2013 MLB Predictions: National League

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Athlon Sports picks this season's NL division and award winners

<p> Athlon Sports picks this season's National League division and award winners</p>

The 2013 MLB season kicks off with Houston hosting Texas on Sunday night. It's an appropriate season opener considering the Astros are now members of the American League. Another change this season is that interleague play will take place year-round starting wtih Cincinnati, Athlon Sports' pick to win the NL Central again, opening its season by hosting against the Los Angeles Angels.

Just as is the case in the AL, the NL will feature plenty of new faces in new places. For starters, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton have been reunited in Atlanta, while Zack Greinke signed a six-year, $147 million contract to join the Dodgers. Other players in new NL uniforms this season include Shin-Soo Choo, Kyle Lohse, Martin Prado, Ben Revere, Rafael Soriano and Denard Span. All eyes also will be on this season's batch of up-and-coming players to see if anyone will have an impact on their team similar to what Mike Trout or Bryce Harper accomplished last season.

Related: 2013 AL Predictions

2013 National League Predictions

NL East
1. Washington
2. Atlanta (Wild Card)
3. Philadelphia
4. New York
5. Miami

Last season marked the end of a five-year run atop the NL East for the Phillies. The young Nationals won the division a year before even they expected. And they won it with their ace, Stephen Strasburg, finishing the season on the sidelines. Washington’s star is still rising and the brightest young star is Bryce Harper. The Nats’ rotation is among the best in baseball, and their bullpen features three legitimate closers. The Braves’ bullpen can match the Nationals, but that’s where the comparisons end. Atlanta fans can’t wait to see how well the Upton brothers jell alongside Jason Heyward. The Phillies’ run of titles may have ended, but the aging team isn’t ready to concede anything. Philadelphia’s bullpen, its Achilles heel in 2012, should be better with the addition of Mike Adams. The Mets and Marlins will be among the worst teams in the league.

NL Central
1. Cincinnati
2. St. Louis
3. Milwaukee
4. Pittsburgh
5. Chicago

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to come within a game of the World Series in 2012 after losing Albert Pujols to free agency and manager Tony La Russa to retirement. But they were nine games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who have improved their lineup this season. The Reds were without MVP candidate Joey Votto for more than a month last season and survived. The Reds should maintain a slight edge over their rivals from St. Louis. The Brewers made a last-minute deal with starter Kyle Lohse to bolster their rotation. The offense was among the best in the NL last season and should follow that with another strong season. The bullpen must be much better in order for the Brew Crew to contend. For the last two seasons, the conventional thinking was that the Pirates would end their much-publicized streak of losing seasons. They’ll make another run at .500 this season, and it will be close. The Cubs will not make a run at breakeven.

NL West
1. San Francisco
2. Los Angeles (Wild Card)
3. Arizona
4. San Diego
5. Colorado

Last summer at the trade deadline, the Dodgers added Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Giants added Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. Advantage San Francisco. The Giants stretched out a lead and rode MVP Buster Posey to their second World Series title in three years. The Giants still have the advantage over their rivals to the south. Arizona traded their best hitter in Justin Upton, but strengthened their bullpen and rotation. The Diamondbacks should be improved over 2012, but not enough to contend. San Diego has moved the fences in at Petco Park, but that won’t boost the offense enough to hang with the division leaders. The Colorado Rockies will have a decent lineup, but the pitching will struggle.

NLCS
Washington over San Francisco

World Series
Detroit over Washington

NL MVP
1. Joey Votto, Reds
2. Buster Posey, Giants
3. Matt Kemp, Dodgers
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
5. Ryan Braun, Brewers
6. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
7. David Wright, Mets
8. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
9. Justin Upton, Braves
10. Matt Holliday, Cardinals

NL Cy Young
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
3. Cole Hamels, Phillies
4. Matt Cain, Giants
5. Craig Kimbrel, Braves

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
2. Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
3. Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs

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