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EAST Washington Nationals Last year: 96-66 (first in NL East, lost in the NLDS to San Francisco). Manager: Matt Williams (second season with Washington, 96-66).


Washington Nationals

Last year: 96-66 (first in NL East, lost in the NLDS to San Francisco).

Manager: Matt Williams (second season with Washington, 96-66).

Key pitchers: Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 252 SO, 220 1/3 IP with Detroit), Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66 ERA, 182 SO, 199 2/3 IP), Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA, 242 SO, 215 IP).

Key players: 3B Anthony Rendon (.287, 21 HR, 83 RBIs, 111 runs), RF Bryce Harper (.273, 13 HR, 32 RBIs), SS Ian Desmond (.255, 24 HR, 91 RBIs).

Outlook: What can stop the Nats is injuries as RF Jayson Werth is recovering from shoulder surgery, Rendon has been bothered by knee soreness and CF Denard Span will start the season on the disabled list after having abdominal surgery.

Atlanta Braves

Last year: 79-83 (tied for second in NL East).

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (fifth season with Braves, 358-290; overall, 634-569).

Key pitchers: Julio Tenran (14-13, 2.89 ERA), Alex Wood (11-11, 2.78 ERA, 170 SO, 171 2/3 IP), Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA with St. Louis).

Key players: RF Nick Markakis (.276, 14 HR, 50 RBIs for Baltimore), SS Andrelton Simmons (.244, 7 HR, 46 RBIs), 1B Freddie Freeman (.288, 18 HR, 78 RBIs, .847 OPS).

Outlook: The Braves were 29th in runs (573) and traded away some of their best offensive players, Justin Upton, Jayson Heyward and Evan Gattis so the offense could be weaker. The young pitching is the strength, but there just isn't enough offense to contend for a playoff spot.

New York Mets

Last year: 79-83 (tied for second in NL East).

Manager: Terry Collins (fifth season with the Mets, 304-344; overall, 748-778).

Key pitchers: Matt Harvey (missed last season after Tommy John surgery, 9-5, 2.27 ERA in 2013), Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.69 ERA), Jon Niese (9-11, 3.40 ERA).

Key players: 3B David Wright (.269, 8 HR, 63 RBIs, .698 OPS), 1B Lucas Duda (.253, 30 HR, 92 RBI, .830 OPS), 2B Daniel Murphy (.289, 9 HR, 57 RBIs).

Outlook: Losing Zack Wheeler to Tommy John surgery is a big blow, but the pitching is still deep enough to contend at least for a wild card. The Mets need a bounce-back season from Wright and consistency in the bullpen.

Miami Marlins

Last year: 77-85 (fourth in NL East).

Manager: Mike Redmond (third season with the Marlins, 139-185).

Key pitchers: Jose Fernandez (4-2, 2.44 ERA in 8 starts before Tommy John surgery), Henderson Alvarez (12-7, 2.65 ERA), Mat Latos (5-5, 3.25 ERA with Cincinnati).

Key players: RF Giancarlo Stanton (.288, 37 HR, 105 RBIs, .950 OPS, 160 OPS+), LF Christian Yelich (.284, 9 HR, 54 RBIs), CF Marcell Ozuna (.269, 23 HR, 85 RBIs).

Outlook: The Marlins should be among the most improved teams after adding key additions such as 1B Mike Morse, INF Martin Prado, 2B Dee Gordon and pitchers Latos and Dan Haren. This team could be a viable wild card contender, especially if Fernandez returns to form around midseason.


Last year: 73-89 (fifth in NL East).

Manager: Ryne Sandberg (third season with the Phillies, 93-111).

Key pitchers: Cole Hamels (9-9, 2.46 ERA, 198 SO, 204 2/3 IP, 151 ERA+), Aaron Harang (12-12, 3.57 ERA with Atlanta), Jerome Williams (6-7. 4.77 ERA with Houston, Texas and the Phillies).

Key players: 2B Chase Utley (.270, 11 HR, 78 RBIs), 1B Ryan Howard (.223, 23 HR, 95 RBIs), C Carlos Ruiz (.252, 6 HR, 31 RBIs).

