Predictions from BA staff, written by Jim Callis.
POSTSEASON CRYSTAL BALL
MVP: Justin Upton, Braves
CY YOUNG AWARD: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
WILD CARDS: Braves, Cardinals
PENNANT WINNER: Nationals
WORLD SERIES WINNER: Nationals
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: OF Bryce Harper and RHP Stephen Strasburg take the next step toward superstardom, showing that last year’s 98 wins were just the beginning.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Strasburg gets hurt, leading to even more furor about Washington’s decision to shut him down and keep him out of the playoffs last year.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: OF Denard Span.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: RHP Edwin Jackson.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP Jordan Zimmermann.
2. ATLANTA BRAVES
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: RHP Kris Medlen is for real, the reunion of OFs B.J. and Justin Upton is a rousing success and OF Jason Heyward becomes an MVP contender, propelling Atlanta past Washington for the NL East crown.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Medlen can’t continue his second-half success and the Uptons underwhelm again, leaving the Braves in third place and out of the playoffs.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: Justin Upton.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: OF Michael Bourn.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: B.J. Upton.
3. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: RHP Roy Halladay, 1B Ryan Howard, SS Jimmy Rollins and 2B Chase Utley regain their youth, health and productivity, helping Philadelphia win its sixth division title in seven years.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Age continues to haunt the Phillies, who miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: OF Ben Revere.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: RHP Vance Worley.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: OF Domonic Brown.
4. NEW YORK METS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: RHP Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler give New York a formidable 1-2 punch in the rotation, 1B Ike Davis challenges for the NL home run title and the club finishes above .500 for the first time since 2008.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The outfield (Mike Baxter, Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis) is as bad as it looks on paper, the Mets miss R.A. Dickey even more than expected and they finish behind the fire-sale Marlins in last place.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: C Travis d’Arnaud.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: Dickey.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: Davis.
5. MIAMI MARLINS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Miami’s best prospects, led by RHP Jose Fernandez and OF Christian Yelich, live up to their scouting reports and provide realistic hope for the near future.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: To further reduce costs, owner Jeffrey Loria sells OF Giancarlo Stanton to Japan’s Yomiuri Giants.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: OF Jake Marisnick.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: SS Jose Reyes.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: 1B Logan Morrison.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1. CINCINNATI REDS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: OF Shin-Soo Choo’s production dwarfs what Drew Stubbs did last year, the rotation is solid even without the dynamic addition of LHP Aroldis Chapman, and the Reds win the division for the third time in four years.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: 1B Joey Votto’s second-half injuries and power outage (zero homers in 28 games) are a bad omen and the Reds have a post-playoff hangover just like they did in 2011.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: Choo.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: SS Didi Gregorius.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP Mat Latos.
2. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: St. Louis successfully integrates its top prospects—OF Oscar Taveras, RHPs Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, 2B Kolten Wong—into an already talented big league roster and makes a run at a second World Series championship in three years.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: With RHP Chris Carpenter sidelined, RHP Kyle Lohse gone and LHP Jaime Garcia battling shoulder woes, the Cardinals never figure out the rotation and miss the playoffs.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: SS/2B Ronny Cedeno.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: Lohse.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP Jason Motte.
3. PITTSBURGH PIRATES
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Pittsburgh posts a winning record for the first time since 1992 and challenges for a wild card, thanks to outstanding performances from 3B Pedro Alvarez and OF Andrew McCutchen and a midseason boost from RHP Gerrit Cole.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The Pirates have another second-half swoon and sub-.500 season as Alvarez and McCutchen don’t get much help from the rest of the lineup and the rotation proves to be a bunch of No. 4 and 5 starters.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: C Russell Martin.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: RHP Joel Hanrahan.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: Alvarez.
4. MILWAUKEE BREWERS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Milwaukee’s 31-15 finish last year was for real, RHPs Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta team with RHP Yovani Gallardo to form a solid rotation and the Brewers contend for the wild card.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: 1B Corey Hart’s knee injury and a PED suspension for OF Ryan Braun cost Milwaukee too much offensive production, and the rotation has too many holes.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: RHP Kyle Lohse.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: RHP Shaun Marcum.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP John Axford.
5. CHICAGO CUBS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Chicago avoids 100 losses while continuing to amass talent, making respectability in 2014 and contention in 2015 realistic possibilities.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: RHP Matt Garza’s injuries continue, negating his trade value, and the Cubs continue to face a shortage of upper-level pitching, which means their rebuilding efforts will take longer.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: RHP Edwin Jackson.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: 1B/OF Bryan LaHair.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: 1B Anthony Rizzo.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: 1B Brandon Belt and 3B Pablo Sandoval provide C Buster Posey with plenty of help in the middle of the lineup, RHP Tim Lincecum bounces back and San Francisco chases its third World Series title in four years.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: In a repeat of 2011, the Giants follow up a World Series title by lacking offense and missing the playoffs.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: OF Andres Torres.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: OF Melky Cabrera.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: LHP Madison Bumgarner.
2. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Last season’s acquisitions of RHP Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford, 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SS Hanley Ramirez and offseason moves for RHP Zack Greinke and LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu jack up the win total and payroll, as L.A. cashes in all the way to the World Series.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The Dodgers learn that they just can’t buy their way to the postseason, as they still have too many holes and finish closer to .500 than the playoffs.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: Greinke.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: OF Shane Victorino.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP Kenley Jansen.
3. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: After roller-coastering from 65 to 94 to 81 wins over the last three seasons, Arizona makes the playoffs with pitching depth and a lineup with just one easy out.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Trading RHP Trevor Bauer and OFs Justin Upton and Chris Young without getting enough in return causes the Diamondbacks to dip below .500.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: 3B Martin Prado.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: Upton.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: RHP Ian Kennedy.
4. SAN DIEGO PADRES
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: 3B Chase Headley continues his MVP-level performance, OF Carlos Quentin stays healthy and RHP Casey Kelly leads a wave of young pitchers as San Diego builds on its 47-36 record in the second half of 2012.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Headley gets traded, Quentin and the young arms can’t remain healthy again and the Padres look more like the club that started last year with a 29-50 record.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: RHP Tyson Ross.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: OF Blake Tekotte.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: Headley.
5. COLORADO ROCKIES
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: LHPs Christian Friedrich and Drew Pomeranz and RHP Jhoulys Chacin help Colorado solve its rotation problems, while an underrated bullpen helps the Rockies to a third-place finish.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The rotation remains a disaster and Colorado sees its victory total decline for the fourth straight season.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON ACQUISITION: 3B/1B/OF Ryan Wheeler.
BIGGEST OFFSEASON LOSS: RHP Alex White.
NEXT FIRST-TIME ALL-STAR: C Wilin Rosario.