2014-MLB-Baseball-Picks-and-Odds2014 MLB National League Pennant Odds and Predictions: Favorites, Contenders and Sleepers: The National League has been full of comers and goers in recent years. Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals have remained pretty steady, but while the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants have taken a step back, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds have all emerged as contenders. The NL Central in particular has become a serious power player the past couple of seasons. With the hierarchy of the NL continuing to evolve, here is a closer look at how the contenders stack up heading into the 2014 MLB season.

The Favorites

It has cost a pretty penny to assemble the team, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have become a serious force in the National League. With Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, the outfield alone is intimidating, and having Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in the infield makes for an absolutely loaded lineup. On the mound, defending Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke form a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, and flame-thrower Kenley Jansen is there to slam the door in the ninth. It’s tough to find a more talented team in either league in 2014.

They have been to the NLCS in each of the past three seasons, and the St. Louis Cardinals probably aren’t going anywhere in 2014. Stalwarts Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig are all back for one of the steadiest lineups in baseball, and highly-touted prospects Kolten Wong and Oscar Tavarez are set to join the mix this year. Meanwhile, ace Adam Wainwright leads a rotation that is loaded with talented youngsters, and just about everyone in the St. Louis bullpen can reach triple digits on the radar gun. The depth the Cardinals have is almost unfair.

The Contenders

A year after winning 96 games and claiming the NL East crown, the Atlanta Braves could be even better in 2014. First baseman Freddie Freeman is becoming a legitimate star at the plate, and in addition to getting a healthy Jason Heyward in the lineup, it is hard to imagine B.J. and Justin Upton playing as poorly again this season. On the mound, Atlanta will welcome back Brandon Beachy to a young, deep rotation, and dominant closer Craig Kimbrel headlines a great bullpen.

Although the 2013 season didn’t go as planned, the Washington Nationals still managed to win 86 games after a horribly slow start. Meanwhile, the 2014 Nationals look an awful lot like the team that won 98 games in 2012. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman form a solid trip in the middle of the lineup, and Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond are an intriguing double-play combination up the middle. Throw in a strong rotation led by Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg and a deep bullpen, and the Nationals should have one of the more consistent teams in the NL.

Sleeper Special

Although playoff success continues to elude them, the Cincinnati Reds have still managed to reach the postseason in each of the past three seasons. With their big names back and the addition of a few new pieces, the Reds should at least be back in the mix in 2014. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto give Cincinnati two big bats in the middle of the lineup, and rookie speedster Billy Hamilton could be a terror on the bases. The rotation and bullpen are also plenty formidable with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey headlining the starters and Aroldis Chapman lighting up the radar gun shutting the door in the ninth. If Cincinnati can avoid some of the health issues that plagued the team last year, a deep playoff run could be on tap.

Preseason Odds to win the 2014 NL Pennant

Los Angeles Dodgers
11/4
St. Louis Cardinals
19/4
Washington Nationals
11/2
San Francisco Giants
15/2
Atlanta Braves
9/1
Cincinnati Reds
10/1
Pittsburgh Pirates
14/1
Philadelphia Phillies
16/1
Arizona Diamondbacks
22/1
San Diego Padres
25/1
Chicago Cubs
28/1
Milwaukee Brewers
28/1
New York Mets
33/1
Colorado Rockies
40/1
Miami Marlins
50/1

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