2011 MLB Predictions: The National League

2011 MLB Predictions: The N.L.

by Badger of Predictem.com


Odds to win the NL East -300
Odds to win NL Championship +140
Total Wins Over/Under 97 (over -110/under -120)

Philadelphia sent shockwaves throughout the entire league this winter
by swooping in late to sign away free agent left-hander Cliff Lee, a
move that sets up an unbelievable and possibly a historic rotation
with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton.
The Phillies did lose right fielder Jayson Werth to free agency, a
void that will be manned by Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown in a
platoon system until one of them plays themselves into the lineup.
The health of All-Star Chase Utleys knee, the knee that is already
getting cortisone shots in spring training, is a big concern for me
out of the gate and could be a lingering issue all season. But with a
healthy Carlos Ruiz back behind the dish, the Phillies still have a
fearsome lineup with former All-stars Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez,
Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard all still playing at high levels.

After winning 97 games last year, is hard to bet on the Phillies
going over that total again in 2011, even though they sure look like
theyre locked and loaded for another impressive run at a title.
Especially since the level of competition in the NL East is a little
down this season.

Odds to win the NL East +450
Odds to win NL Championship +1000
Total Wins Over/Under 88 (over/under are both -115)

The Braves returned to the post season last year by winning 91 games
to earn the wildcard spot in the National League, and at least on
paper they look like the only team in the NL East that might give the
Phillies a run for the title.

Atlanta went out and got 2B Dan Uggla to add pop to a lineup that
already had a lot of quality talent in it, both young (Jason Heyward,
Freddie Freeman) and veteran (Chipper Jones, Alex Gonzales, Martin
Prado, Brian McCann). In my mind what will be the most important
factor for the Braves this season is the loss of Bobby Cox on the
bench. I know Freddy Gonzales is a Cox clone and that managers just
write out the lineup anyway, but its hard to replace a legend and
theres a skill in handling egos and talent and Im not sure that can
be learned and duplicated.

The good news for Braves fans is that the starting rotation is built
more for than the future than the short-term like the Phillies. Young
righties Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens will be joined by this years
up-and-comer lefty Mike Minor, and together with steady vets Derek
Lowe and Tim Hudson the Braves will matchup well against anyone in
the league. If there is a worry its the lack of experience at the
back end of the bullpen, where young fireballer Craig Kimbrel is
expected to take over for the retired Billy Wagner. Jonny Venters and
Peter Moylan are also relatively new to their set-up roles too, but
again their youth is what should keep Braves fans excited in 2011.

Odds to win the NL East +800
Odds to win NL Championship +1800
Total Wins Over/Under 82 (over -125/under -105)

Florida won 80 games last year, which is about as high up in the
standings you can expect the Marlins to get to until they stop
letting good players walk away due to the high price of free agency.
Their (actually, Miami-Dade Countys) new ballpark will be open in
2012, so maybe theyll be able to stay in the AL East pennant race
past August in the coming seasons because I just dont think they
have enough to compete with Philly and Atlanta this year.

Once again the Marlins will be loaded with youngsters brought up
through the system, with Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton set to join
former rookie of the year Chris Coghlan in the outfield. The Marlins
added catcher John Buck (20 homeruns as a Blue Jay last year) and
Omar Infante from Atlanta in a swap of second baseman, but otherwise
the faces in the lineup after Hanley Ramirez will be the same,
including pinch-hitter Wes Helms who will get another shot at being
an everyday third baseman (something he has yet to claim after four

Florida competes up until August every year because of a solid, young
pitching staff headed by stud ace Josh Johnson. Ricky Nolasco, Anibal
Sanchez and Chris Volstad are all young and solid, but is 2011 they
will be joined by veteran Javier Vazquez, who will hope to resurrect
his career after it fell off the map as a Yankee last season. Leo
Nunez has struggled at times in his role as the closer (56 of 75 last
two years), and would be better suited to the setup role, but the
lack of revenues creeps back into the equation and the Marlins again
fall short at the back end of the bullpen.

Odds to win the NL East +1500
Odds to win NL Championship +2000
Total Wins Over/Under 77.5 (over +105/under -135)

With a lawsuit against the Mets owners still pending and tight
fiscal restraints in place because of it, you have to feel just a
slight bit sorry for new manager Terry Collins. It wont be his fault
the Mets will once again underachieve, but hes the one who will have
to answer the press every night.

