MLB 2015 predictions for the National League

This past Sunday night’s matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals kicked off the 2015 Major League Baseball season.

On the first day of the season, anything is possible. All teams have an opportunity to reach the championship and any given player can emerge as the next breakout superstar. Last season, this was a common occasion as the Kansas City Royals reached the World Series and Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber took home the American League Cy Young award. Both were unexpected, but made for phenomenal baseball.

It’s plausible to believe it will happen again. Like any sport, the element of surprise is what keeps fans coming back for more.

National League Most Valuable Player

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

Stanton is one of the league’s emerging power hitters and has already cemented himself with superstar status. After ending his season early due to a broken jaw, Stanton returns to Miami with a $325 million contract and as the Marlins’ best position player by a landslide.

If it weren’t for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s phenomenal season last year, Stanton would have been in the running for the MVP. Stanton will reach the 40-homerun plateau this season and could lead the rebuilding Marlins to a postseason run. This is the year for Stanton.

DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

National League Cy Young

Jon Lester, P, Chicago Cubs

As much as I’d love to pick Mets pitcher Matt Harvey for this award, it’s so hard to expect talent to regain superstar momentum after Tommy John sSurgery. Clayton Kershaw will be in the running, but it will be difficult for him to repeat after his stellar season.

Cubs pitcher Jon Lester intrigues me. The switch from the AL to the NL was a great move, and he will excel against the NL Central teams instead of facing the dangerous AL East night after night. His strikeouts will increase and the upgrade of the Cubs offense could keep his win total around 15.

DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

National League Playoff Teams

Washington Nationals (NL East), Pittsburgh Pirates (NL Central), Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West), St. Louis Cardinals (WC No. 1), New York Mets (WC No. 2)

The Nationals are the clear-cut favorite to win the East, while the Pirates and the Cardinals are in a two-team race for the Central. The Pirates will edge out St. Louis, but the Cardinals have elite pitching and enough hitting to make the playoffs as a wild card.

The West will be a much bigger battle, especially with the new-and-improved San Diego Padres and reigning world champion Ssan Francisco Giants. It’s hard to assume a team will make it based on star power, and the Padres are no exception. Next year will be their year, but not now.

The Mets are one of the most intriguing teams in the NL. The team is five years in the making and it seems all of the pieces are in place, even with the season-ending injury to pitcher Zack Wheeler. The return of Harvey, another season of the reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom and the emergence of young offensive talent, the Mets have a strong chance to claim the second Wild Card.

National League Rookie of the Year

Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

I was shocked when Bryant was left off the 25-man roster after torrid spring training at-bats. This kid will be the face of the Cubs in five years, and his run to superstardom will begin this season.

Bryant is a five5-tool power hitter who can instantly accompany Anthony Rizzo in the middle of Chicago’s lineup for the next 10 years. Bryant should be called up at the end of April. When he does, he will take the baseball world by storm.

DARKHORSE CANDIDATE: Noah Syndergaard, P, New York Mets

World Series Matchup and Champion

Washington Nationals vs. Baltimore Orioles, Orioles in 6 games

No one can argue about the plethora of talented pitching in Washington. The team consists of three aces and two above-average pitchers in Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. But their offense is what will propel them to the championship.

Young offensive talent in Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond will provide consistent offense game in and game out and will end up sending them to the world series – only to be defeated by the Baltimore Orioles.

This team intrigues me. Baltimore combines the lacking of a true ace with an above-average bullpen, backed by one of the most prolific lineups in the entire league. Players like Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Matt Wieters are all coming off injuries and suspensions from the last two seasons. With full seasons from all of them, including the young barrage of infielders and outfielders, this could be the year for Baltimore.

Jordan Grossman is a senior sports editor and can be contacted at