National League East
Predicted finish, records
1. Phillies, 92-70
2. Braves, 88-74
3. Marlins, 88-74
4. Nationals, 84-78
5. Mets, 76-86
Pennants, wild cards since 1995: 8, 3.
Average payroll: $107.6 million (second of six divisions).
Landscape changing move: Marlins stadium. Yes, it's a different place, but real change is what potential income allowed Marlins to do: Spend big bucks and jump into middle of fray in East.
Lasting regret: Trusting Bernie. Yes, Mets ownership had invested with convicted Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff. It could take years to recover.
You can count on: For better or worse, Ozzie Guillen will keep pot boiling in what should be a very hot summer in Miami.
All-division team: SP Cole Hamels, Phillies; RP Heath Bell, Marlins; C Brian McCann, Braves; 1B Freddie Freeman, Braves; 2B Chase Utley, Phillies; SS Jose Reyes, Marlins; 3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals; LF Martin Prado, Braves; CF Shane Victorino, Phillies; RF Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins.
MVP: Jose Reyes, Marlins. He thrives amid new surroundings and division race. Worth considering: Zimmerman, Hanley Ramirez, Stanton.
Cy Young: Hamels, Phillies. Free agent year usually brings good results. Worth considering: Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg.
Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, Nationals. He's too good to keep in the minors for very long. Worth considering: RHP Julio Teheran, Braves; SS Tyler Pastornicky, Braves.
Manager of the Year: Charlie Manuel. This time around will be real work if he can get Phillies a division title.
1. Is home run display at new Marlins ballpark for real?
Apparently so, including dolphins, flamingos and palm trees. Maybe designers were trying to out-dumb the inflatable Big Apple home run at Shea Stadium. Right now it's a tossup.
2. What's the over-under on first public feud between owner Jeffrey Loria and manager Ozzie Guillen?
Opening day? Seriously, honeymoon could be strained before the All-Star break. Even if Marlins bound from gate fast, look for them to clash.
3. Can Marlins really be that much better than 72 victories of last season?
Yes, Guillen will work magic in his first season, using exceptional free agent signings. Even Ramirez will forget he didn't want to play third base.
4. Will Strasburg make Nationals contender?
Sorry, even he isn't good enough to do it by himself. It sure would help if Harper matures quicker than he has shown. But Strasburg, if healthy, will make huge difference.
5. Phillies favorites? Aren't they way too old and beat up?
Don't forget Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Great starting pitching makes up for the age and/or health of Ryan Howard, Utley and Jim Thome.
6. Is this most competitive division in baseball?
If it isn't, it certainly is most improved (discounting Mets, of course). Marlins and Nationals are due for big jumps in victory totals; Phillies and Braves are steady as they go.
7. Why does everyone seem to be writing the Braves off?
They have some age and health issues, too, most of them centered around Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones. But this is still solid team built around pitching. If Jason Heyward and Freeman have big seasons, watch out.
8. Can the Mets use Johan Santana as trade bait to help in rebuilding?
Given his bounce back from elbow surgery, Santana would be valuable piece for contender. But Mets need people in stands more.
9. If Davey Johnson said the Nationals can fire him without a division championship, will they?
It probably depends how close they come, something not helped with closer Drew Storen and outfielder Michael Morse injured at the start. But don't forget two wild cards can come from this division, even though that is highly unlikely.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Predicted finish, records
1. Brewers, 90-72
2. Reds, 84-78
3. Cardinals, 78-84
4. Cubs, 76-86
5. Pirates, 74-88
6. Astros, 58-104
Pennants, wild cards since 1995: 4, 2.
Average payroll: $83.4 million (fifth of six divisions)
Landscape changing move: Prince Fielder leaving the Brewers. Big boppers aren't easy to replace, especially for any team not in the AL East.
Lasting regret: The Cardinals not begging Tony La Russa to return. Maybe he really didn't want to, but he's difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
You can count on: Annual rumors swirling about whether Dusty Baker will survive the season. If the Reds don't get out of the gate fast ...
All-division team: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, RP John Axford, Brewers; C Yadier Molina, Cardinals; 1B Joey Votto, Reds; 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds; SS Starlin Castro, Cubs, 3B, Aramis Ramirez, Brewers; LF Ryan Braun, Brewers; CF Drew Stubbs, RF Carlos Beltran, Cardinals.
MVP: Votto, Reds. It's his time with Fielder gone and Ryan Braun mentally iffy. Worth considering: Braun, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday.
Cy Young: Gallardo. With Chris Carpenter hurting, he may be the next best. Worth considering: Edinson Volquez, Matt Graza, Adam Wainwright.
Rookie of the Year: Brett Jackson, Cubs. It won't be long before the team finds a taker for center fielder Marlon Byrd. Worth considering: C Devin Mesoraco, Reds; RHP Wily Peralta, Brewers.
Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, Brewers. Keeping his team on top without Fielder will be a chore worth noting.
1. Will the Cardinals miss Albert Pujols more than the combination of La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan?
How about a tie? Pujols' numbers are irreplaceable, especially by Carlos Beltran, but casual observers miscalculate the confidence two veteran coaching minds can bring.
2. So Mike Matheny will be a bust as a rookie manager?
Not necessarily. But succeeding a World Series winning manager, he may have inherited the hardest job in baseball.
