NL Central Division Picks



Photo by Time Magazine



National League – Central Division predictions

 

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Cincinnati Reds

 

Chicago Cubs

From top to bottom the NL Central Division is one of the most improved divisions in the Major Leagues with every team bolstering its lineups.

The Chicago Cubs remain the top club to beat with its strong pitching staff that includes a healthy Yu Darvish this year. Health is an important issue for this team especially with its pitching staff. How much more does Jon Lester and Cole Hamels have left in their arms? Also, both of their closers Pedro Strop and Brandon Morrow are 33 and 34 respectively. That’s ancient for closers.

Returning to the team will be shortstop Addison Russell who was lost to suspension because the spousal abuse policy. His return stabilizes the team’s defense and allows Javi Baez to return to his normal position. If Kris Bryant can remain healthy the team can start strong instead of waiting to get hot in the second half of the season. They have been to the top before and know how to get there.

Again, let’s repeat the all-important phrase “health will determine their outcome this year.”

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Last year the Milwaukee Brewers behind the best bullpen in baseball caught the Cubs and went to the playoffs. They almost beat the Los Angeles Dodgers but were defeated by lack of depth.

The Brewers signed ex-Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal to add hitting to a position they did not have last year. They also wanted someone experienced to lead their pitching staff and Grandal has plenty of experience.

Though the Brewers have a great bullpen they still lack starting pitching to compete with Chicago and St. Louis. Again they enter the season without depth in their starting rotation. Maybe someone in the minor leagues is ready to step up and assist Jhoulys Chacin and Chase Anderson their only dependable returning starters. They are praying that Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson fully recovered from injuries.

Returning to lead the hitting attack is Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich. If he can repeat last season then they have a solid chance to win the division. Health is key for the Brewers organization. We predict the Brewers and Cardinals will end in a tie for second place.

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Despite a slow start the St. Louis Cardinals ended up winning 88 games and coming very close to catching the Cubs and Brewers in front of them. This year they signed elite slugger Paul Goldschmidt and relief pitcher Andrew Miller. Both will boost the team closer to playoff contention.

Pitching has always been key to the Cardinal’s success and this year they approach 2019 knowing they have the arms to carry them forward. Even though they lost Carlos Martinez to injury they still have good pitching in Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha and John Flaherty.  Their old ace Adam Wainwright still remains but is a shadow of his old self.

The bullpen remains the weakness on their team and they hope Miller can solve that. Health is an issue for their ageing players like Miller, Wainwright and position players Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina. After 162 games the Cardinals will be tied with the Brewers for second place.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates consist of a bunch of no-name players that simply do their jobs very well. No longer do they have marquee pitchers but they do have solid pitchers who can stop the other teams. Hurlers like Chris Archer, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams are effective. Add closer Felipe Vazquez, Richard Rodriguez and Jordan Lyles and you can understand why it’s difficult to score runs on Pittsburgh.

Hitting and defense is their weakness. They can get on base but they don’t have a lot of power like the other teams in their division. There’s also not a lot of speed outside of Starling Marte who stole 33 bases last year. They look to repeat what they did last year or slightly improve. Defensively they are average. It could hurt them.

 

Cincinnati Reds

Only one other team added as many new names as the Cincinnati Reds. Both hitting and pitching will benefit greatly from the new additions coming to their roster.

Pitching was especially needed and they brought in Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark to their starting rotation. Instantly the Reds cured what they needed, but will it be enough? Wood was an All Star just a few years ago and Gray was too, Roark has always been steady but they will be pitching in one of the most notorious ballparks. It’s a virtual hitter’s paradise. Can they handle it?

The Reds also brought in Dodger sluggers Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer and all can swing the bat. Health and durability is an issue for Kemp but Puig and Farmer are still young. Expect them to help lengthen the Reds lineup.

Joey Votto has long been their super star and last year Scooter Gennett stepped up his game. But Gennett suffered an injury and will be at least a month out of the lineup. Still, the Reds will improve dramatically and change the division race. Look for them to compete.

 

 

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