Blog Entry

NL Central Preview

Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:51 pm
 

This is a division that has lost a lot of talent with the Free Agent departures of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. While both their former teams should be competitive in 2012, this has left both teams weakend and an opportunity for the Reds to claim their 2nd division title in 3 years. So lets jump right in and break down the weakened NL Central!

1. CINCINNATI REDS

 C- Devin Mesoraco/Ryan Hannigan
1B- Joey Votto
2B- Brandon Phillips
SS- Zack Cozart
3B- Scott Rolen/Todd Frazier
LF- Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey
CF- Drew Stubbs
RF- Jay Bruce

Pitching-

1. Johnny Cueto
2. Matt Latos
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Mike Leake
5. Homer Bailey/Jeff Francis
6. Aroldis Chapman

CL- Ryan Madson
SU- Sean Marshall
SU- Nick Masset

The Reds had a very good off-season, realizing that their window of opportunity is now. They bolstered their rotation with the additions of Matt Latos and Jeff Francis. They also fortefied their bullpen with the addition of former Phillies closer Ryan Madson and former Cubs set-up man Sean Marshall. The offense is led by a trio of stars in Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce with some nice complementary players in Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco and recently acquired LF; Ryan Ludwick. There are question marks at third and short but they still have a top tier offense. I think the Reds are a solid playoff team but I still think they have too many holes to win a world series (but anything can happen in baseball).   

2. ST. LOUIS Cardinals

C- Yadier Molina
1B- Lance Berkman
2B- Daniel Descalso
SS- Rafael Furcal
3B- David Freese
LF- Matt Holliday
CF- Jon Jay
RF- Carlos Beltran

Pitching-

1. Chris Carpenter
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Jamie Garcia
4. Kyle Lohse
5. Jake Westbrook

CL- Jason Motte
SU- Fernando Salas
SU- Mitchell Boggs

The loss of Albert Pujols is devestating and the retiring of LaRussa is going to hurt as well, but I still think the Cardinals can be a competitive team in 2012.This could be the year of David Freese and they still have a solid core with Berkman, Holliday, Molina and Beltran. The key will be how Adam Wainwright's return goes as he could push the Cardinals into contention with the Reds. I still think in the end it will be tough for the Cardinals to win the division as they have taken too many losses in the offseason and the Reds have gotten exponentially better.

3. MILWAUKEE Brewers

C- Jonathan Lucroy
1B- Mat Gamel
2B- Rickie Weeks
SS- Alex Gonzalez
3B- Aramis Ramirez
LF- Norichika Aoki/Ryan Braun
CF- Njer Morgan/Carlos Gomez
RF- Corey Hart

Pitching-

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Zack Grienke
3. Shaun Marcum
4. Randy Wolf
5. Chris Narveson

CL- John Axford
SU- Francisco Rodriguez
SU- Kameron Loe

Losing Prince Fielder and 50 games of Ryan Braun is HUGE! With Braun I might have still picked them to win the division as they have the best top of the rotation in the division. With the hit to the offense even with the additions of Aramis Ramirez, Norichika Aoki and a potential breakout season from Mat Gamel I dont think they can realistically win the division. The staff IS stacked and expect an even better season from Greinke as the stats show he was much better than his ERA indicated. The Brewers are still a very dangerous team that could sneak into contention as many people are counting them out. 

4. CHICAGO CUBS

C- Geovany Soto
1B- Bryan LaHair/Anthony Rizzo
2B- Darwin Barney
SS- Starlin Castro
3B- Ian Stewart
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Marlon Byrd
RF- David DeJesus

Pitching-

1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Travis Wood
5. Chris Volstad/Randy Wells

CL- Carlos Marmol
SU- Kerry Wood
SU- Jeff Samardzija

The Cubs are going through a complete rebuild and although you can never completely rule out a team they really have no chance to win the division (this coming from a Cubs Fan). The offense is going to be rough as they lack a true middle of the order hitter. The rotation is vastly improved from 2011 as they actual have a surplus of starters now, and while they might not all be top arms there is some upside for guys like Travis Wood and Chris Volstad. The Cubs may not be in the playoff hunt but they should be as good if not a little better than in 2011 and pretty exciting to watch.

5. PITTSBURGH Pirates

C- Rod Barajas 
1B- Garrett Jones
2B- Neil Walker
SS- Clint Barmes
3B- Pedro Alvarez/Casey McGehee
LF- Alex Presley
CF- Andrew McCutchen
RF- Jose Tabata

Pitching-

1. Charlie Morton
2. Erik Bedard
3. A.J. Burnett
4. James McDonald
5. Jeff Karstens/Kevin Correia

CL- Joel Hanrahan
SU- Evan Meek
SU- Jason Grilli

The Pirates were the suprise first half team last season and at one point was winning the division. Eventually they collapsed due to their youth and a plethora of injuries but they got Pittsburgh excited about baseball again. The offense should be better this season with an upgrade at short and a couple of potential bounce back seasons. The rotation is also better with the addition of A.J. Burnett to eat some innings and Erik Bedard to get in some good starts. I still think the bullpen was very fluky last season and will regress but still the Pirates are no longer the worst team in baseball. I see a couple win improvement from last year and they could beat out the Cubs for fourth place. 

6. HOUSTON Astros

C- Jason Castro
1B- Carlos Lee/Brett Wallace
2B- Jose Altuve 
SS- Jed Lowrie/Angel Sanchez
3B- Jimmy Paredes
LF- J.D. Martinez
CF- Jordan Schafer/Jason Bourgeois
RF- Brian Boguesevic

Pitching-

1. Wandy Rodriguez
2. Brett Myers
3. Bud Norris
4. Livan Hernandez
5. Jordan Lyles/J.A. Happ

CL- Brandon Lyon
SU- Wilton Lopez
SU- Fernando Rodriguez

There should be no argument that the Astros are the worst team in the division and possibly in the National League. Luckily this is their last season in the NL Central before their jump to the AL West. The offense is full of names that few people outside of diehard baseball fans know and the bullpen looks rough. I actually think their rotation is pretty solid (Im a big fan of Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles) but I dont think its enough to carry them out of the division cellar. 


All in all the NL Central is weak in comparison to previous years but it always seems that when the division looks weak they produce a team that goes to the world series. This was a tough call for this spot between the NL Central and the AL West but I think the extra teams help put the NL Central above but not for long.
  

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