There was a time a few years back when the Mets went out and spent
money like one of the haves in Major League Baseball, but now all
that its gotten them is an ace pitcher coming off of major arm
surgery (Johan Santana), a one-time MVP-caliber outfielder whose
cranky knee has him out of the lineup more than in it (Carlos
Beltran), and a host of high-priced veterans (Jason Bay, David Wright
and Luis Castillo) that seem to be on a fast downward slide in recent
years. Well find out a lot about the direction this team will take
by July, because if the Mets are dangling SS Jose Reyes as trading-
deadline bait to shave expenses, it could signal the beginning of a
long down period in Queens.

Even if many of those veteran hitters all rebound and have above-average seasons, you cant really get all too excited about the Mets
chances due to a questionable starting rotation. Mike Pelfrey is a
nice right-hander, but he is not a No. 1 starter and the fact that
the Mets will ask him to assume that role speaks volumes about their
chances. New York will try and get by with wily vets R.A. Dickey,
Chris Young and Chris Capuano filling out the rotation, but its not
hard to imagine at all the possibility the Mets bullpen will be
overworked by June. Its also hard to imagine how many games closer
Francisco Rodriguez will actually get a chance to finish, most likely
less than the 30 chances he got last year, and thats if they can
stop him from beating up his family in the greenroom.

Odds to win the NL East +1500
Odds to win NL Championship +5000
Total Wins Over/Under 72.5 (over -120/under -110)

The Washington Nationals had a lot of money to spend coming into this
postseason and were expected to be a big player in the free agency
market, only to spend almost all of it to sign outfielder Jayson
Werth. When the whole baseball community reacts with the same
response They gave him how many millions?! then you know its a
bad deal, and not because Werth isnt good, but because they way
overspent to get him.

Werth becomes the big bat in the lineup next to franchise 3B Ryan Zimmerman because the Nationals let Adam Dunn walk away in free
agency. Washington will also try and salvage another year out of Adam
LaRoche, Ivan Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel and Nyjer Morgan while young SS
Ian Desmond, 2B Danny Espinosa and OF Roger Bernadina get another
year to develop. It will also allow phenom outfielder Bryce Harper to
develop in the minors.

The Nationals pitching staff will also spend a year waiting for ace Stephen Strasburg to come back from Tommy John surgery, using a
combination of aging vets like Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis and Tom
Gorzelanny and homegrown righty Jordan Zimmermann to fill out the
rotation. Drew Storen will finally fill the closer role he has been
groomed to fill, so the Nationals will rely on some unproven guys
like Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett to fill in the back end of the
bullpen and set up games for Storen.

NL EAST PREDICTIONS: The division is essentially a two-team race in
my mind, and since the Phillies have such ridiculously bad odds (at
-300) for a futures bet, Im going to go with the more attractive
odds on Atlanta at +450 to win the National League East in hopes they
have enough to get past Philly. Im also going to put a play on the
Florida Marlins under 82 wins (at -105), because I just dont think
they have improved and to get to 82 they would have to win two more
games in 11 then they did in 10. Thats not going to happen.


Odds to win the NL Central +225
Odds to win NL Championship +1000
Total Wins Over/Under 85 (over/under are both -115)

The Cincinnati Reds surprised a bunch of folks by winning 91 games
last year and taking the National League Central crown by five games
over the favored Cardinals. After getting eliminated right away in
the divisional round of the NL playoffs, the Reds spent most of their
offseason making sure home-grown talents like Jay Bruce and Joey
Votto stay in Cincinnati for a majority of their careers.

Offensively the Reds wont be much different at all. They did sign
World Series hero Edgar Renteria in January, but Renteria isnt even
expected to start and instead will backup Paul Janish at short.
Otherwise the Reds everyday lineup will look the same, with Bruce,
Votto, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Jonny Gomes making up the
heart of the order. Several of those players mentioned above had what
can be considered career years in 2010 (Gomes, Votto, Rolen), so
any letdown could hurt the Reds chances at back-to-back titles in
11. Manager Dusty Baker is one of the best at getting everything out
of all of his players, but after peaking last season its always
harder to stay on top.