Outlook: After three straight seasons out of the playoffs, the Phillies finally are rebuilding and it could be painful. This season they could be challenged to match last year's win total.


St. Louis Cardinals

Last year: 90-72 (first in NL Central, lost in the NLCS to San Francisco).

Manager: Mike Matheny (fourth season with Cardinals, 275-211).

Key pitchers: Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA, 1.031 WHIP), Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA), John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 ERA with Boston and St. Louis).

Key players: C Yadier Molina (.282, 7 HR, 38 RBIs), LF Matt Holliday (.272, 20 HR, 90 RBIs, .811 OPS), SS Jhonny Peralta (.263, 21 HR, 75 RBIs).

Outlook: Once again the Cardinals will be major contenders not only for the division, but in the National League. The addition of RF Jason Heyward will upgrade the defense and should help the offense and the key will be keeping the starting rotation healthy.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last year: 88-74 (second in NL Central, lost in the wild card game to San Francisco).

Manager: Clint Hurdle (fifth season with the Pirates, 333-315; overall, 867-940).

Key pitchers: Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.38 ERA), Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.65 ERA), Charlie Morton (6-12, 3.72).

Key players: CF Andrew McCutchen (.314, 25 HR, 83 RBIs, .952 OPS, 168 OPS+), 2B Neil Walker (.271, 23 HR, 76 RBIs, .809 OPS), LF Starling Marte (.291, 13 HR, 56 RBIs).

Outlook: The Pirates have made the playoffs two consecutive years but will miss the presence of catcher Russell Martin. This is still a team capable of contending but some young players like Cole will have to take that next step and A.J. Burnett has to pitch better than he did for the Phillies last year.

Milwaukee Brewers

Last year: 82-80 (third in NL Central).

Manager: Ron Roenicke (fifth season with Brewers, 335-315).

Key pitchers: Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54 ERA), Matt Garza (8-8, 3.64 ERA), Wily Peralta (17-11, 3.53 ERA).

Key players: C Jonathan Lucroy (.301, 13 HR, 69 RBIs, .837 OPS), CF Carlos Gomez (.284, 23 HR, 74 RBIs), RF Ryan Braun (.266, 19 HR, 81 RBIs).

Outlook: This is a team that could finish first or last. Much depends if Braun regains his form and the pitching staff stays healthy. The bullpen has some erratic performers led by closer Frankie Rodriguez.

Cincinnati Reds

Last year: 76-86 (fourth in NL Central).

Manager: Bryan Price (2d season with Reds, 76-86).

Key pitchers: Johnny Cueto (20-9, 2.25 ERA, 242 SO, 243 2/3 IP), Homer Bailey (9-5, 3.71 ERA), Mike Leake (11-13, 3.70 ERA).

Key players: C Devin Mesoraco (.273, 25 HR, 80 RBIs, .893 OPS), 3B Todd Frazier (.273, 29 HR, 80 RBIs), 1B Joey Votto (.255, 6 HR, 23 RBIs, .390 OBP).

Outlook: The Reds had so many injuries and if they can stay healthy, then this will be a competitive team. A key will be how Bailey, who had forearm surgery, is able to bounce back.

Chicago Cubs

Last year: 73-89 (fifth in NL Central).

Manager: Joe Maddon (first season with Cubs; overall, 781-729).

Key pitchers: Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46 ERA, 220 SO, 219 2/3 IP for Boston and Oakland), Jake Arrieta (10-5, 2.53 ERA, 151 ERA+), Jason Hammel (10-11, 3.47 ERA for the Cubs and Oakland).

Key players: 1B Anthony Rizzo (.286, 32 HR, 78 RBIs, .913 OPS, 151 OPS+), SS Starlin Castro (.292, 14 HR, 65 RBIs), RF Jorge Soler (.292, 5 HR, 20 RBIs in 97 plate appearances).

Outlook: This is a trendy pick for most improved team, but if the Cubs miss making the playoffs by a small margin, they may regret sending highly regarded 3B Kris Bryant down to the minors to control his service time. It still looks like the Cubs are one year and another big free agent away from contending.


