Continuing with my March assignment for the United Cardinals Bloggers, it’s my National League Central Predictions blog. I will be doing an extensive Cardinals preview blog next week, so here is my brief take on them and the rest of the NL Central.
1. St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals seem to be the unanimous choice for the top of the heap in the Central, and they should be. If the pitching holds up, there should be no stopping them. They are good enough offensively to compete with most teams and are even better defensively this year than in recent ones.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – I am not as sold on the Pirates as a lot of people because of what Russell Martin meant to that team. I am on board with their outfield led by possibly overrated Andrew McCutchen, along with Starling Marte and a full season of the exciting Gregory Polanco. A.J. Burnett was brought in to help shoulder the loss of Martin in a leadership role and pitching hole left with the departure of Edison Volquez. He won’t be able to do either. Pirates are just out of the playoff picture.
3. Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers were in first place for 149 consecutive days last season. They may be there only once this year and that is in the first week of the season. I am not a fan of many of the players on this team. But Wily Peralta could have an All-Star season pitching for this team. Will his defense back him and will he have enough offense to help him? Adam Lind hopes to provide a bit of that but in the end you can only do so much to make a pig look pretty.
4. Chicago Cubs – Oh the Cubs. The team that made a lot of noise in the offseason. They can’t even get their stadium ready for opening day so what makes anyone think they can put together a competitive team. Their best player this spring, Kris Bryant, is starting the season in the minors because of a stupid MLB control of player rule. He should be back up in two weeks barring injury. I do like Anthony Rizzo and he should have a good year for them. Joe Maddon helps them as a manager and Jon Lester helps their pitching staff. But, in the end they are just the Cubs. There are flashes of brilliance here but not enough of the right pieces.
5. Cincinnati Reds – I like Joey Votto and I hope he can recover from his 2014. Aroldis Chapman should be exciting to watch close games for them if he stays healthy. With Johnny Cueto headed towards free agency, he is rumored to be moved at some point. I think Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce are on the backside of their careers. There just is not enough here in Cincinnati to put together enough wins to compete with the big guys. They may end up being the best of the last place teams in baseball.
This division could go so many ways. If Chicago gels as a team or the Milwaukee players stop thinking about themselves they could make things interesting. There could be less than 10-15 games separating this whole division.