Major League Baseball predictions are in fashion at this time of year. When the Al-Star break is over, it signifies the latter portion of the season starting in a lot of fans' minds. Pennant races and Wild Card races are going to start to take shape in the weeks ahead. In this article, predictions for the NL-side of things will be offered with regard to the Chicago Cubs, the NL's Cy Young Award, and a noteworthy peripheral contender.

Chicago Cubs not to make playoffs

One team that made a move recently was the Cubs. They traded farm prospects for a proven arm in Jose Quintana.

However, the former Chi Sox pitcher isn't top notch and might only be a mild upgrade compared to Cubs' starters that he should take some starts away from.

Chicago enters this weekend one game below .500 and 5.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers. The recent trade probably won't pay off enough and given the situation in the National League if Chicago doesn't win their division they probably won't be in the Wild Card game. Colorado and Arizona are both well ahead of Chicago in the standings. Even if one of them fade the Cubs' record will have to out-compete teams like Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, and even Pittsburgh. Look for the Cubs to miss the playoffs this year, one year after winning the World Series.

In the NL West, it's getting increasingly difficult to look past the Los Angeles Dodgers as the eventual division winners. They have been on a tear this summer and they've buried a .589 team in Arizona in the standings, a team that is now 8.5 games back. With Clayton Kershaw 14-2 on the season, he's impossible to ignore as a Cy Young favorite.

Not only is he likely to win the award, but he could even win 25 games this season. That prediction is as much a compliment to his ability as it is to the Dodgers as a whole since pitching wins have a lot to do with run production and bullpen help.

Atlanta Braves to mix things up?

As for peripheral contenders, the Atlanta Braves aren't actually out of the mix.

The number of games that are played in Major League Baseball makes the season for giving. You can play below average for months and still have scores of games to improve your winning percentage with. Atlanta enters the weekend playing .489 baseball and they might actually get over .500 soon. They've chipped away at Washington for a few weeks now and might be able to turn the NL East into a pennant race by September.

But there also appears to be big problems with the Rockies right now. If those problems continue, then Atlanta has more strength than people realize. Fans should be looking for the Braves to get into either the pennant race or the Wild Card race this summer. After all, teams still have more than 70 games to change the standings with. The non-waiver trade deadline is on July 31st and there should be a lot of changes soon.