2022 MLB National League Preview
Dodgers Loom as Team to Beat
Despite the three-month lockout, Major League Baseball is planning on having a full 162-game 2022 regular season that kicks off on April 7. That’s great news for anyone interested in baseball betting. So, to help you get ready for the season, let’s preview the National League division-by-division.
The defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves had an eventful offseason. They let franchise legend Freddie Freeman go and replaced him with Matt Olson while also signing Kenley Jansen. Plus, the Braves will get Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka back at some point.
The Braves look like a better team now than they did a year ago, but a lot had to go right for Atlanta to win 88 games and win the NL East. The talent is there for the Braves yet the division is a lot better and Atlanta doesn’t have much starting pitching depth.
New York Mets
The New York Mets had one of the most prolific offseasons in baseball, adding Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Chris Bassitt. After fading in the second half of the 2021 season, New York seems poised to snap a five-year postseason drought.
But, as always, the key with the Mets is health. Ace Jacob deGrom will miss the first month with a stress fracture in his right scapula, so they need right-hander Max Scherzer to stay on the field. If New York can get full seasons from most of their position player regulars and deGrom returns, it should easily win the division and be one of the best teams in baseball.
The Philadelphia Phillies are an interesting team. They made two big splashes by signing Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos and added a few solid bullpen pieces in Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand. However, the Phillies did nothing to address one of baseball’s worst defenses and slowest position player groups.
They should score a lot of runs and hit a lot of home runs. They still won’t be very good at preventing the other team from scoring runs, though. Zack Wheeler is a great No. 1 starter, yet Aaron Nola is coming off a mediocre season and Kyle Gibson is a ground ball pitcher with a subpar infield defense behind him. This team has a lot of question marks.
The Miami Marlins also got better this offseason, especially on offense as they picked up outfielders Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler. They already boast a very talented (albeit young) rotation and a bullpen that overperformed in 2021.
Miami will improve upon its 67 wins from last season but don’t expect much from the Marlins in such a tough division. Also, they don’t have much position player depth and are relying heavily on mostly unproven relievers.
Outside of Juan Soto, things aren’t looking great for the 2022 Washington Nationals. Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell are solid anchors for the lineup but there just isn’t much behind those three guys. In the rotation, Patrick Corbin is the No. 1 starter despite being terrible in 2021 while Stephen Strasburg was sidelined after thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.
Washington only added prime League free agents to the bullpen, which was really bad last year and likely won’t be much better this season. The Nationals are rebuilding and there isn’t much reason to think they’ll be much better than in 2021, when they won 65 games.
Unsurprisingly, the Milwaukee Brewers are big favorites to win the NL Central. They cruised to a division title in 2021 and won 95 games behind the three-headed monster of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta in the rotation and an elite bullpen led by Josh Hader.
However, the Brewers’ offense disappeared in the playoffs. Milwaukee made two major moves to address the offense, signing Andrew McCutchen and trading Jackie Bradley Jr. for Hunter Renfroe. McCutchen and Renfroe have a lot of pop but they strike out a ton.
Other than that, Milwaukee mostly stayed pat. The Brewers should be able to win the division again, but probably didn’t do enough to win the NL if you’re baseball betting. They should be able to beat up on the rest of the bad NL Central, though.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals clearly deserved their playoff berth in 2021 as they pulled off a legendary second-half run to win 90 games. However, things just seemed to click for the Cardinals in an unsustainable way. That’s usually the case when a team has a 17-game winning streak.
St. Louis did pick up Corey Dickerson and Steven Matz to bolster the lineup and rotation and also added on the fringes of the bullpen. Plus, the Cardinals brought back Albert Pujols for a feel-good farewell season. But, St. Louis didn’t do enough to build on the success of 2021 and it doesn’t help that Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes are injured right now.
The Cardinals are the only legitimate challenger to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central,but too much needs to go right for St. Louis to unseat the division’s top team.
If there were a statistic for most disappointing offseason transactions/decisions in baseball, the Cincinnati Reds would be among the league leaders. Nearly every move the Reds made over the past few months was predicated on shedding salary, from trading away Sonny Gray and Jesse Winker for pennies on the dollar to letting go of Wade Miley and Nick Castellanos.
