Finding Value in the NL Outside the Dodgers in the 2017 Playoffs

Cubs lefty Jon Lester throws a bullpen session at Wrigley Field
By Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Unless they totally collapse, the LA Dodgers will enter the postseason as the top seed in the National League playoffs. The Dodgers are cruising along, have the Western Division in hand, and are gearing up for the playoffs. But they hit a bit of a road block Monday when they found out ace Clayton Kershaw will be out for a least a month with a back injury. Obviously, if Kershaw returns and is close to his best, the injury will have a minimal effect on the season.

That said, his postseason track record is mediocre, 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA, and there is no other front line reliable starter on the roster. The Dodgers could make a move before the trade deadline, but if you have reason to be concerned about the rotation, maybe looking at some National League futures on other squads has some value.


National League Champions Futures

Washington: 67/20

The Nationals are home free in the NL East, and recently addressed their Achilles heel, the bullpen. Though Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle both have a history of injuries, they solidify a gaping hole for Washington.

The Nats are well positioned to pounce on a Dodgers stumble: They have the second highest scoring offense in the National league, a rotation that features Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and will soon have Trea Turner back in a lineup that already stars Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon. Dodgers, take note.

Chicago: 77/20

For a large part of the season the Cubs have had a World Series hangover; but good teams find a way, and their recent play has put Chicago neck-and-neck with the Brewers in the NL Central.

Since there are still more than 60 games left, the chance the Cubs get into the playoffs is strong. If they make the postseason, who wants to face Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and the recently acquired Jose Quintana? Chicago is fortunate to play in a middling division, and that fortune has given them time to gather themselves. Nobody wants to battle the champs if they’re rolling in October.

Arizona: 10/1

With a commanding lead for a Wild Card berth, it is likely Arizona will be in a one game play-in. If they are at home, good luck to their opponent. Zack Greinke will be on the hill, and he is 10-0 this year at home with opponents batting .191 against him.

The Snakes have the second highest run differential in the NL, and the offense is versatile. Paul Goldschmidt hits home runs and steals bases, while Jake Lamb has more RBI’s than Goldschmidt. Don’t forget about David Peralta, who’s already over 100 hits, and AJ Pollock, who has 14 steals in only 53 games. Nobody really talks about the Diamondbacks, but they are balanced, and that is valuable.

Colorado: 14/1

Like Arizona, Colorado is in great shape to make the postseason. However, they need to pass the D-backs to avoid facing Greinke on the road with the season on the line. The two teams have been close in the standings all year, but the Rockies run differential (+52) is more than 60 tallies worse than the Diamondbacks. Like Goldschmidt with Arizona, Nolan Arenado anchors a solid offense in Denver. However, the rotation is very young and lacks an ace that you know what you’re getting with when the biggest games arrive.

Milwaukee: 20/1

If the Cubs don’t find a way, Milwaukee is the most likely representative from the Central Division. That said, they are struggling right now with only a +33 run differential for the season, and the big names are lacking. Ryan Braun is a known quantity, but Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia, Hernan Perez and Eric Thames are questions in the postseason. The same is true on the hill where the inconsistent Jimmy Nelson and aging Matt Garza don’t feel like starters who are going to win a lot of series.

Conclusion:

The Brewers are not going to the World Series, and the road is pretty tough via the Wild Card. Even if Arizona is at home and Greinke wins, he can’t start again until game three of the Division Series. Washington and Chicago both have very good chances, though the Nats postseason history is not strong. Chicago has too much talent not to be in the playoffs, so they will likely avoid the Wild Card, and once that happens, they will be a scary team to face.  You’ll never get anywhere close to 4/1 on Chicago a month from now. Grab it while you can.