The National League race figures to be very interesting this year. Two divisions are loaded with talented teams as the NL West and NL East both saw a lot of high-priced acquisitions join new teams. However, the NL Central figures to be the worst division in baseball as Chicago, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are all in the middle of huge rebuilds. That gives the Milwaukee Brewers the clearest path to the postseason, but can the Brewers win the pennant for the first time in 40 years?
Los Angeles Dodgers
The last decade has seen the Los Angeles Dodgers finally fulfill their fans’ dreams as they have become the West Coast version of the New York Yankees. Los Angeles won eight straight NL West titles prior to last season, but the Dodgers won 106 games and were considered the team to beat entering the playoffs. They fell to the Atlanta Braves in last year’s NLCS, yet they figure to be even better in 2022.
Jeff Passan stated that this lineup is the best he has seen in his 20+ years covering baseball. Freddie Freeman was added as another power hitter that can help spell Max Muncy at first base, and Trea Turner and Mookie Betts are extremely dangerous at the top of the order. This rotation has the potential to be very good too as Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Julio Urias are all former or current aces. It’s going to be very tough to take down the Dodgers this season.
New York Mets
Steve Cohen certainly didn’t lie about his intention to turn the New York Mets into a contender. We have seen other owners make similar promises (See: Bob Castellini), but Cohen has actually put his money wear his mouth is with the Mets. This rotation has the potential to be the best in baseball with the addition of Max Scherzer, as Jacob deGrom is the most talented pitcher in the game. Chris Bassitt would be a No. 1 or No. 2 arm on virtually every other team, and that makes the Mets a potential postseason nightmare.
The defending World Series champions no longer have Freddie Freeman, Joc Pederson, or World Series MVP Jorge Soler on the roster. However, the Atlanta Braves are still in a position to contend with a solid rotation and the return of Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta was able to replace Freeman with Matt Olson, and they still have Ozzie Albies signed to the most team-friendly long-term deal in baseball. Adam Duvall could have another big year too,
San Diego Padres
San Diego started strong but fell apart at the tail end of last season. The Padres have a ton of potential, but they need to stay injury free and have their high-priced talent live up to the billing. They made a huge splash when they acquired former Cy Young winners Yu Darvish and Blake Snell prior to last season, yet neither pitcher performed well in 2021. Fernando Tatis Jr. will miss up to three months with a fractured wrist too, depriving the Padres of their best hitter.
The big question for Milwaukee is whether or not this offense can finally get going. Willy Adames turned out to be a huge boon after he was acquired in the middle of last season, but Christian Yelich had the worst season of his career. Lorenzo Cain also posted dismal numbers, so the Brew Crew is hoping those two players can bounce back. The rotation is fantastic once again as Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta were three of the best pitchers in the NL in 2021.
San Francisco Giants
No team was a bigger surprise than the San Francisco Giants in 2021. San Francisco was pegged to finish in third place in the NL West, but the Giants ended up winning a franchise record 107 games. The Giants are bringing back most of their talent from last year save for Kevin Gausman and Buster Posey, yet they could have just caught lightning in a bottle and might be a middling team this season.