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National League team-by-team previews

Bryce Harper and the Nationals were 96-66 and won the NL East in 2014.
Bryce Harper and the Nationals were 96-66 and won the NL East in 2014.(AP)

A team-by-team look at the National League in 2015. Listed in predicted order of finish.

EAST

1. Washington

Is this finally the Nats’ year? They’ll have to overcome early injuries to outfielders Jayson Werth (shoulder surgery) and Denard Span (abdominal tear) and third baseman Anthony Rendon (sprained MCL). The Nationals have an all-world starting staff led by Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann, but their bullpen isn’t quite as potent, with Drew Storen the closer. The Nats need to replace relievers Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano, two stalwarts last season. Is this the year Bryce Harper breaks out?

Clubhouse leader: Werth and Ian Desmond take the leadership roles.

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2014: 96-66, 1st. Manager: Matt Williams (2d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CF*Denard Span184537.302.771
3B*Anthony Rendon1762183.287.824
RFBryce Harper961332.273.768
1BRyan Zimmerman60538.280.790
LFJayson Werth1561682.292.849
SSIan Desmond1512491.255.743
CWilson Ramos911147.267.698
2BYunel Escobar123739.258.664
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHMax Scherzer18-53.1510.31.175
RHJordan Zimmermann14-52.668.21.072
RHStephen Strasburg14-113.1410.11.121
RHDoug Fister16-62.415.41.079
LHGio Gonzalez10-103.579.21.197
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHDrew Storen111.127.30.976

2. Miami

The emerging Marlins still have some issues to resolve. One is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. They want him to be better defensively. New leadoff man Dee Gordon needs to get on base to be the elite base stealer he is. The Marlins are relying on Michael Morse to provide protection in the lineup for Giancarlo Stanton. Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart need to be aces until Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy John surgery in July.

Clubhouse leader: This is Stanton’s team. He’s the leader, the superstar, the everything.

2014: 77-85, 4th. Manager: Mike Redmonds (2d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
2BDee Gordon176234.289.704
LFChristian Yelich165954.284.764
RFGiancarlo Stanton15537105.288.950
1BMichael Morse1221661.279.811
CFMarcell Ozuna1522395.269.772
3BMartin Prado1511258.282.733
CJarrod Saltalamacchia821144.220.681
SSAdeiny Hechavarria148134.276.664
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHHenderson Alvarez12-72.655.31.235
RHMat Latos5-53.256.51.153
RHTom Koehler10-103.817.21.296
RHDan Haren13-114.027.01.177
RHJarred Cosart13-113.695.71.364
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHSteve Cishek393.1711.61.209

3. New York

It’s the Matt Harvey show, but more is needed. The Mets have a good rotation even with Zack Wheeler gone for the season (Tommy John surgery). They need David Wright to have a big year. They’re hoping Michael Cuddyer adds a professional hitter to the middle of the lineup.

Clubhouse leader: By his veteran status, Wright is one for sure, but the Mets got Cuddyer for this reason.

2014: 79-83, 2d. Manager: Terry Collins (5th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFJuan Lagares117447.281.703
2B*Daniel Murphy172957.289.734
3BDavid Wright144863.269.698
1BLucas Duda1303092.253.830
LFMichael Cuddyer631031.332.955
RFCurtis Granderson1282066.227.714
CTravis d'Arnaud931341.242.718
SSWilmer Flores65629.251.664
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHMatt HarveyINJURED IN 2014
RHJacob deGrom9-62.699.21.140
LHJon Niese9-113.406.61.268
RHBartolo Colon15-134.096.71.226
RHDillon Gee7-84.006.21.245
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJenrry Mejia283.659.41.484

4. Philadelphia

It’s a woe-is-us franchise for the time being. Anyone could get traded before the deadline as the Phillies attempt to reboot. They still have players to watch — Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles.

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Clubhouse leader: With Jimmy Rollins gone, tough to pick. But Utley, though very quiet, will be the guy.

