This past Friday, I predicted which AL teams deserved the “Overachiever,” “Underachiever,” and “Dark Horse” tags. Today, I thought it’d be fun to venture into that parallel bizzaro-world of baseball often referred to as the National League and do the same.
Overachiever | I was torn on this one but ultimately decided to stick with my original selection, the Milwaukee Brewers. With the Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum acquisitions still fresh in mind, the rotation (which also includes Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf) is beginning to look awfully competitive. Offensively, the production should be decent if the heart of the lineup (Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Casey McGehee) can produce in the near proximity of their projections. With Prince Fielder entering his walk year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some career numbers out of him; PECOTA forecasts him at a .274/.391/.527 triple slash with 38 long balls. Given the distinct possibility that Prince will depart for greener pastures in 2012 and the farm system taking a substantial hit this past winter, this coming season seems like an ideal opportunity for the Brew Crew to aim high.
Underachiever | If there’s one thing that the Vegas betting lines consistently demonstrate, it’s the idea that choosing the field instead of the favorite typically pans out. And I assure you, after building a rotation comprised of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, Ruben Amaro has only one destination in mind. It’s for this very reason that the “underachiever” award goes to the Philadelphia Phillies. I’m predicting expecting the Phillies to fall short of their (and everyone else’s) World-Series-or-bust expectations. Even if the pitching is as advertised, other legitimate hurdles still need to be addressed. These uncertainties mostly revolve around the offense, as the team will quickly discover whether Domonic Brown (PECOTA projects a triple slash of .263/.325/.434 in 2011) can fill Jayson Werth’s $126M shoes, Jimmy Rollins can bounce back from a rather underwhelming 2010 campaign (.243/.320/.374), and Chase Utley’s stays in good health.
Dark horse | I finally have an excuse to talk about the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards held strong last year through August, ending the day of Saturday, August 14, tied for first place. It was the last time they’d be at the top of the division, as the Reds pulled away and never relinquished their division lead. While the Cards didn’t make any enormous splashes during the offseason, they did acquire Lance Berkman; although, I don’t think anyone in their right mind has high hopes for his outfield capabilities at this juncture (but that’s a conversation for another blog). The Big Puma will, however, add some solid OPS (career .296/.409/.545/.954) to an offensive line already littered with some stellar offensive players (i.e., Colby Rasmus, Matt Holliday, and oh yeah, Albert Pujols). Moreover, anytime a team has a top three of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and young-gun Jaime Garcia (PECOTA projects a 3.96 ERA/4.19 FIP/1.39 WHIP for Garcia’s sophomore campaign), there’s reason for optimism. Although I have no particular affinity toward Jake Westbrook, I’ll concede that he too should remain at the very least serviceable within the NL Central. If the Cards match their potential, there’s no reason why they can’t absolutely compete with the Reds or Brewers and vie for first place in the division.
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