Ranking the toughest early NL schedules

Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds face St. Louis and Pittsburgh in nine of their first 12 games. AP Photo/Al Behrman

Last week we ranked the difficulty of the American League schedules in the early part of the season, with the Houston Astros having the toughest and the Baltimore Orioles having the smoothest path into mid-May.

Today we give you the National League rankings. In the years since we started doing this, I cannot recall a team with a better opportunity to break away to a strong start than what the Washington Nationals have in 2015.

From most difficult to the easiest:

1. Cincinnati Reds

Early-season games against teams that finished over .500 last year: 27 of their first 39 games.

Home/away: Nineteen of their first 39 are at home.

Noteworthy: They seem to be one of the teams on the contender bubble going into the season, and they will be tested immediately, opening with nine of their first 12 games against the Cardinals (six) and Pirates (three).