After taking a look at the NL East last week, we’ll continue our tour through the National League and (attempt to) predict where each of the Central teams will end up at the end of the season. Of course, this is all dependent on the top players staying healthy.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Up until the Cardinals recent trade for Nolan Arenado, this looked like a very week division with no clear standout team, but now they are the clear favorite. Arenado is arguably the best 3rd baseman in the game right now, and he’ll be a major upgrade over Matt Carpenter, who has fallen off a cliff over the past two years. Tommy Edman, Paul DeJong, and Paul Goldschmidt round out the core of this team on offense. The big questions for this team: where will the regressions of veterans Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright place them this year? And, more broadly, what pitching threats do they have outside of Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks? We’ll see who may emerge as the season goes on.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
Kolton Wong was a good get for this team. I’m curious how Keston Hiura will acclimate for 1st base, but at least they can put Daniel Vogelbach there if needed. I expect Christian Yelich to bounce back this year, and the pitching is strong at the top (Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes as their top 2 starters and Devin Williams and Josh Hader their top relievers). They should be in a good position to fight for a wild card spot, although I’m not sure if they can seriously challenge the Cardinals for 1st in the NL Central.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds went all-in last offseason, signing Shogo Akiyama, Mike Moustakas, and Nick Castellanos to add to their core. Now, they have a lineup with good offensive potential but terrible defensive potential, especially in the outfield. And now there’s no DH to help with that. Cincy should have a solid offense and average pitching (as long as Sonny Gray continues his resurgence), but I don’t think it will be enough for them to make it to the playoffs. Regardless of how this season turns out for Joey Votto, he will always have a special place in my heart.
4. Chicago Cubs
I really like this Cubs team, but it doesn’t look too good for them. They lost Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester, replacing one well (Joc Peterson for Schwarber) but not the other (Jake Arrieta and Trevor Williams for Lester). They may trade Kris Bryant, but David Bote can slot in at 3rd, and depending on who they get back, they might gain some other pieces to help them out. Javier Baez is a top player, and Peterson can retain at least some of the offense Schwarber provided. Where this team will go all depends on what they can squeeze out from Arrieta and Williams (which may not be much). I expect them to nip at the heels of the Reds.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
I totally forgot that the Pirates were in this division while writing; that’s how irrelevant they are. They do have some solid pieces, like Colin Moran and Adam Frazier, and prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes is expected to play in the big leagues most of next season, but there’s not enough here to win very many games. Also, is Cole Tucker actually going to be what we expected him to be this year? Don’t worry though, Pirates fans, you have the #1 pick and Kumar Rocker will be in the MLB before you know it.
And that’s my NL Central predictions! I think it’ll be close between 2nd and 4th, but 1st seems like the Cardinals to lose at this point. Let me know what you think in the comments below, and where you think some of the other teams might end up in following articles!
(Note: The original posting of this article did not include the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite it being in my autosave. Sorry!)
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