Pitching is where the Reds dont quite matchup with the elites of the
National League. Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez can have dominating
stuff at times, but neither is what youd consider a bonafide ace.
The Reds resigned Bronson Arroyo in the offseason to keep him around
in the No. 3 slot, but after Arroyo the Reds have youngsters Homer
Bailey and Travis Wood. Bailey has yet to live up to his high draft
pick promise, and Wood looked good in 17 starts last year but the
league looked like they were starting to figure him out after his
first go-around in the schedule. Francisco Cordero slipped a little
as closer last year (40 of 48), so dont be surprised if the Reds
insert Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman into the late-inning role if he
starts to lose saves again this season.

Odds to win the NL Central +220
Odds to win NL Championship +1000
Total Wins Over/Under 84.5 (over +120/under -150)

I have to admit that Im a little surprised that still consider the Cardinals the favorite in the competitive NL Central, despite losing stud righty Adam Wainwright to Tommy John
surgery before the bags were all unpacked in Spring Training.

There still is a lot to like about the Cards. They signed longtime
foe Lance Berkman to play right field, and although his defense out
there might hurt them at times, with Berkman combined with Matt
Holliday and Colby Rasmus the Cards have the best hitting outfield in
the division. Ryan Theriot is an upgrade at shortstop too, and along
with holdovers Skip Schumaker, David Freese and some chump named
Albert Pujols the red birds have a pretty formidable infield as well.
Offensively this team will rake, its just a matter of whether or not
they will end up with enough pitching to survive.

The one-two punch of Chris Carpenter and Wainwright is now a one-two
punch of Carpenter and Jake Westbrook not even close to the type of
domination the Cards enjoyed in previous years. Jaime Garcia and Kyle
Lohse will follow Westbrook in the rotation, and right now it looks
like reliever Kyle McClellan will assume the No. 5 spot that opened
up when Wainwright went down. Not quite a championship rotation, but
one that could turn out to be good enough if the Cards offense mashes
the ball every night. Ryan Franklin has emerged from the pack to be
the Cards main closer, but with McClellan in the rotation the back
end of the bullpen will rely on guys like Jason Motte and Mitchell
Boggs to pitch beyond their years.

Odds to win the NL Central +225
Odds to win NL Championship +1200
Total Wins Over/Under 85.5 (over -125/under -105)

Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin threw everyone for a loop in the
Brew City this winter. Just about everyone was expecting Melvin and
the Brewers to sell off first baseman Prince Fielder to the highest
bidder at the winter meetings, and then start over with a rebuilding
year. Instead the Brewers were arguably the biggest winner of the
offseason, picking up starting pitchers Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum
in trades and deciding to go for it all in the final season of
Fielders contract in 2011 instead.

With Ricky Weeks, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun and Fielder the Brewers
still have plenty of pop in their lineup. Third baseman Casey McGehee
had a career year hitting behind Fielder in 2010, so even the former
waiver-wire pickup has performed beyond expectations. The Brewers do
still have some big questions up the middle though. Rookie catcher
Jonathan Lucroy broke his finger the first week of Spring Training
and hasnt swung a bat since, and CF Carlos Gomez is still hacking
instead of walking in order to use his speed to disrupt things on the
base paths. The Crew will need big years from those two, as well as
new SS Yuniesky Betancourt to overtake the Reds and Cards in the

The difference this season is that the Brewers should be able to hold
teams down with better pitching. Greinke is out the first few starts
of the season with a cracked rib, but the rest of the Brewers
rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Marcum and Chris Narveson is
healthy and in tact and ready to try and get the Brewers back to the
top of the division. John Axford emerged out of nowhere to claim the
closer role last season when Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman struggled,
but the Brewers went out signed Takashi Saito as an insurance policy.
The return of LaTroy Hawkins to the setup role will help, but if the
Brewers experience injuries to any of those three guys their thin
bullpen could bring their title hopes crashing to the ground.

Odds to win the NL Central +2500
Odds to win NL Championship +5000
Total Wins Over/Under 71.5 (over/under are both -115)

I will be the first to admit I really dont know what to expect out
of the Houston Astros this season. After trading away two of the
franchises biggest names in Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt at the
deadline last year, there are a whole lot of new faces and unanswered
questions in 2011.

The outfield returns in tact with Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence all back after a 2010 season that saw all three of them
struggle at the plate. But thats about it as far as continuity goes.
Clint Barmes and Bill Hall were signed to take over in the middle
infield, and 3B Chris Johnson will be joined by newcomer Brett
Wallace at first to form a completely new infield for the Astros.
Jason Michaels and Jeff Keppinger give the Astros a nice, experienced
bench to draw from, but again its not the type of everyday lineup
that instills a ton of confidence.

