Today I will talk about the division that hits closest to home: The National League Central.
I am not shy about saying that I am a die-hard Cubs fan. In fact, I am currently wearing my Cubs hat. I might be drinking the Cubby kool-aid, but I have high expectations for this team. Marlon Byrd hit a home run in his first plate appearance as a Cub and although I don’t think that he will be a huge home run hitter for the Cubs, I do think that his production will more that double what Milton Bradley did last year for Chicago. Consistency will be a issue for Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Geovanny Soto, and Alfonso Soriano. However if all of these players perfrom to even close to their abilities, the Cubs will be a force in the division. There are a lot of questions in the end of the rotation and throughout the bullpen, but I think that once Ted Lilly and Jeff Grey come back some of those questions will be answered. Another big key is that Carlos Silva can have a year similar to his years as Twin. If Silva can anywhere near that, the Cubs will have a solid 1-5.
The St. Louis Cardinals remain the team to beat, no doubt about that. However, I do not think that they are the hands-on favorite that most people think they are. yeah they have Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, but after them the rotation is pretty thin. Yadier Molina, Brandon Ryan, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick are nice hitters–but they are not star players. Albert Pujols is the best hitter in the league, and Matt Holliday is a very good hitter. That being said, the Cards have very little deph, and if one star player gets hurt they will be in trouble. Also, I do not think that Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte, and Ryan Franklin will ever be confused for the “Nasty Boys” of the Cincinnati Reds in the early ’90s.
That is called a segue, folks. Next is the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have a lot of good young players in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Chris Dickerson. They also have good young pitchers in Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman (who is currently in the minors.) However, with Edinson Volquez out for most of the season, i do not think the reds have enough to be serious contenders this season. Especially with a 1-2 punch of Aaron Harrang and Bronson Arroyo.
The Milwaukee have two of the most feared hitters in the league in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They have a good young shortstop in Alcides Escobar. They also have an young up-and-coming pitcher in Yovani Gallardo. Another plus for them is that they have the all-time leader in saves, Trevor Hoffman. Unfortunately, that is all that they have. I do not think that Ricky Weeks will stay healthy, so their offense is pretty limited.
The Houston Astros do not have a lot going for them. Lance Berkman is hurt and their rotation after Wandy Rodriguez is awful. Carlos Lee has been a very good hitter for about a decade. Also, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn emerged last season, but the Astros are in no way, shape, or form a powerhouse.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are still the Pittsburgh Pirates. Garret Jones and Andrew McCutchen are fun young players to watch, but they won’t be in Pittsburgh for long. The Pirates will most likely not have a fire sale at the dead line again. That is hard to imagine since they basically traded away their whole roster the past two years.
I have the Cubs winning the National League WIld Card.