Last season, the NL Central produced the most representatives in the playoffs with three of their teams snagging spots. As the season is coming up rapidly, that could occur again, with a top-loaded division led by the Cubs (Vegas’ pick to win the World Series) the Cardinals and Pirates. Here are predictions on where each team will land in the hunt for the NL Central title.
St. Louis Cardinals- In 2015, the Cardinals won 100 regular season games, winning the NL Central for the third year in a row. The Cardinals lost prominent outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cubs which could hurt them in the long run as Heyward has a history of high batting averages and fielding percentages. However, the Cardinals have all of their starting rotation returning along with having the top pitching prospect in the league (Alex Reyes) who could possibly make his debut sometime this season. This team has a history of being dominant and could end up winning the NL Central for the 4th time in a row.
Chicago Cubs- Last season, the Chicago Cubs, led by skipper Joe Maddon, made it all the way to the NLCS. This offseason, they added Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to their roster. Heyward had a batting average of .293 with the Cardinals last year while Ben Zobrist can be used to fill many positions on the field. These gentlemen will be joining Kris Bryant, who not only was an All-Star, he was the National League rookie of the year. With their new additions along with the majority of last year’s team returning, the Cubs have the possibility of giving the St. Louis Cardinals a run for their money for the NL Central title.
Pittsburg Pirates- Pittsburg was the third team in this division to make it to the post season last year as they had 98 wins, making them eligible for a wildcard spot. During the offseason, the Pirates signed many rookies and minor league players whom have yet to start in the majors. However, with the majority of last year’s team returning such as Andrew McCutchen who hit 23 homeruns and Francisco Liriano with a WHIP of 1.21, the Pirates have a chance to make playoffs again by snagging a wildcard position.
Cincinnati Reds- The Cincinnati Reds only won 64 games last season, causing them to have a winning percentage of .395 which was their worst winning total since 1982. Even with the bad season, the Reds had two players who stood out. Joey Votto led the majors in walks and was in the top 10 for batting average while Billy Hamilton led the majors in stolen bases. The Reds also had many injuries last season which caused them to lose prominent players such as Homer Bailey and Zack Cozart. With these two healthy, the team could possibly win more games than they did last season but if the team continues to struggle as a whole, they will find themselves at the bottom of the division.
Milwaukee Brewers- The Milwaukee Brewers had a disappointing season as they only won 68 games. Even though Ryan Braun produced 25 homeruns, a team cannot win if only one player is succeeding. Their pitching wasn’t stellar last season either as three of their starting pitchers: Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, and Tyler Cravy all had ERA’s in the upper 5 range. However, they received Chase Anderson in a trade who had an ERA of 4.30 last season for the diamondbacks which is a step up from the three starters with ERA’s in the upper 5. It will be hard for the Brewers to have a winning season with a lack of batting and horrendous pitching.
This division may be the tightest on who will win as the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburg Pirates all are dominating teams. We will have to see who ends up winning this division once the season starts because only time will tell who will be the standout.
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