Here are my predictions for the National League Central Division.
- Cincinnati Reds – I will not elaborate too much with the Reds because naturally, I will discuss them quite a bit on this blog. I will mention their positives though. They still have a very good pitching staff after one of the best seasons that they have had in a long time. They also have the best bullpen in the Majors even with the loss of Chapman to the starting rotation. Their lineup (while possibly a little bit left handed heavy) is still a big power house lineup. The five hitters that are going to be key to the Reds this year are Choo, Phillips, Votto, Bruce, and Ludwick. They look to repeat as division champions.
- St. Louis Cardinals – They seem to always be in the hunt for this division. They were very strong last year coming off of their 2011 World Series Championship. I think that they will be relatively the same as last year however. They have not made any real additions to their team. They added Randy Choate to their bullpen, but they lost Kyle Lohse. I know that I keep hearing that Shelby Miller will probably be in the mix for the 5th spot but he won’t be able to make up for what Kyle Lohse did for them. They still have a tremendous offense lead by Holliday and Molina in the majors. I think that they will give the Reds a run for their money in the division but they just don’t have what it takes to surpass them.
- Milwaukee Brewers – When you have Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez back to back, you know that you have an offensive juggernaut. Their team is very good offensively and I think that their defense is fairly good as well with Rickie Weeks and Jean Segura up the middle. I think that there is only one flaw and it is unfortunately very big. Their big problem is their pitching. They have one good starting pitcher in Yovani Gallardo and I think that Fiers will come into his own soon. But they lost Greinke and Marcum in the rotation and their bullpen was terrible last year. It is important that John Axford gets back into his 2011 form if they are going to win in this division. Without a closer, this team will not get the same number of wins.
- Pittsburgh Pirates – When will their losing season streak come to an end. The answer: not this year. Unfortunately, they are not going to win this year and the main reason is just that they don’t have enough of everything. They have a little bit of hitting, a little bit of pitching, and a little bit of prospects. Their offense has one great player, two good players, and then it just drops right off the table. Andrew McCutchen is the great player and then Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones are good players. That is all of their offense though. I am not hopping on board the Starling Marte train just yet and have never thought that Russel Martin is the offensive player that people think he is. Their pitching is alright with Burnett coming back into form and with Wandy Rodriguez as the number two guy. Other than that, they don’t have much depth. They let Hanrahan go and that is really going to hurt them. They are just going to have to wait for their losing season streak to end.
- Chicago Cubs – They made their best offseason move in a long time in the offseason between 2011 and 2012. They got Theo Epstein. He is really going to help them to rebuild a contender. They have started to make some good moves but the great move is still waiting to happen. I truly believe that they need to trade off Alfonso Soriano and they will get a very good package in return for him. They have made a smart move in choosing to build a team around Starlin Castro who will eventually mature enough to be a great player. Their pitching and hitting both need a lot of help but they have some prospects coming up soon that really could help them.