I am a northeastern Ohioian, so my allegiance follows the Cleveland Indians and I follow mostly American League baseball teams. But a year ago, I entered a National League only fantasy baseball league; so I started to follow the NL more closely. This year, I have noticed a growing trend in the NL....there are some super-talented, young NL teams that are poised to make a run, if not this year, but in the years to come.
The Cincinnati Reds look like they have finally figured it out. With some good young pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez, and Homer Bailey (AAA) to go along with Adam Harang (still only 29), they are building a solid starting rotation. Add super second baseman Brandon Phillips (26), 1B Joey Votto (24), 3B Ed Encarnacion (25), OF Adam Dunn (28), and future star OF Jay Bruce (AAA), the Reds could be making some noise in the future.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have long been a laughing stock, but they may be on to something with a young, talented pitching staff. Matt Capps is a 24 year old who has the makings of a top-notch closer. The starting staff of Duke, Gorzelanny, Maholm, Snell and Dumatrait averages only 25. They are going to have to develop some young infielders, but the outfield has potential, especially when you throw in super-prospect Andrew McCutchen.
The Milwaukee Brewers started to show signs of life last year, with star first baseman Prince Fielder (23) leading the way. But Fielder isn't the only talented young player on their roster. The middle infield combo of JJ Hardy and Ricky Weeks are only 25. Although Bryan Braun (24) had his troubles fielding at third base, the move to the outfield will enable him to concentrate on what he does best...crush a baseball! OF Corey Hart (26) also is a key component to the Brewers re-emergence. The bull-pen is pretty old, but there are some solid up and coming starters in Manny Parra (25) and Yovanni Gallardo (22) on the roster. Ben Sheets is a solid number 1 starter and only turned 29 this year.
The Florida Marlins continue to tear down and build up with young talent as well as any team in baseball. They have a bevy of talented young pitchers in Andrew Miller (22), Scott Olsen (24), Anibel Sanchez (24), Josh Johnson (24), Ricky Nolasco (25), Ranyel Pinto (25) and Taylor Tankersley (25)...even if some of them can't stay healthy or out of trouble (Olsen). They have arguably the best young SS in the league in Hanley Ramirez and star in the making outfielder Jeremy Hermidia to go with some good young veterans in Jorge Cantu, Mike Jacobs and Dan Uggla. Depite Uggla's young age, there has even been talk of moving his solid bat to make room for 2B prospect Chris Coghlin. All that with potential 40-40 outfielder Cameron Maybin in AAA.
The Colorado Rockies may have made a run at the World Series last year, but they are built for the long haul as well. Stud outfielders Matt Holiday and Brad Hawpe are only 28, rookie of the year SS Troy Tulowitski is only 23, and break-out pitcher Jeff Francis is only 27. The Rockies also have some great young arms in Ubaldo Jimenez (24) and Franklyn Morales (22) along with closer Manny Corpus (25). The best maybe yet to come in AAA third baseman Ian Stewart, whom they have contemplated moving to 2B if Todd Helton or Garrett Atkins aren't moved.
Last, but certainly not least, are the Arizona Diamondbacks. They might possess some of the best young talent in the major leagues in 1B Conor Jackson, 3B Mark Reynolds, SS Stephen Drew, C Miguel Montero, and outfielders Chris Young, Alex Romero and 20-year old Justin Upton. Upton may be one of those "once in a lifetime" type players who has been described by teammate Orlando Hudson as a "ten-tool player."Keep in mind that all-star pitchers Brandon Webb and newly acquired Dan Haren are only 28 and 27 respectively and Micah Owings is starting to show why he was the overall number one pick. They also have a still-developing arm available in Yusmeiro Petit (only 23). The future looks real bright for the Diamondbacks.
In fact, despite not mentioning a couple of other National League teams, just about every team in the NL has a young star or future star. David Wright of the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley (AAA) of the Padres, Hunter Pence of the Astros, Yunel Escobar of the Braves (along with a number of top minor league prospects), Lastings Milledge of the Nationals, ...I could go on and on. The fact is, the national league is really going to be fun to watch for years to come.