they can get something out of Tim Lincecum this season that just adds to it. GM Brian Sabean didn’t change much. He does his best work during the season when he needs to adjust.

Chemistry rating: 5 out of 5 — The ultimate chemistry team.

2012: 94-68, 1st; Manager: Bruce Bochy (7th year)

CFAngel Pagan856.288.778
2BMarco Scutaro774.306.753
3BPablo Sandoval1263.283.789
CBuster Posey24103.336.957
RFHunter Pence24104.253.743
1BBrandon Belt756.275.781
LFGregor Blanco534.244.676
SSBrandon Crawford 445.248.653
RHMatt Cain16-52.797.91.040
LHMadison Bumgarner16-113.378.31.114
RHTim Lincecum10-
RHRyan Vogelsong14-93.377.51.228
LHBarry Zito15-
RHSergio Romo141.7910.20.849

2. Los Angeles

The Dodgers have the biggest payroll, but not necessarily the best team. Hanley Ramirez will miss the first two months, Chad Billingsley still has that precarious elbow issue, and Carl Crawford is Carl Crawford. Clayton Kershaw should be fine, but does Zack Greinke live up to expectations? LA should score runs and pitch fairly well, but can they unseat the Giants?

Chemistry rating: 2 — Lots of players who created bad chemistry with Red Sox.

2012: 86-76, 2d; Manager: Don Mattingly (3d year)

LFCarl Crawford319.282.785
2BMark Ellis731.258.697
CFMatt Kemp2369.303.906
1BAdrian Gonzalez18108.299.806
RFAndre Ethier2089.284.812
SSLuis Cruz640.297.753
3BJerry Hairston426.273.729
CA.J. Ellis1352.270.786
LHClayton Kershaw14-92.539.11.023
RHZack Greinke15-53.488.51.196
RHJosh Beckett7-144.657.01.327
RHChad Billingsley10-93.557.71.290
LHHyun-Jin RyuKOREA IN 2012
RHBrandon League153.136.81.361

3. Arizona

Injuries to outfielders Cody Ross and Adam Eaton and No. 3 starter Wade Miley, who was dealing with a dead arm, will not get the Diamondbacks off on the right foot. Righthander Brandon McCarthy has shown no ill effects from the concussion suffered when he was hit by a line drive last September while with Oakland.

Chemistry rating: 4 — Got rid of bad chemistry guys and brought in Ross.

2012: 81-81, 3d; Manager: Kirk Gibson (4th year)

CFGerardo Parra736.273.727
3BMartin Prado1070.301.796
2BAaron Hill2685.302.882
CMiguel Montero1588.286.829
1BPaul Goldschmidt2082.286.850
LFJason Kubel3090.253.833
RF Cody Ross*2281.267.807
SSCliff Pennington628.215.589
RHIan Kennedy15-
RHTrevor Cahill13-123.787.01.290
RHBrandon McCarthy8-
LHWade Miley*16-113.336.71.182
LHPatrick Corbin6-84.547.21.327
RHJ.J. Putz322.8210.81.031

4. San Diego

Injuries are already derailing the Padres, who had a shot of contending. Their 3-4-5 hitters (Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Yasmani Grandal) are either hurt or suspended. Their top pitching prospect (Casey Kelly) is headed for Tommy John surgery. At least they have four healthy starters in Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Jason Marquis, and Eric Stults.

Chemistry rating: 3 — A work in progress.

2012: 76-86, 4th; Manager: Bud Black (7th year)

SSEverth Cabrera224.246.648
RFWill Venable945.264.765
1BYonder Alonso962.273.741
LFCarlos Quentin*1646.261.877
2BJedd GyorkoMINORS IN 2012
CFCameron Maybin845.243.656
3BCody Ransom1142.220.722
CNick Hundley322.157.464
RHEdinson Volquez11-
LHClayton Richard14-143.994.41.235
RHJason Marquis8-
LHEric Stults8-32.925.01.181
RHTyson Ross2-116.505.61.814
RHHuston Street231.8510.80.718

5. Colorado

If there’s a positive it would be that with the exception of some minor aches and pains, the top players, such as Troy Tulowitzki, have remained healthy and Drew Pomeranz was effective in camp. Todd Helton is hoping to play 100 games, which would be a big boost for the offense. Utilityman Eric Young Jr. has had a good camp in the field; his speed and aggressiveness adds to the lineup.

Chemistry rating: 2 — Losing will keep chemistry score low.

2012: 64-98, 5th; Manager: Walt Weiss (1st year)

CFDexter Fowler1353.300.863
2BJosh Rutledge837.274.775
LFCarlos Gonzalez2285.303.881
SSTroy Tulowitzki827.287.846
RFMichael Cuddyer1658.260.806
1BTodd Helton737.238.743
CWilin Rosario2871.270.843
3BChris Nelson953.301.810
RHJhoulys Chacin3-54.435.91.623
LHJorge De La Rosa0-
RHJuan Nicasio2-
LHJeff Francis6-75.586.11.478
RHJon GarlandINJURED IN 2012
RHRafael Betancourt312.818.91.127