Bold predictions: Harper wins Triple Crown, Cubs rule NL Central in '16

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If ESPN.com's MLB experts are correct, it'll be a banner year for Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper -- and for the Chicago Cubs. We begin our bold predictions for 2016 with a team-by-team look at the National League.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

I've already pegged Freddie Freeman for a career year and Arodys Vizcaino for a breakout season as a closer. So that's accentuating the positive for a Braves team that won't be very good. Reflecting that, I'll predict that Julio Teheran will become MLB's first 20-game loser since Mike Maroth lost 21 games for the 2001 Tigers. You have to be good enough to stay in a rotation while pitching for a bad team, and that sounds like Teheran and the Braves in 2016. -- Christina Kahrl

Miami Marlins

Shouldn't the Marlins get a special "weird predictions" category all to themselves? Spend more for their ugly home run sculpture than they do on most players? Did that. Make their GM their manager despite never managing before? Already did that with Dan Jennings last year, to their mutual regret. Put Barry Bonds back in uniform? Doing that now, as he'll be the team's hitting coach in 2016. With Jeffrey Loria and his crew, you just never know. So let's stick to something simple and say Giancarlo Stanton has a healthy season and his first 40-homer campaign. -- Christina Kahrl

New York Mets

Matt Harvey wins the Cy Young Award. Harvey had an extraordinary first season back from Tommy John surgery, posting a 2.71 ERA while logging 189 1/3 regular-season innings. Pitchers typically do better their second year back from the procedure. In fact, Adam Wainwright shed a full run from his ERA in Year 2 after Tommy John surgery. -- Adam Rubin

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies lost 99 games in 2015, compiling their worst winning percentage since the 1972 team went 59-97, and the major move of the offseason was trading closer Ken Giles to the Astros. Did they hit rock bottom? Probably, since the rotation can't possibly be as bad as last year's horrid collection that produced a 5.23 ERA. One reason it will be better: Vincent Velasquez, the talented right-hander acquired in the Giles deal. Look for him to make 25 to 27 starts and post an ERA under 3.25 -- and become the staff ace. -- David Schoenfield

Washington Nationals

Bryce Harper leads the National League in home runs, becoming the first NL hitter to reach 50 taters since Prince Fielder in 2007. Thanks to a healthier Nats lineup that offers both more table setting and protection, he also leads the league in RBIs en route to winning his second consecutive MVP award and becoming the youngest player to win the Triple Crown since Ty Cobb more than a century ago. -- Eddie Matz

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Not only will the Cubs win the Central Division of the National League in 2016, they'll do it in wire-to-wire fashion. From opening night in Anaheim to the final day of the season in Cincinnati, the Cubs will be atop the division. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll win more games (97) than they did in 2015, but it's unlikely both the Cardinals and Pirates will win 100 and 98 again, respectively. Avoiding the uncertainty of a one-game wild-card contest is a goal for the Cubs -- and they'll achieve it, by leading from start to finish. -- Jesse Rogers

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds aren't going to be good, so they might as well try to make themselves interesting. One way they can do that? By eliminating all signs to Billy Hamilton when he's on the basepaths beyond "Go, baby, go!" and letting him become the first player to steal more than 80 bases in a season since Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson both did it almost three decades ago, back in 1988. -- Christina Kahrl

Milwaukee Brewers

They're going to lose 100 games for just the second time in franchise history, but where the first time (in 2002) led to heads rolling in the front office and the dugout, in 2016 that will just secure the top pick in the 2017 draft and the obligatory stories about an MLB team getting the benefit of tanking. What makes that interesting is that the Brewers have a good amount of talent already in their farm system, but it won't be ready to make a big difference this year. They'll be back sooner than you think. -- Christina Kahrl

Pittsburgh Pirates

You're finally going to have a reason to remember former blue-chip prospect Jameson Taillon. That might not sound like a big deal -- pitching prospects blow out all the time, right? But after losing two years on the mound to injury, Taillon will be back, he'll make his big league debut, and he'll even steal some of the thunder from fellow rookie Tyler Glasnow as the Buccos make a big break from their "Gerrit Cole and the Retreads" rep on the mound. -- Christina Kahrl

St. Louis Cardinals

Predicting that Adam Wainwright is going to prove he's back from last year's Achilles injury isn't a big deal -- it's Wain-o, he looked good pitching out of the pen in September and October, and after losing 2011 to injury, he has already demonstrated an ability to recover fully from a significant injury. So he'll win NL Comeback Player of the Year? Nah, not bold enough -- of course he will. Which he'll do by leading the National League in wins. -- Christina Kahrl

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

There will be a lot of people making this bold prediction: The D-backs will win the NL West. On paper, however, the D-backs still slot behind the Dodgers and Giants, as they have little offense at second base or shortstop, Yasmany Tomas is a wild card in right field (they'll miss Ender Inciarte's defense) and I'm not sold on the rotation behind Zack Greinke. So my bold prediction: The D-backs don't win the division, but they do win a wild card and that will help Paul Goldschmidt, two-time MVP runner-up, win NL MVP honors. -- David Schoenfield

Colorado Rockies

Righty Jon Gray looked pretty good in his initial introduction to the majors, striking out 40 men in 40 2/3 innings before being shut down for hitting his workload limit. Given a full season in The Show, he'll put up the best rookie season by a Rockie in franchise history, cracking the team's all-time single-season top 10 in strikeouts (he'll need 151 or more) and threatening to become just the 10th Rockies pitcher ever to post an ERA below 4.00 in a 162-game season. -- Christina Kahrl

Los Angeles Dodgers

Nobody will be complaining about the Dodgers' lack of flashy offseason moves when Corey Seager emerges as one of the top five players in the National League and Clayton Kershaw leads a rotation that has better depth than any the Dodgers have had since their glory days. It will be another lesson that pulling off a few shrewd moves is usually wiser than trying to buy your core via free agency. The Dodgers remain the class of the NL West. -- Mark Saxon

San Diego Padres

The first-year fireworks from GM A.J. Preller were exciting stuff on the wheeling-and-dealing front, but now that the razzle-dazzle has died down, this is going to be a straightforward rebuild from an exec with a scout's nose for talent. So what's the prediction? Preller is going to trade James Shields by Opening Day. Who to? Whoever is most ready to peddle talent to reinforce a rotation and a bid to win in 2016. -- Christina Kahrl

San Francisco Giants

Well, it is an even-numbered year, which, if history is a guide, means these guys could do damage if they sneak into the playoffs. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija will help, of course, but the Giants still don't have great starting pitching depth and their outfield is beginning to age. One more offseason addition would help, but the Giants still don't look like a lock to get in. If they do, all bets are off. -- Mark Saxon