2014: 73-89, 5th. Manager: Ryne Sandberg (3d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LFBen Revere184228.306.686
CFJordan Danks26210.222.594
2BChase Utley1591178.270.746
1BRyan Howard1272395.223.690
RFGrady Sizemore81527.233.654
3BCody Asche1001046.252.699
CCarlos Ruiz96631.252.717
SSFreddy Galvis21412.176.546
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHCole Hamels9-92.468.71.148
RHAaron Harang12-123.577.11.400
RHJerome Williams6-74.776.41.400
RHDavid Buchanan6-83.755.41.292
RHSean O'Sullivan0-16.395.01.342
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJonathan Papelbon392.048.50.905

5. Atlanta

Lots of offensive concerns for the Braves. Newly acquired Nick Markakis is a nice player on a rebuilding team. The team had internal debate on who should start in center — Melvin (formerly B.J.) Upton, who has been horrible the last two seasons, or Eric Young Jr., who could be the answer at leadoff. Who will protect Freddie Freeman in the lineup? With lefthander Mike Minor out until May, the Braves don’t have many strong candidates for fourth or fifth starter. Long year ahead.

Clubhouse leaders: Jonny Gomes has immediately become the team leader with his outgoing personality. Freeman also is influential.

2014: 79-83, 2d. Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (5th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFEric Young Jr.64117.229.610
RFNick Markakis1771450.276.729
1BFreddie Freeman1751878.288.847
3BChris Johnson1531058.263.653
LFJonny Gomes64637.234.657
SSAndrelton Simmons132746.244.617
CChristian Bethancourt2809.248.548
2BJace Peterson600.113.274
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJulio Teheran14-132.897.61.081
LHAlex Wood11-112.788.91.142
RHShelby Miller10-93.746.21.273
LHWandy Rodriguez0-26.756.81.688
RHEric Stults8-174.305.71.375
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHCraig Kimbrel471.6113.90.908

CENTRAL

1. Pittsburgh

The Pirates are a pretty solid team with good starting pitching and a good bullpen. Their lineup can be good, but infielder Pedro Alvarez has to play first base well after moving from third. Gregory Polanco needs to live up to his hype because the Pirates don’t have another viable candidate to step in as an everyday outfielder if he can’t.

Clubhouse leader: Andrew McCutchen is not the vocal type, but he sure does prove his leadership on the field. A.J. Burnett provides leadership on the pitching side.

2014: 88-74, 2d. Manager: Clint Hurdle (5th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
3BJosh Harrison1641352.315.837
RFGregory Polanco65733.235.650
CFAndrew McCutchen1722583.314.952
2BNeil Walker1392376.271.809
LFStarling Marte1441356.291.808
1BPedro Alvarez921856.231.717
SSJordy Mercer1291255.255.693
CFrancisco Cervelli44213.301.802
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHFrancisco Liriano7-103.389.71.300
RHGerrit Cole11-53.659.01.210
RHA.J. Burnett8-184.598.01.409
RHCharlie Morton6-123.727.21.271
LHJeff Locke7-63.916.11.272
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHMark Melancon331.909.00.873

2. St. Louis

The Cardinals would love to find some power. They were 29th with 105 home runs last season. Newly acquired Jason Heyward needs to hit 25-plus homers for this lineup to be more effective. For the first time in a while, a lack of starting pitching depth is a serioius concern.

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Clubhouse leader: Yadier Molina is the main leader, but Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday have leadership roles.

2014: 90-72, 1st. Manager: Mike Matheny (4th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
3BMatt Carpenter162859.272.750
2BKolten Wong1001242.249.680
LFMatt Holliday1562090.272.811
1BMatt Adams1521568.288.779
RFJason Heyward1551158.271.735
SSJhonny Peralta1472175.263.779
CYadier Molina114738.282.719
CFJon Jay125346.303.750
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHAdam Wainwright20-92.387.11.031
RHLance Lynn15-102.748.01.262
RHJohn Lackey14-103.827.51.278
RHMichael Wacha5-63.207.91.196
RHCarlos Martinez2-44.038.51.410
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHTrevor Rosenthal453.2011.11.408

3. Milwaukee

The Brewers lack depth in the rotation. The other concern is whether Ryan Braun can overcome a thumb injury that has bothered him for two seasons. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has declared this his final season, but does he have much left? First baseman Adam Lind needs to be a middle-of-the-lineup force.

Clubhouse leader: Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is taking the role as leader.

