|NL Central, West Provide Suspense||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on August 15, 2011
Just like in the AL, the NL experienced a flurry of trade deadline deals, with teams gearing up for a tight postseason race. Several teams are still hanging around, but only four will earn the coveted playoff spots.
There are a few good races brewing so be sure to stay tuned to some high intensity baseball over the final month and a half in the NL. Here are At Home Plate's post-trade deadline NL playoff predictions:
Just to be certain, the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros to fill the void in right field. Star prospect Domonic Brown wasn't quite ready for big league action, but the team was able to hold onto him despite the trade for an All-Star caliber player.
While the Phillies may be tough to catch for the division, the Atlanta Braves are cruising to a Wild Card title. Dan Uggla is scorching hot right now after a slow start to this season, which has helped the offense tremendously.
The Braves made one of the more underrated trades of a busy trade deadline by acquiring Astros speedster Michael Bourn without giving up one of their top pitching prospects. Atlanta needed both a center fielder and a leadoff hitter (Nate McLouth just didn't cut it), so Bourn filled both those roles.
The Braves could be a dangerous team in a short series, especially since their starting pitching is top-notch.
Division Winner: Phillies
NL Wild Card: Braves
The NL Central was once a four-team race earlier this summer. However, it seems as though the Milwaukee Brewers are emerging as favorites.
The Brewers basically will rely on the personnel they've had all season to make a playoff push. The team did add Francisco Rodriguez for basically nothing to serve as the setup man for John Axford.
The tandem of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder has been deadly, so expect that trend to continue over the final months.
The Cardinals are hanging on by a thread. Head-to-head matchups with the Brewers may bring that back into the race, but losing those games will bury them. St. Louis had a busy trade deadline, acquiring Rafael Furcal, Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson while sending headache center fielder Colby Rasmus packing. However, these players might not be enough to get the Cards back to the postseason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were looking like the Cinderella team before the All-Star break, but they have faded since mid-July. But that didn't stop them from making two deadline acquisitions to bolster their offense: Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee.
The Pirates didn't give up any of their major prospects, but still appeared to going all in this season, especially since they hung onto Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit -- two players who seemed to be locks to be traded at the start of the season.
Unfortunately, the Pirates' streak of consecutive losing seasons is in jeopardy of increasing.
Division Winner: Brewers
It's a two-horse race out in the NL West, and they're basically neck-in-neck.
The Giants made one of the biggest splashes of the trade deadline by acquiring the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran of the Mets. Though the team was forced to deal its top pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler, San Francisco felt it got the best available hitter on the market.
However, Beltran has already missed some time due to a wrist injury. The team desperately needs his bat in the lineup if it is to make a run at the crown.
The Giants also brought in veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera, but he's more of a role player at this stage in his career rather than an impact player.
Against all odds, the Arizona Diamondbacks was been the surprise team of the year after being picked to finish near the bottom of the division. The starting pitching has been stellar, and the team has gotten just enough clutch hitting to scratch out close victories.
All the team did at the deadline was add reliever Brad Ziegler from the Athletics. Though the team's momentum may just be enough to carry them into the postseason, it's tough to bet against the defending World Champions.
Division Winner: Giants