The starting rotation has just about as many questions as the lineup.
Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez are both working this spring to
become the Astros Opening Day starter, but are either one of them
really a No. 1 starter? I say no, which is why the Astros might have
a bunch of problems in 2011. J.A. Happ (Oswalt trade) and Bud Norris
are both young starters that have shown flashes, but both of them are
limited in what they bring to the Major Leagues and following them up
with journeyman Nelson Figueroa at No. 5 gives Houston a very average
rotation. Brandon Lyon can close games, but with just 22 chances in
2010 (went 20 for 22) theres not a whole lot of evidence that hell
get many more chances in 2011.

Odds to win the NL Central +350
Odds to win NL Championship +2000
Total Wins Over/Under 81.5 (over -125/under -105)

Spring has sprung, which means that baseballs biggest legion of
yuppie fans are once again hoping that 2011 will be the year the
Chicago Cubs erase the long title drought. After a miserable 2010
season where the Cubs won only 75 games, the Cubs cleaned house,
watched manager Lou Pinella retire and made a few modest moves over
the winter to give the Wrigley faithful another reason to be hopeful.
Whether or not it was enough to stay in the top half of the division
is another question.

On paper the Cubs have the potential to have a solid lineup, but there are so many questions surrounding some of the Cubs main
contributors that you have to stop and reflect. Will Kosuke Fukudome
ever reach his advanced hype? Can Marlon Byrd repeat his breakout
year in 2010? Will Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez stay healthy
enough to get back to the numbers they used to put up in their prime?
Was Geovany Sotos rookie year what we should expect from him, or
should we expect what weve seen the past two instead? Shortstop
Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin are good-looking young players, but
with so many unknowns around them the Cubs can either be great, or
destined to win 70-some games again.

The good news is that the Cubs do have a formidable rotation to rely
upon, led by Ryan Dempster and the newly acquired Matt Garza. Carlos
Zambrano could thrive in the No. 3 role, instead of the ace of the
staff role hes held in past seasons, and Randy Wells and Carlos
Silva are good enough for the Cubs to win if they can score runs. The
bullpen is also strong enough to nail down victories if they are
given the chance, with closer Carlos Marmol at the back and the
return of Kerry Wood to Chicago to fill the role of setup man.

Odds to win the NL Central +4000
Odds to win NL Championship +15000
Total Wins Over/Under 66.5 (over/under are both -115)

Quick question name more than two current Pittsburgh Pirates
players? Welcome to life as a Pirates fan, where it seems the team
ownership and management have given up on ever fielding a competitive
team ever again.

Just about everyone can name the Pirates most exciting player, centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, but as my only friend who admits hes
a Pirates fan says its only a few years before they trade him too.
Rightfielder Garrett Jones could become a 30-homerun guy with more
seasoning, and 3B Pedro Alvarez looked good once he was called up in
June last year, but other than those three players the Pirates youth
movement is limited in its potential. Mix in a few retread vets like
Ronny Cedeno, Lyle Overbay and Chris Snyder and you have what will be
the Pirates everyday lineup.

Pittsburghs rotation will have a new man at the top, righty James McDonald, who went 4-5 after he was obtained from the Dodgers at the
deadline last year. You can add McDonald to the list of potentially
great young players for the Pirates, but the rest of the rotation
(Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton) is
enough to make even the most optimistic fan start counting down the
days until the Steelers break camp. The bullpen lost closer Matt
Capps in the offseason too, so with a lack of proven talent at the
back end even if the Pirates get a lead it may be hard to keep.

NL CENTRAL PREDICTIONS: This is probably the most wide-open division
in all of baseball, with everyone but the Pirates having a shot at
pulling off the title. I like the Reds and Cardinals offenses, and I
think the Brewers have the best pitching out of the top three teams.
But overall balance, offense and pitching, as well as young and old,
Im going to go out on a limb here and take the Cubs at +350 (gasp!)
to somehow win the NL Central in 2011. Im also going to place a
future on the Pirates under of 66.5 wins. In order for Pittsburgh to
reach 67 (at -115) they would have to make a 10-game improvement over
last year, and while the rest of the division has gotten better the
Pirates have not.


Odds to win the NL West +190
Odds to win NL Championship +600
Total Wins Over/Under 88 (over -125/under -105)

San Francisco proved to the world last year that pitching wins
championships, because over the course of the year they added just
enough offense from other teams rejects and has-beens that they made
an incredible World Series run on the backs of their dominate
pitching staff. With little turnover in the offseason, you certainly
cant count the Giants out in 2011 even though repeating is next to
impossible in the modern era.