Los Angeles Dodgers

Last year: 94-68 (first in NL West, lost in NLDS to St. Louis).

Manager: Don Mattingly (fifth year with the Dodgers, 354-293).

Key pitchers: CY Young & MVP winner Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 197 ERA+), Zack Greinke (17-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.152 WHIP), Brandon McCarthy (7-5, 2.89 ERA after being traded to the Yankees).

Key players: SS Jimmy Rollins (.243, 17 HR, 55 RBIs with the Phillies), RF Yasiel Puig (.296, 16 HR, 69 RBIs, .863 OPS), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27 HR, 116 RBIs).

Outlook: The bullpen, especially with closer Kenley Jansen injured to start the season, is suspect and the rotation beyond Kershaw and Greinke has questions. Still, the Dodgers are the team to beat in the West and are always a threat to make an acquisition if injuries take their toll.

San Francisco Giants

Last year: 88-74 (second in NL West, won World Series).

Manager: Bruce Bochy (ninth season with Giants, 667-629; overall, 1618-1604).

Key pitchers: Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 SO, 217 1/3 IP), Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74 ERA), Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.17 ERA after being acquired from Boston).

Key players: C Buster Posey (.311, 22 HR, 89 RBI, 143 OPS+), RF Hunter Pence (.277, 20 HR, 74 RBI), SS Brandon Crawford (.246, 10 HR, 69 RBI).

Outlook: For a team that has won three World Series in five years, the Giants have plenty of questions, including whether RHP Matt Cain can return from elbow and ankle surgery. The already questionable offense won't have Pence for the beginning of the season due to a broken arm and the pitching, beyond World Series hero Bumgarner, is questionable.

San Diego Padres

Last year: 77-85 (third in NL West).

Manager: Bud Black (ninth season with Padres, 617-680).

Key pitchers: James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA, 1.181 WHIP with Kansas City), Andrew Cashner (5-7, 2.77 ERA in 19 starts), Tyson Ross (13-14, 2.81 ERA).

Key players: LF Justin Upton (.270, 29 HR, 102 RBI, .833 OPS with Atlanta), RF Matt Kemp (.287, 25 HR, 89 RBIs, .852 OPS with the Dodgers), CF Will Myers (.222, 6 HR, 35 RBIs with Tampa Bay).

Outlook: The three new outfielders should help an anemic offense that produced a .226 batting average and 85 OPS+, both worst in the major leagues.

Colorado Rockies

Last year: 66-96 (fourth in NL West).

Manager: Walt Weiss (third season with Rockies, 140-184).

Key pitchers: Jorge De La Rosa (14-11, 4.10 ERA), Kyle Kendrick (10-13, 4.61 ERA with the Phillies), Jordan Lyles (7-4, 4.33 ERA in 22 starts).

Key players: SS Troy Tulowitzki (.340, 21 HR, 52 RBIs, 1.035 OPS in 375 plate appearances), 1B Justin Morneau (.319, 17 HR, 82 RBIs), RF Carlos Gonzalez (.238, 11 HR, 38 RBIs in 280 plate appearances).

Outlook: Tulowitzki and Gonzalez must show durability for the offense to be effective. The pitching staff remains a weakness and while the Rockies might be improved, getting to .500 will be a difficult task.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Last year: 64-98 (fifth in NL West)

Manager: Chip Hale (first season).

Key pitchers: Josh Collmenter (11-9, 3.46 ERA), Jeremy Hellickson (1-5, 4.52 ERA in 13 starts with Tampa Bay), Addison Reed (1-7, 4.25 ERA, 32 saves).

Key players: 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.300, 19 HR, 69 RBIs, .938 OPS, 158 OPS+ in 109 games), RF Mark Trumbo (.235, 14 HR, 61 RBIs), 3B-OF Yasmany Tomas (first season, signed from Cuba).

Outlook: New GM Dave Stewart has his work cut out for him. The pitching staff may be one of the worst in baseball and the offense must show consistency.