2014: 82-80, 3d. Manager: Ron Roenicke (5th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
2BScooter Gennett127954.289.754
CFCarlos Gomez1632373.284.833
RFRyan Braun1411981.266.777
CJonathan Lucroy1761369.301.837
3BAramis Ramirez1411566.285.757
1BAdam Lind93640.321.860
LFKhris Davis1222269.244.756
SSJean Segura126531.246.614
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHKyle Lohse13-93.546.41.150
RHMatt Garza8-83.646.91.182
RHWily Peralta17-113.537.01.304
RHMike Fiers6-52.139.50.879
RHJimmy Nelson2-94.937.41.457
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHFrancisco Rodriguez443.049.70.985

4. Chicago

The Cubs have some future hitting stars (see Kris Bryant), but there could be lots of whiffs this season. The Cubs have improved but they are not quite a playoff team. Chicago displayed poor defense in the spring, and manager Joe Maddon’s penchant for versatility could expose its defense even more. Jon Lester should lead a decent pitching staff.

Clubhouse leader: First baseman Anthony Rizzo embraces the role.

2014: 73-89, 5th. Manager: Joe Maddon (1st year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFDexter Fowler120835.276.774
LFChris Coghlan109941.283.804
RFJorge Soler26520.292.903
1BAnthony Rizzo1503278.286.913
SSStarlin Castro1541465.292.777
CMiguel Montero1191372.243.699
3BMike Olt361233.160.604
2BArismendy Alcantara571029.205.621
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHJon Lester16-112.469.01.102
RHJake Arrieta10-52.539.60.989
RHJason Hammel10-113.478.11.123
RHKyle Hendricks7-22.465.31.083
LHTravis Wood8-135.037.61.532
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHHector Rondon292.429.01.058

5. Cincinnati

They’ll miss pitchers Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. The Reds’ staff is not what it used to be. Who knows if they can re-sign Johnny Cueto? The Reds still have the best lefty reliever in the business in Aroldis Chapman, but they have shaky setup men leading up to him. The Reds hope to see speedster Billy Hamilton take his game to the next level, and they potentially have five guys who could hit 20 or more homers.

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Clubhouse leader: Todd Frazier is emerging.

2014: 76-86, 4th. Manager: Bryan Price (2d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFBilly Hamilton141648.250.648
2BBrandon Phillips123851.266.678
1BJoey Votto56623.255.799
3BTodd Frazier1632980.273.795
RFJay Bruce1071866.217.654
CDevin Mesoraco1052580.273.893
LFMarlon Byrd1562585.264.757
SSKristopher Negron39617.271.810
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJohnny Cueto20-92.258.90.960
RH*Homer Bailey9-53.717.71.229
RHMike Leake11-133.706.91.246
RHAnthony DeSclafani2-26.277.11.364
RHMichael LorenzenMINORS IN 2014
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
LHAroldis Chapman362.0017.70.833

WEST

1. Los Angeles

The health of the pitching staff is the key. Closer Kenley Jansen will start the season on the DL and may be available by May. The Dodgers are keeping their fingers crossed on two offseason pickups, pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, both of whom have long injury histories. Hyun-Jin Ryu threw 40 fewer innings than 2013 and will start the year on the disabled list. Zack Greinke already has had an injection in his elbow. Offensively, how will it work with Andre Ethier off the bench? Is Joc Pederson ready for the big leagues? The average age of the infield is 34. And can Yasiel Puig stay out of trouble?

Clubhouse leader: Looks like Jimmy Rollins already has taken the lead.

2014: 94-68, 1st. Manager: Don Mattingly (5th year)

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSJimmy Rollins1311755.243.717
LFCarl Crawford103846.300.767
RFYasiel Puig1651669.296.863
1BAdrian Gonzalez16327116.276,817
CYasmani Grandal851549.225.728
2BHowie Kendrick181775.293.744
CfJoc PedersonMINORS IN 2014
3BJuan Uribe120954.311.777
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHClayton Kershaw21-31.7710.80.857
RHZack Greinke17-82.719.21.152
LH*Hyun-Jin Ryu14-73.388.21.191
RHBrandon McCarthy10-154.058.21.151
LHBrett Anderson1-32.916.01.315
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RH*Kenley Jansen442.7613.91.133

2. San Francisco

You never judge the Giants until you’ve seen what Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans can do to improve the team at the trading deadline. Nevertheless, it was a tough winter. They couldn’t secure Jon Lester, James Shields or Pablo Sandoval. They lost Hunter Pence to a broken forearm. Will Matt Cain return to his ace form? How will World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner handle the effects of last year’s workload? Can they get back-end-of-the-rotation performances from Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum? Can Casey McGehee replace Sandoval?