All of the Giants keep acquisitions from last year are back in 2011,
players like Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff.
The Giants will also get Mark DeRosa back healthy following wrist
surgery, who along with new SS Miguel Tejada gives San Francisco
plenty of veteran leadership in the lineup. Rookie of the year Buster
Posey will continue to get better, and a (supposedly) rededicated
Pablo Sandoval (lost 15 pounds in offseason) give the Giants plenty
of offense to win the NL West again.

With the same five arms that formed the Giants dominate starting
pitching rotation back, its easy to see why they are considered the
favorite in the West again. The arm trouble of Matt Cain this spring
is a little bit of a worry for me, but with Tim Lincecum, Jonathan
Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner all ready to move up in the rotation
for a few weeks to get Cain stretched out for the regular season.
Its also interesting to see that the Giants moved high-priced lefty
Barry Zito to the No. 5 spot, which could present some excellent
matchup situations and give Zito a chance to resurrect his career.
With Brian Wilson back as the closer the guys in the rotation can
feel safe turning it over to the bullpen with a lead.

Odds to win the NL West +1400
Odds to win NL Championship +1500
Total Wins Over/Under 76 (over -105/under -125)

The San Diego Padres had a truly remarkable season in 2010, even
though it ended a few games short of a NL West title. The problem is
that the Padres again spent the offseason cutting costs and turning
over the roster, making a surprise run in 2011 even more improbable
despite having a good nucleus of young talent back from a 90-win season.

Offensively the Padres brought in a host of veterans to try and make
up for the loss of All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, including
Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson in the middle infield and former
Rockies Brad Hawpe to play first base. With holdovers Ryan Ludwick
and Will Venable in the corner outfield spots, the Padres added
Cameron Maybin to roam the spacious centerfield gaps in Petco Park.
While all of these players are nice compliments to a team, none of
them are big run producers so the pressure the Padres are putting on
their young pitching staff is even more back breaking.

The rotation is headlined by Mat Latos, who is well on his way to
becoming the Padres ace of the staff. Young lefties Clayton Richard,
Cory Luebke and Wade LeBlanc all follow Latos in the rotation, with
Richard and Luebke showing a little more potential to follow the path
set by Latos last season. Former Red Aaron Harang will try and make
the team and provide veteran leadership, but this staff is so young
you can pretty much assume it will have many ups and downs over the
course of the season. Heath Bell gives the Padres a lockdown closer,
and Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson should be strong enough in setting
up Bell that San Diego should be able to hold leads in the late innings.

Odds to win the NL West +150
Odds to win NL Championship +1000
Total Wins Over/Under 86 (over/under are both -115)

The Colorado Rockies made another of their huge second half runs last
season, turning the NL West into a three team race before finally
fading at the tape and closing with an 83 win season. The Rockies
turned enough heads in the process though to make people move them to
the top of the list for 2011, including the oddsmakers at BetUS who
have the Rockies listed as the inside favorites to win the West.

Offensively the Rockies are loaded with solid hitters up and down the
lineup, including the two studs in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos
Gonzalez. But Colorado is more than just those two because they have
excellent veterans (Todd Helton, Jose Lopez), and some solid role
players like Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler to give them
balance the other teams in the division dont really have.

But playing in Coors Field means it will eventually come down to
pitching, and unlike the past few years the Rockies have done a
decent job of surrounding ace Ubaldo Jimenez with more talent. Their
depth isnt as strong as San Franciscos staff, but Jorge De La Rosa,
Jason Hammel and young righty Jhoulys Chacin have all improved enough
to move steady vet Aaron Cook down to the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
What also separates the Rockies is their depth in the bullpen, with
Huston Street, Matt Lindstrom and Rafael Bentancourt all effective in
late-inning situations.

Odds to win the NL West +250
Odds to win NL Championship +1500
Total Wins Over/Under 84 (over/under are both -115)

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still a dangerous team, even though they
were silent for most of the offseason due to their ownership issue
still being fought over in divorce court. This is a team that won 80
games last season and essentially only swapped out Marcus Thames in
leftfield for Manny Ramirez, so dont fall asleep on the Dodgers
coming from off the radar in 2011.