The Reds should be much worse than they were in 2021, when they won 83 games and were in playoff contention until the end of the year. They did sign Tommy Pham and Colin Moran, who are both solid but aren’t difference-makers. Also, the bullpen was bad last year and isn’t any better. The Luis Castillo shoulder injury doesn’t help, either.
The Chicago Cubs did a big sell-off last summer and, despite some optimism that Anthony Rizzo or Javier Báez might return, none of the pieces from the World Series core in 2016 did go back to Chicago. The Cubs pivoted to signing Marcus Stroman and highly regarded Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki. They also made some nice depth pickups with Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar, Yan Gomes and Clint Frazier.
The rotation looks very different too with Stroman serving as the ace and veterans Wade Miley and Drew Smyly filling in on the back end. The bullpen is almost completely remade, headlined by veterans Mychal Givens, David Robertson and Chris Martin. The Cubs still probably won’t be too good, but they won’t be a traditionally awful rebuilding team.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will be really bad again in 2022. Budding stars Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes are great lineup cornerstones, but the rest of the position player group is bleak and the front office didn’t do a whole lot to make it stronger. Top infield prospect Oneil Cruz should be able to provide instant pop when he gets called up, yet it’s going to be tough for Pittsburgh to produce runs all season.
Pittsburgh’s pitching staff is even more embattled than the lineup. José Quintana is the only experienced major league starter in the group and even he wasn’t good last season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though they didn’t win the NL West in 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers did win 106 games and are primed to be the best team in the division in 2022. They lost Corey Seager and Kenley Jansen in free agency but added Freddie Freeman and will have a full season from Trea Turner. Los Angeles’ lineup may be one of the best in baseball history.
The bullpen and front of the rotation are solid, yet the back-half of the rotation is shaky. Dustin May should be back from Tommy John surgery at some point but, until then, the combination of Tony Gonsolin, David Price, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson will have to make do. The Dodgers will score enough runs to handle that uncertainty. If you’re baseball betting, look for Los Angeles to come out on top in the West.
San Diego Padres
No team was more of a disappointment in 2021 than the San Diego Padres, who collapsed in the second half. They added Luke Voit as a much-needed power bat but might not have Fernando Tatis Jr. for a few months as he recovers from a fractured wrist. That puts them behind the eight-ball early.
On paper, the starting rotation should be solid with Mike Clevinger healthy. However, Blake Snell was underwhelming last season and there is plenty of injury risk with that group. The bullpen is talented yet was inconsistent too much of last season. San Diego has a ton of potential. Unfortunately, the on-field product might not live up to it.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants were the polar opposite of the San Diego Padres in 2021. The Giants overperformed in every facet of the game and were able to overcome plenty of injuries to win the NL West. But, they’re banged up right now and will really miss Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman.
The Carlos Rodón signing was nice. However, he hasn’t pitched more than 133 innings since 2016 and isn’t particularly durable. The Giants are still really deep, though, and can withstand injuries to position players and pitchers. They won’t be 107-win good again, but they should give the Padres a run for their money as the second-best team in the division.
The Colorado Rockies continue to confound. After letting Trevor Story and Jon Gray leave in free agency, Colorado signed Kris Bryant to a $180 million deal and then traded Raimel Tapia. Bryant and Randal Grichuk should hit for plenty of power at Coors Field, but both were weird pickups for a Rockies team in one of baseball’s toughest divisions.
Colorado’s strength, interestingly, is its rotation headlined by Germán Márquez. The Rockies’ pitching staff is in solid shape now but the lineup and bullpen still aren’t nearly good enough to compete.
It’s going to be another long season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who should win more than 52 games this year but are still a ways away from contending. They did make some good offseason moves, namely extending Ketel Marte and adding Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy to the back of the bullpen.
Depending on health, the rotation could be pretty good if Madison Bumgarner bounces back. The lineup has some nice pieces too, yet Arizona doesn’t have much depth behind its starting bats.