MLB 2018 Preview: Five National League storylines to watch
There was little left to the imagination in the National League last season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the best team in baseball from May onwards, and they coasted to their first World Series berth since 1988. Things may not be quite as simple this year though as every playoff team from a year ago got better, and several dark horses improved their rosters as well.
Here are five storylines to keep track of when the season opens Thursday.
FIVE NATIONAL LEAGUE STORYLINES TO WATCH
1. Can the Milwaukee Brewers take the next step? The Brewers were the surprise team in the National League last season, holding the lead in the Central Division for the better part of the year. They petered out at the end and missed the playoffs, but they added Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich this off-season and their young players are one year more mature. Will that be enough to earn them a playoff spot or even a division title?
2. Will the Washington Nationals ever win a playoff series? There are two things to set your watch to the last seven years in the NL: the Nationals will be in contention for a playoff spot, and if they get to the postseason they will lose. Washington has been to the playoffs four times since 2012 and lost every time. The team has a new manager this year in Dave Martinez. Will he be enough to get the Nationals over the hump?
3. Will the San Francisco Giants bounce back? San Francisco was the most disappointing team in all of baseball in 2017. The Giants finished last in the NL West with a 64-98 record when many picked them to get to the postseason. This offseason they added Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but their season is already off to a rough start as they lost both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija for at least the first month. Can they overcome those injuries with a new and improved lineup and get back in the wild-card discussion?
4. Just how bad will the Miami Marlins be? There's no way around it, the Marlins are tanking and they're not being coy about it. They traded away the NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of their outfield in All-Star Marcell Ozuna and Yelich. They lost their best players and got back little in return. Oh and their two best players - Starlin Castro and J.T. Realmuto - have openly asked to be traded. This season could be rough for Miami.
5. Will the Dodgers regress? The Dodgers look like a great team on paper this year. They return just about everyone from their World Series team last year and look primed to win the West for the sixth year in a row. However, Chris Taylor, Alex Wood and Cody Bellinger all had fantastic years and may be due for a regression. On the other hand, they could go nuts again, but odds are they do take a minor step back. Will that affect their win total?