Forecast: National League preview


Welcome to our first ESPN MLB Forecast. In the days ahead, we'll roll out a preview for all 30 teams as well as our predictions for how each team will do this season, including the six division winners, four wild cards, league championship series winners and World Series winner. We'll also hand out predictions for all of the traditional awards -- rookie of the year, Cy Young and MVP. For our results, we surveyed our Forecast panel on each topic. Let's begin with a look at the league that was the runner-up in last season's World Series. Here goes ?

National League East

1. Washington Nationals

David Schoenfield @dschoenfield: They might have been the division favorite even before the Braves suffered season-ending injuries to two starting pitchers, but now the predictions will sway even more in the Nationals' direction. A popular World Series pick last year, the Nationals disappointed with an 86-76 record, a mark salvaged only with an 18-9 record in September. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and offseason acquisition Doug Fister lead a rotation many believe is the best in the National League, although Fister missed some time in spring training with elbow inflammation. Two reasons to expect the Nationals to score more runs: Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. Harper is healthy after offseason knee surgery; at 21, this could be the year he hits 35 home runs. Rendon had a solid rookie season last year, but everyone loves his stroke and he should improve. If the bench and bullpen don't let the team down like they did a year ago, the Nats should win the East.

Christina Kahrl @ChristinaKahrl: The potential for a league-dominating romp in 2014 is here, but it requires health from the rotation quartet of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. If the lineup gets on track as Bryce Harper busts out while Denard Span and Adam LaRoche rebound, 100 wins could be in reach.

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