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Clubhouse leader: Buster Posey is it, but Pence gets a lot of credit for creating energy and a spirit on the team.

2014: 88-74, 2d. Manager: Bruce Bochy (21st year)

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFAngel Pagan115327.300.731
2BJoe Panik82118.305.711
1BBrandon Belt521227.243.755
CBuster Posey1702289.311.854
3BCasey McGehee177476.287.712
LFGregor Blanco102538.260.707
RFNori Aoki140143.285.710
SSBrandon Crawford1211069.246.713
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHMadison Bumgarner18-102.989.11.090
RHTim Hudson9-133.575.71.231
RHMatt Cain2-74.187.01.251
RHJake Peavy7-133.737.01.278
LHTim Lincecum12-94.747.71.394
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHSantiago Casilla191.706.90.857

3. San Diego

Who did more to revamp their team than the Padres? The Padres, who were the worst-hitting team in 2014, should be far better with the additions of Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. The rotation got a big boost when the Padres signed James Shields, and now it’s formidable. They need two younger vets to produce — center fielder Wil Myers and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Clubhouse leader: Manager Bud Black has asked Kemp and Shields to take over.

2014: 77-85, 3d. Manager: Bud Black (9th year)

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFWil Myers72635.222.614
1BYonder Alonso64727.240.682
RFMatt Kemp1552589.287.852
LFJustin Upton15329102.270.833
3BWill Middlebrooks41219.191.522
2BJedd Gyorko841051.210.612
CDerek Norris1041055.270.763
SSAlexi Amarista101540.239.600
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJames Shields14-83.217.11.181
RHTyson Ross13-142.819.01.211
RHAndrew Cashner5-72.556.81.127
RHIan Kennedy13-133.639.31.289
RHBrandon Morrow1-35.678.11.650
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJoaquin Benoit111.4910.60.773

4. Arizona

The new Tony La Russa/Dave Stewart/Chip Hale regime likely will face a challenging season. They simply don’t match up from a pitching standpoint. The Diamondbacks will go with a starting five led by Josh Collmenter, followed by Chase Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Rubby De La Rosa (who was acquired in the Wade Miley deal with the Red Sox) and former Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson. Allen Webster, also acquired in the Miley deal, did not make the team.

Clubhouse Leader: Paul Goldschmidt is an emerging leader, but more by example.

2014: 64-98, 5th. Manager: Chip Hale (1st year)

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFA.J. Pollock80724.302.851
2BAaron Hill1221060.244.654
1BPaul Goldschmidt1221969.300.938
RFMark Trumbo771461.235.707
3BJake Lamb29411.230.636
LFYasmany TomasCUBA IN 2014
SSChris Owings81626.261.706
CTuffy Gosewisch2917.225.553
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJosh Collmenter11-93.465.81.126
RHRubby De La Rosa4-84.436.61.485
RHJeremy Hellickson1-54.527.61.445
RHChase Anderson9-74.018.31.372
RHTrevor Cahill3-125.618.51.608
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHAddison Reed324.2510.51.213

5. Colorado

At some point, the Rockies need to expunge themselves of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and truly rebuild. These are two outstanding players (though they have trouble staying healthy), who are tough outs. The Rockies’ pitching will again be suspect, which likely puts them in a tough spot in this division, especially with the advances made by the Padres.

Clubhouse leader: Tulowitzki for sure. He’s the heart and soul of the team.

2014: 66-96, 4th. Manager: Walt Weiss (3d year)

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFCharlie Blackmon1711972.288.775
LFCorey Dickerson1362476.312.931
SSTroy Tulowitzki1072152.3401.035
RFCarlos Gonzalez621138.238.723
1BJustin Morneau1601782.319.860
3BNolan Arenado1241861.287.828
CNick Hundley53622.243.631
2BDJ LeMahieu132542.267.663
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LH*Jorge De La Rosa14-114.106.81.237
RHKyle Kendrick10-134.615.51.362
RHJordan Lyles7-44.336.41.366
LHTyler Matzek6-114.057.01.394
RHChristian Bergman3-55.935.11.555
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHLaTroy Hawkins233.315.31.196

Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.