Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies actually got better. With a busy off season that saw playoff hero Cliff Lee traded and Roy Halladay brought and the signings of Placido Polanco, Danys Baez, and Jose Contreras to improve the line up and pen, the Phillies are back in the driver’s seat of the NL to become the first team in the NL to go to the World Series three straight years since the 1940’s. The batting order has no holes and neither does the defense. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are among the game’s best. The only question mark on the Phillies roster is closer Brad Lidge.
St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals re-signed Matt Holliday to ensure they have someone to make Albert Pujols, the best player in baseball, even more dangerous. When you have a player like Pujols present on the field and in the line-up, your team becomes that much better. It’s hard to start when talking about a player like Pujols so I’ll just throw out these 162-game splits: .334, 42 homers, and 129 RBI’s. No wonder he’s a three-time MVP. The Cards have pitching as well, led by their Cy Young-competing tandem in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Last year Carpenter was 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA and Wainwright 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA.
Chicago Cubs – This is a familiar spot for them. They always are a contender but cannot get over the hump that’s been blocking them since 1908 – winning the World Series. Last year was a huge disappointment for the preseason NL favorites as they only won 83 games and missed the playoffs. Lou Piniella’s boys will look to get back into the mix with a balanced offense that’s led by Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee. Carlos Zambrano is the team’s ace and will need to improve on his 9-7 record and 3.77 ERA in 2009.
Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers have come up short of a pennant the last two years to the Phillies. But the Dodgers still have a dangerous line up and rotation that can definitely hang with the Phillies. Manny Ramirez said this is his last year with LA and will hope he can make it count. Andre Ethier is one of the best outfielders in the game and is coming off a strong season where he hit .272 with 31 homers and 106 RBI’s. Will this be the year the Dodgers get passed the Phillies?
Colorado Rockies – The Rockies made another great run last season that fell short in the first round. They too are returning an excellent team. Todd Helton’s power may be down (hasn’t hit more than 20 homers since 2004) but has only hit under .300 once in his entire career (.328 career average). Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best short stops in the game and Brad Hawpe provides a nice spark batting behind him. Carlos Gonzalez and Dustin Fowler provide a lot of speed at the top of the line-up.
Wild Card: Dodgers
Pennant: Phillies over Cardinals.