With pitchers and catchers set to report soon, the start of the 2015 baseball season is on the horizon. With camps about to open, it is also never too early for predictions on who will take home the end of year hardware. This offseason has seen a flurry of player movement across the league, and in the National League, the moves figure to not only make an impact in playoff races, but for individual awards as well. Namely the NL Cy Young award, which projects to be a closely contested race with many big name arms.

Last season, Clayton Kershaw won the Cy Young award in runaway fashion, nearly doubling up the second place finish of Johnny Cueto. He also added the league MVP trophy to his resume as well. Impressively enough, the 98 point margin was actually closer than his victory in 2013. With Kershaw now having won three of the last four Cy Young Awards in easy fashion, in 2015, the landslide wins might just be over as well. If the ace left-hander aims to win the award for a third consecutive year, it will be against arguably his stiffest competition to date.

First, there is Cueto, who had quite a run during the summer last year to finish in second place for the award. He is also in a contract year, and he will be aiming to cash in at season’s end. A Cy Young Award finish would not hurt his case either. Then, there is Adam Wainwright, who started the All-Star Game last year over Kershaw. Over the last few years, he has been the most consistent and earned the most votes outside of Kershaw. This year projects to be no different.

Last October, the performance put on by Madison Bumgarner was like no other. Will he be able to ride that wave into this year all the way to his first Cy Young? Other guys who received votes last year, but are suddenly lost in the shuffle, are names like Jordan Zimmerman also in a contract year, Zack Greinke, and Cole Hamels. Those three names are arguably 15-game winners this season and may finish outside of the top-10 in Cy Young votes because the field is so deep.

This year, do not forget about guys returning from injury who are also capable of dethroning Kershaw. Guys like Cliff Lee who is a past winner, Matt Harvey who started the All-Star Game two years ago, and also the phenom that is Jose Fernandez.

Still not a deep enough field? How about adding Max Scherzera past winner from the American League, to the National League, in addition to Jon Lester. Also, James Shields could become another name added to the list depending on where he signs.

In 2015, the upper class of starting pitching will reside in the National League. There will be no shortage of ace performances on any given night in the senior circuit. Over the last few seasons, it has been Kershaw by leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. This year, that run may be over because of the competition around him. For individual purposes, the NL Cy Young race will certainly be one to watch.

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