Are the Nationals legit? -John from D.C.
They are, John. They’re currently in first place in the National League East, but that’s not the root of the optimism. The recent call-up of 19 year-old Bryce Harper should help out a struggling offense while the pitching staff leads the Major Leagues with a 2.33 earned run average. They have a nice balance of young talent -Harper and starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez- as well as proven veterans like Jayson Werth in the outfield. The payroll has increased each of the last six seasons and is currently at $81 million, giving them flexibility to re-sign guys or fill holes through free-agency.
What’s the best story of the first month? -Jason from Albuquerque
The Dodgers. More specifically, center fielder Matt Kemp. He hit his 12th home run of the season Monday night against the Rockies and is hitting .417 through 23 games. As of Tuesday morning, Kemp leads the Majors in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and is tied for first with 25 RBI. After a tumultuous 2011 in which former owner Frank McCourt went through divorce proceedings that put the team’s immediate future in limbo, the new ownership group -which includes Magic Johnson- has settled things down and the Dodgers lead the National League West by 3.5 games.
Is Adam Wainwright’s rough start following Tommy John surgery a concern? -Mike from St. Louis
Wainwright’s 0-3 record and 7.32 earned run average certainly isn’t something to celebrate, Mike, but no. Not for now at least. Wainwright didn’t have season-ending Tommy John surgery until March of last year. The typical recovery time is 12-15 months, and while it would have been nice to see the Wainwright of old this April after roughly 13 months off, his velocity and location tell us he’s still not fully recovered. Unfortunately, we won’t know much until June.
Is this finally the Cubs’ year? -Steve from the North Side
Well, before the Rangers can lose in the World Series again, they have to win the American League. Their 17-6 record gives them the best mark in the league and the offense is deadly. They rank first in the AL in runs, batting average and slugging percentage. Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish lead a solid pitching staff and the boys from Arlington look to be the favorites in the American League.
Now, can they finally get by a National League squad?
Their biggest obstacles look to be the Dodgers or Cardinals, and the Rangers are more talented than both clubs. Then again, they should have beaten the Giants in 2010 and Cardinals in 2011. They’ll lose to the Dodgers in 6 games and be one step away from joining the Bills.
Which last place team will win its division? -Ryan from Miami
I want to say the Marlins in that wide-open National League East, but the Angels are too good of a pick right now. The lineup of Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Kendrys Morales and Albert Pujols is too good to stay behind the A’s and Mariners for much longer. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren anchor one of the (potentially) best pitching staffs in the game and the Angels should begin to challenge the Rangers in the West shortly.