The L.A. lineup will look very similar to past seasons, with Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier at the top ahead of the big boppers in Matt Kemp, James Loney and Casey Blake. Insert Thames, who will likely
split time with Jay Gibbons in left field, and veterans Juan Uribe
and Rod Barajas into the mix and the Dodgers have just as strong of a
lineup as they had in previous years, minus the Manny Ramirez
sideshow that seemed to overshadow the play on the field at times.
Tony Gwynn Jr. gives them an athletic backup outfielder and pinch
runner off the bench, and Jamie Carroll will back up in the infield
to give the Dodgers a decent bench to draw from when needed.

But in order to stay with the haves of the division the Dodgers
must simply pitch better than they did last season. Clayton Kershaw
and Chad Billingsley are once again at the top of the rotation, and
although they both struggled at times in 2010, one of these seasons
they are poised to break out. Lefty Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda are
slotted to pitch in the No. 3 and 4 spots, meaning free agent pickup
Jon Garland becomes the NL Wests best No. 5 starter on anyones
staff. Plus, the Dodgers still have Vicente Padilla hanging around to
eat up innings if one of the others misses a few innings during the
year. Closer Jonathan Broxton blew seven saves last year, but he too
must rebound in order for the Dodgers to compete in 2011.

Odds to win the NL West +1200
Odds to win NL Championship +4000
Total Wins Over/Under 72.5 (over -110/under -120)

No team in the Major Leagues changed their focus and personnel as
much in the offseason like the Arizona Diamondbacks. With a team
loaded with free-swingers top to bottom, GM Kevin Towers cleaned out
some of the bigger strikeout players (Mark Reynolds) in order to add
players who make a little more contact, but the jury is still out on
whether or not the moves will result in more than 65 wins in 2011.

The D-Backs lineup will still have plenty of free swingers, namely
Chris Young, Kelly Johnson and Justin Upton (all about 150 Ks in
2010), but Towers and new manager Kirk Gibson are hoping that
surrounding those guys with contact hitters like Stephen Drew and new
3B Melvin Mora will help make them less reliant on the homeruns to
produce runs. Newcomer Juan Miranda is looking like the new first
baseman, while vet Xavier Nady and catcher Miguel Montero hope to
provide a little more pop at the bottom half of the order.

The Diamondbacks starting pitching is full of new faces as well,
although many of them came at the end of last season. Gone are the
vets like Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Jon Garland and in their place
will be youngsters like Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy and Barry Enright.
Arizona will likely turn to lefty Joe Saunders to be the No. 1
starter, and then bookend the young starters in the middle with
either Zach Duke or Armando Galarraga in the No. 5 role. The
Diamondbacks also went out and signed closer J.J. Putz to bring him
back out West after two seasons with the Mets and White Sox, hoping
the warm weather brings back the reliever back to form.

NL WEST PREDICTIONS: I know the Giants have the best staff, the
Rockies probably have the best lineup, and the Dodgers probably have
the best balance of the two combined, but I like to take a few
chances on my futures bets and go for the big payday. So Im going to
take a flyer in the NL West and pick the San Diego Padres at +1400.
Yes they lost Gonzalez, but with Hawpe, Tejada and Orlando Hudson I
think theyve improved their teams depth overall. Im putting a lot
of faith in the young pitching staff, but in that huge Petco Park I
think even I could chuck a few innings and not get hurt too bad.


Short Favorite Atlanta Braves (+1000) I know the Braves arent really a
short favorite, but considering the odds for the favorite Phillies
are basically even (+140), which is not enough value for me to even
dig out my wallet, Im going to take the Braves for a unit at 10-to-1
for my short pick.

Middle of the Road Milwaukee Brewers (+1200) Im a firm believer that
pitching wins championships and even though I didnt take the Brewers
to win the Central (because of crappy odds), I still think their
pitching staff from top-to-bottom is good enough to win the Central.
Once theyre in the playoffs, their staff can compete with even the
Phillies, so they are a good value at 14-to-1.

Longshot Los Angeles Dodgers (+1500) Normally I like to go further
down the list for my long shot, but the way BetUS has their futures
odds listed for the National League pennant, theres really no
realistic long shot just one favorite (Phillies), a bunch of
middles, and the Pirates and Nationals. The Dodgers are still good
enough to do it, but it will take some career years in order for it
to happen.

Note: This is part II of a II part article. In case you somehow missed our 2011 MLB Predictions: The American League article, be sure to check it out!