NL Central Preview and Predictions

Chicago Cubs – 2015 Record: 97-65

Notable offseason additions:

SP John Lackey(From St. Louis), 2B Ben Zobrist(From Kansas City), OF Jason Heyward(From St. Louis)

Notable offseason subtractions:

RP Tommy Hunter(To Cleveland), RP Jason Motte(To Colorado), and 2B Starlin Castro(To New York Yankees)

Analysis: The Cubs lineup was outstanding last season as the team went to the NLCS and now it is probably even better with the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. Chicago also has Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the middle of their lineup who figure to maybe even be better in 2016. The Cubs arguably have the toughest lineup to face in the MLB and that alone will make them a great team next season. However, Chicago also has an outstanding starting rotation especially with the top 3 of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and John Lackey. The Bullpen concerns me a little bit, but it won’t really matter much if the Cubs starters are going deep into games. Closer Hector Rondon was a pleasant surprise in 2015 as he had a 1.67 ERA with 30 saves. If Rondon can continue with those types of numbers then it will really help the Cubs. It is hard to find a weakness on this Chicago team and if their offense and starting rotation is even better then last season then this team is probably the favorite to win the world series.

Prediction: 1st place in the NL Central

Cincinnati Reds – 2015 Record: 64-98

Notable offseason additions:

SP Alfredo Simon(From Detroit)

Notable offseason subtractions:

3B Todd Frazier(To Chicago White Sox), RP Aroldis Chapman(To New York Yankees, and C Brayan Pena(To St. Louis)

Analysis: Last season wasn’t very good for Cincinnati as they are in the process of rebuilding and don’t expect anything better this season after trading Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman this offseason. Sure, the Reds still have Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips to carry their offense. However, they don’t have much else besides those key players. The offense will likely struggle to score runs especially if Votto can’t stay healthy. The starting rotation is full of young pitchers who have very little MLB experience. Raisel Iglesias is the number 1 starting pitcher, but he only has 18 career starts in 1 MLB season and he had a 4.15 ERA. Cincinnati’s pitching staff is not looking good, but when Homer Bailey returns sometime during the season then maybe it will get a little bit better. Cincinnati’s bullpen also doesn’t figure to be anything special especially after trading dominant closer Aroldis Chapman. J.J. Hoover will step into the closer role for the Reds, but he isn’t very reliable. Overall, the Reds know what they will get from Votto, Bruce, and Phillips. However, everything else besides them is a really big concern.

Prediction: 5th place in the NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers – 2015 Record: 68-94

Notable offseason additions:

2B Aaron Hill(From Arizona), 1B Chris Carter(From Houston), and SP Chase Anderson(From Arizona)

Notable offseason subtractions:

SS Jean Segura(To Arizona), RP Francisco Rodriguez(To Detroit), OF Khris Davis(To Oakland), and 1B Adam Lind(To Seattle)

Analysis: It appears that 2016 will be yet another rebuilding season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy are still the keys to success for the Brewers offense, but besides them Milwaukee has a lot of young position players trying to prove themselves. The addition of 1st basemen Chris Carter will add some more home runs, but he also will strikeout a lot. Milwaukee’s starting rotation isn’t looking very good as they have inexperienced Taylor Jungmann who had a 3.77 ERA last season leading the rotation. Milwaukee’s bullpen looks like even more of a weakness as they have a few young pitchers as late-inning guys. Also, Jeremy Jeffress will become the full-time closer for the first time in his career after the team traded reliable closer Francisco Rodriguez this offseason. The Brewers roster is looking very young for the most part and it is hard to find something to be really optimistic about with this team.

Prediction: 4th place in the NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates – 2015 Record: 98-64

Notable offseason additions:

SP Jonathon Niese(From New York Mets), 3B David Freese(From Los Angeles Angels), OF John Jaso(From Tampa Bay)

Notable offseason subtractions:

1B Pedro Alvarez(To Baltimore), RP Joakim Soria(To Kansas City), 2B Neil Walker(To New York Mets), RP Antonio Bastardo(To New York Mets), and SP J.A. Happ(To Toronto)

Analysis: The Pirates finished 2nd in the competitive NL Central last season and I expect them to compete for the division again in 2016, but they still have some flaws that will cause them to probably regress. I really like their outfield with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco. Those guys will definitely carry the offense for Pittsburgh with their speed and ability to hit for power. Besides them, there is question marks as to who will step up. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole is the clear number 1 starter for the Pirates as he had 19 wins and a 2.60 ERA last season. However, besides him the Pirates rotation is going to probably be really weak and inconsistent especially after the offseason departure of J.A. Happ. Also, the back end of the Pirates bullpen seems solid with Tony Watson as the 8th inning guy and Mark Melancon as the closer. The rest of the bullpen is a weakness, but when it gets to the late innings then there isn’t much of a better duo. Gerrit Cole will have to carry the pitching staff and McCutchen will have to carry the offense or this team could be really bad. I have the Pirates finishing 3rd in the division since it isn’t likely that their rotation will be very good.

Prediction: 3rd place in the NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals – 2015 Record: 100-62

Notable offseason additions:

2B Jedd Gyorko(From San Diego), SP Mike Leake(From San Francisco), and C Brayan Pena(From Cincinnati)

Notable offseason subtractions:

OF Jason Heyward(To Chicago Cubs), SP John Lackey(To Chicago Cubs), 1B Mark Reynolds(To Colorado), OF Jon Jay(To San Diego), and RP Steve Cishek(To Seattle)

Analysis: The Cardinals lost a lot of quality players this offseason after having 100 wins last season. Most notably, they lost outfielder Jason Heyward who was a key part of their team last season. St. Louis still be a good offensive team though because they still have Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk, and Kolten Wong leading their offense. Also, they still have a tremendous starting rotation even after losing John Lackey this offseason. The Cardinals added Mike Leake and he will be a good number 2 starter for the team. The bullpen appears to be the only weakness on this team even though Trevor Rosenthal has become one of the best closers in the game as he had 48 saves last season. Losing Heyward will hurt, but I have no reason to doubt that this team will regress majorly in 2016 especially with the remarkable starting pitching that they still have.

Prediction: 2nd place in the NL Central

kris bryant

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