2015 NL Central Preview

Sorry this is late, last few days have been busier than anticipated. Oh, and Happy Easter to all!

Let’s do this one from last to first.

5) Milwaukee

The Brewers have some good players, in Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy (who I think is overrated, but that’s a post for another day.) Their pitching staff needs a bit of work though, which places them on the outside looking in, in my opinion? Could they make a run? Sure, but that would require their rotation going above and beyond their expected performance, and I just don’t see it happening.

4) Cincinnati

Again, a team with good players in Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. This team is stronger than Milwaukee, and it’s rotation is solid, but will the offense be potent enough? They need a healthy and productive season from Votto, and big bounce back season from Jay Bruce, and Marlon Byrd to continue to defy age. it should be noted that Byrd’s WAR of 2.6 last year was nearly of the 5.1 he earned the previous year, and he alos only totaled a .312 OBP last year with the Phillies. He was solid overall, but not the 2013 version of himself, which is who the Reds really need. In the end, there’s too many issues with their core offensive players (Brandon Phillips and his 2 SB and .306 OBP anyone?) that it’s hard to pick them higher than fourth.

3) Chicago

To me this more 2B and 2A, with Chicago being 2B and Pittsburgh being 2A. I honestly thing the two teams will end up with the same record. Chicago, in my mind, has a good rotation, better than Pittsburgh’s. John Lester isn’t the only good pitcher there. Jake Arrieta also had a good year last year, and his BABIP last year was actually higher than his overall total in 2013, when the Cubs acquired him from Baltimore mid-season.They also have a stud first baseman in Mike Rizzo, a monster masher in waiting in Kris Bryant, and a lot of other young studs. The only reason they rank behind the Pirates is youth and instability. There’s been turnover at key spots, like catcher and #1 pitcher. How the young ones fare and how the new talent meshes with what’s there will determine where they finish. I’m hedging my bets here and placing them slightly behind the Pirates, but I can easily see them as a Wild Card contender.

2) Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh gets the slight edge over the Cubs with it’s offense and it’s bullpen. The offense is led by Cf Andrew McCutchen, a perennial MVP candidate. He’s not the only gem in that outfield though. Starling Marte had and excellent second season, and finished with a nice slash line of .291/.356/.453. if he keeps that up, he’ll be a regular in the Pirates outfield for a long time and will earn an all star vote or 5. They were joined last year by highly anticipated rookie Gregory Polanco. Polanco struggled a bit, posting a .235/.307/.343 slash line. It’s hard to see him struggling that much this year though. He got his feet wet last year, and now that he’s done that, I expect we’ll see him show off some of his tremendous upside. They have other solid bats too, like Neil Walker and Pedro Alverez, but it all depends on that outfield. If it gives a less than expected performance, the Pirates chances are sunk, as their rotation, while it has talent, it currently average at best. They have a nice bullpen, led buy closer Mark Melancon and relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes. However, they need to get to that point. Losing Russell Martin doesn’t help, as he worked well with the pitchers and had a .400 OBP to boot. Thus more pressure on that outfield to produce and give that bullpen a lead to protect.

1) St. Louis

Here’s all you need to know about the cards: Writers can’t find any glaring weaknesses. Ben Linbergh from Grantland says this “Finding a weakness on the Cardinals roster is the Kobayashi Maru test for team preview writers: There’s no satisfying solution.” I found this sentiment from several writers, the biggest hole anybody could find was the need of a better bench bat. If that’s your biggest weakness, you’re in pretty good shape. Sure there’s injury risk in the rotation, but we have Marco Gonzales just itchin’ to take a starters place if needed. Bourjos is a good outfield sub and can play regularly if needed, we have valid infield subs, and if one of those has to play regularly, we have a valid infield sub in the minors in Ty Kelly who can come up and slot into the other guys spot for a bit. We have plans for just about everything, though we probably could’ve upgraded at backup catcher. Otherwise, take a good lineup let by Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and now Jason Heyward among others, add a great rotation headed by the two headed ace-monster of Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, a solid bullpen, plan for just about every contingency, and what do you get? A division winner, at the very least.

That’ll do it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with award winners and playoff predictions.

As always, thanks for reading.

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