3. Was Cardinals' David Freese a postseason aberration or has he finally arrived as an offensive force?
TBD. Freese is 28 but the Cardinals need more than his 10 homers and 55 RBIs during the season, although they can't expect as much as his five homers and 21 RBIs in 18 postseason games.
4. Can Aramis Ramirez, playing in cozy Miller Park, come close to the power numbers of Prince Fielder?
Probably, although he certainly won't be the clubhouse presence of the younger Fielder. And he doesn't want to be either.
5. How much will NL MVP Braun miss the security blanket of Fielder?
Short answer: Yes. But Braun has his own problems and anything less than MVP numbers will lead only to more doubt after his drug suspension was overturned.
6. Can the Reds at least grab one of the wild-card spots?
It's not a great start to a season when the closer (Ryan Madson) is lost to surgery, but they have a very good young starting rotation and very good young lineup. Now, if Drew Stubbs could fulfill expectations ...
7. The Theo Trio (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod) can't turn around the Cubs in one season like they did the Red Sox, can they?
No, no, no. Forget all those "genius" tags applied to the Trio, their real work is changing the "Cubbie Culture" that permeated the organization.
8. Is this the year the Pirates finish .500 or will they forever be spinning their wheels with draft picks like Pedro Alvarez?
They will be better and division is weak, but 14 more victories may be too much for a revitalized and relaxed A.J. Burnett and the rest of Clint Hurdle's crew to accomplish.
9. Does anybody in Houston really care whether the Astros soon will be moving to a different league?
Or ... can anybody name the starting eight for the Astros? The real question for the Astros is whether they can dump the big contracts of Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Predicted finish, records
1. Diamondbacks, 90-72
2. Giants, 86-76
3. Dodgers, 84-78
4. Rockies, 76-86
5. Padres, 72-90
Pennants, wild cards since 1995: 4, 1.
Average payroll: $82.2 million (Sixth of six divisions).
Landscape changing move: Sale of Dodgers to group Magic Johnson fronts may not mean much this season -- except in perception -- but for the future, watch out. Dodgers are poised to outspend every team in the West.
Lasting regret: Commissioner's office will take years trying to forget its lack of foresight in allowing under-funded Frank McCourt to buy prized franchise and drive it into the ground amid a bitter divorce.
You can count on: Complaints from hitters in San Diego about the huge ballpark. These have replaced the complaints from pitchers in Colorado about the thin air.
All-division team: SP Tim Lincecum, Giants; RP Brian Wilson, Giants; C Buster Posey, Giants; 1B Todd Helton, Rockies; 2B Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks; SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; 3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants; LF Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; CF Matt Kemp, Dodgers; RF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks.
MVP: Matt Kemp, Dodgers. What more could you want than a talented player using free agency as motivation? Worth considering: Justin Upton, Tulowitzki, Sandoval.
Cy Young: Lincecum, Giants. Best until someone proves he isn't, despite a mediocre spring. Worth considering: Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, Madison Bumgarner, Giants.
Rookie of the Year: LHP Drew Pomeranz, Rockies. Big things expected of left-hander. Worth considering: C Wilin Rosario, Rockies, RHP Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks.
Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks. Winning is one thing, repeating is another. The second one is harder.
1. Can Jamie Moyer, at 49 and coming off elbow surgery, still pitch?
Apparently so, as the Rockies, have slated him as their No. 2 starter. Moyer has had a fascinating career and wants to go at least until he's 50. At least surgery shouldn't hurt his velocity.
2. Are Diamondbacks for real or a one-year aberration?
No, what happened last year is for real. Despite an injury to Stephen Drew, the D-backs have good young talent that now has confidence.
3. Pitching wins divisions and the Giants have the best, right?
Without doubt, Giants have best pitching in division, with four of their starters receiving Cy Young votes. But someone has to hit for them, and that has been the problem since the exit of Barry Bonds.
4. Will Magic's group have enough money to pay Kemp?
Sure. But wouldn't Kemp's bat look awfully good in that Giants lineup? They must be saving some future money to buy a hitter.
5. What's up with Padres front office now that Jeff Moorad has departed?
No one is quite sure. John Moores is back in control but future is muddled. Padres' value never has been higher, thanks to a new television deal worth as much as $1 billion. Buyers will be lined up.
6. Will Padres regret trading first base prospect Anthony Rizzo to Cubs and replacing him with Yonder Alonso?
Scouts believe Alonso will be a better hitter in spacious Petco Park than Rizzo would have been. Plus, Padres grabbed Andrew Cashner, their closer of the future, from the Cubs.
7. Was Carlos Quentin a good acquisition for Padres?
So far, no. Predictably, Quentin begins his hometown career on disabled list. He has made at least one trip there every year of his career. At least Padres gave up only two minor leaguers in return.
8. Will Posey ever be the player he was before that gruesome broken leg?
Posey is catching, but questions remain whether he can handle physical strain. Safest decision may be first base. That makes top prospect Brandon Belt's development even more urgent.
9. Just what did the Diamondbacks see in Jason Kubel?
They saw home runs and RBIs. Apparently, they don't care about his defense, even though 40 percent of his games have been as Twins' DH.